“A long day trip or easy backpack on the northern edge of the Mount Thielsen Wilderness.”
— Bruce Hope
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Commonly Backpacked
With gently graded trails, good campsites, access to water, and some views, this is would be a good introductory backpack for a family wanted to spend some time in the outdoors.
This trail enters the Mount Thielsen Wilderness and the usual federal wilderness area regulations and restrictions apply here. Practice Leave No Trace (LNT) backcountry skills and ethics. Camp 100 feet from fragile areas; bury human waste at least 200 feet from water, trails, and campsites. This hike is usually closed by snow between November and May.
Tenas Peak (6,558 feet) is an ancient cinder cone that sits just west of the Cascade Crest on the northern boundary of the Mount Thielsen Wilderness. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a short distance to the east and Cowhorn Mountain (also called Cowhorn Butte by some), a somewhat better known hike and short scramble, lies a few miles to the north.
Tenas Peak used to host a Forest Service fire lookout and thus offers excellent views (but not in all directions). Getting to the summit for those views involves easy trails, paralleling a section of the North Umpqua River, ascending delightful little Tolo Creek, and pleasant travel through a mixed forest of widely-spaced trees. Campsites and water sources along the way make it ideal for an easy or introductory overnight backpack.
Need to Know
- These trails, and the Pacific Crest Trail, are open to equestrian riders and you may encounter them at anytime, but most likely on summer or fall weekends. Remember to yield appropriately if you encounter horses. Yes, horses can make a trail extra dusty BUT many equestrians also voluntarily undertake trail maintenance tasks—such as clearing small downed trees that are a pain for horses and pedestrian alike. Expect mosquitos along the river and creeks during the summer season.
- For last minute supplies, there is a gas station, restaurant, lodging, and a small general store at the Diamond Lake Resort on Highway 138, about 11 miles from the Kelsay Valley Horse Camp and Trailhead.
This loop starts at the Kelsay Valley Horse Camp and Trailhead on Forest Road 60 (Windigo Pass Road) about 6.0 miles from Highway 138. The loop can be done in either direction but doing it counter-clockwise (as mapped) will leave the least interesting section until last.
From the trailhead, go southeast 0.1 miles on the Windigo Pass Trail #1412
to a junction with the Porcupine Connect Trail #1412A
. Turn right and follow the Connect Trail for about 0.2 miles to its junction with the North Umpqua Trail #1414
. Turn left (southeast) here and follow the nearly level #1414 upstream along the North Umpqua River.
After 2.0 miles of easy travel up the river, you'll come to a junction with the Tolo Creek Trail #1466
and a large informal campsite, "Dutch Oven Camp," where Tolo Creek joins the North Umpqua. Turn left (northeast) here and follow the #1466 as it climbs up along Tolo Creek to its headwaters. Where the trail makes a sharp turn to the left (3.7 miles up from the North Umpqua), you'll find another informal campsite, "Lil Indian Camp," supplied with water from the upper-most reaches of Tolo Creek. Note that water may not be available here late in the summer.
From the campsite the #1466 heads northeast for about 1.3 miles to a signed four-way trail junction. Here, the Tenas Peak Connector Trail
goes left (southwest) to views from the summit of Tenas Peak, while the #1466 goes right (east) for about 0.6 miles to its end at the PCT. The Tenas Peak Trail #1445
goes straight ahead at this four-way junction and starts gently down the northwestern slopes of the peak. Follow the #1445 downhill.
After 2.0 miles of gently downhill travel through and open forest and past delightful Warrior Creek, you'll come to the end of the #1445 at its junction with the Windigo Pass Trail #1412
. Turn left (southwest) here and follow the #1412 back to the Kelsey Trailhead. The #1412 is primarily an equestrian trail, so you may find it hot, dusty, and horsey. But you only have about a mile of this before you Bradley Creek and the trailhead.
History & Background
Tenas Peak sits on the northern boundary of the Mount Thielsen Wilderness. Some interest has been shown in either expanding the Mount Thielsen Wilderness northward, past Tenas Peak, or creating a larger Crater Lake Wilderness that would encompass much of this area.