Posts Tagged ‘Lone Tree Campground’

Lone Tree Campground in Cottonwood Canyon State Park

We camped two nights at Lone Tree Campground in Cottonwood Canyon State Park, a quiet little campground along the John Day River in central Oregon. This is a fairly recent addition to the state parks, which includes 21 nice flat campsites with fire pits and with windbreaks and/or sun-sheltered picnic tables, but no hookups or dump station for RVs. There are also four cabins and a number of walk-in tent sites. They are all located in a pretty valley surrounded by picturesque hills. At one end, an old barn remains from the cattle ranch that used to be here.

Valley of Cottonwood Canyon State Park–with old barn

There are several hikes in the area, short ones around the campground and a longer trail on each side of the river. The Pinnacles Trail heads out from the end of the campground, while the Lost Corral Trail requires a short drive across a bridge to the trailhead parking lot. We took the easy way, walking from our campsite. At the Pinnacles trailhead we noted cautions about ticks, rattlesnakes, and cougars, all possible dangers here. Fortunately, we saw none of them during our visit. A reminder to pack plenty of water was also posted, definitely an important suggestion in this dry and warm area.

The weather forecast was for sunshine and a high of 75 (F). I wore a jacket to begin with, as the cliffs along the first part of the hike provided morning shade. The John Day River flowed along at full strength, with occasional ducks and Canada geese along its edges, red-winged blackbirds calling from the bushes, and swallows dipping and gliding above. We saw one cliff swallow carrying straw to build a nest on the edge of the towering cliff.

John Day River

The trail itself was pretty wide and smooth, mostly level and easy. After we passed the cliffs, the views opened up and the sun warmed us—time to remove jackets and roll up sleeves. (And wish I had remembered to pack a hat!) The scenery was gorgeous in a barren kind of way. I kept looking for mountain goats, but never saw any. But we did see plenty of butterflies and lizards. Some even held still long enough for me to get pictures.

After about three miles, the trail was blocked by a sign restricting access to protect the nesting areas of golden eagles. We saw one eagle soaring above the hills. Soon a couple of crows went after it, attacking it in flight until it left the area. We rested a bit on a bench nearby, then hiked slowly back, as the sun beating down on us was beginning to take a toll. We took plenty of water breaks and ate peanut butter and jam sandwiches in the shade of a large walnut tree on the appropriately-named Lower Walnut Trail, a short loop off the main trail. After a nice rest break, we headed on back to camp. The Pinnacles trail was our longest hike so far this year—and definitely worth the effort. We plan to return to Cottonwood Canyon State Park, a lovely desert oasis.

along the Pinnacles hike

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