Little Badger/Ball Point Loop
Low Point: 2350'
High Point: 4100'
DirectionsFrom The Dalles, head south for 30 miles to the town of Tygh Valley. Once in town, turn right at a sign for the fairgrounds, and head two miles along the paved road. Just past the fairgrounds, turn left onto the gravel Badger Creek Road (Forest Service Road 27) and follow this road for seven miles until reaching an intersection with road 2710. Turn right, continuing on the now paved Road 27, and drive 2 miles until reaching the trailhead on the left side of the road.
The Little Badger Creek/Ball Point trail combines a pleasant creek, historical relics, wildflower filled hillsides, great views, and a wonderful mix of plant and animal species. Even better, all of this can be experienced in a very nice loop trip. The trail also lies on the east side of the cascades making it a great option when the west side is covered in clouds and rain.
The Little Badger Creek trail and the School Canyon Trail can be hiked separately, but with a short and easy bushwhack the two trails can be combined to make a great loop trip. From the School Canyon trailhead, follow the path a short distance to an open south facing slope. Climb down this trail-less and sparsely vegetated hill, traversing a small canyon before dropping into a second larger canyon which leads down from the slopes of Ball Point. The open territory makes it easy to see where you need to go, just be sure to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, which do inhabit the area. Once reaching the second drainage, follow the creekbed (most likely dry during most times of the year) down until reaching the Little Badger Creek trail.
The path stays near the Little Badger Creek as it slowly climbs up the valley-bottom amid an interesting mix of Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Oak, and Cedar. The trail was re-routed to stay on the north side of Badger Creek during the late 90s, so older USGS maps show a multitude of stream crossings which thankfully aren’t required anymore. Instead, the trail makes a couple short switchbacks up the northern wall of the canyon, climibng well above the creek.
The trail drops back to the valley floor just before reaching the dilapidated Kinzel Cabin, a relic of earlier mining in the area. The trail makes its way directly to the south of the cabin, climbing a small rise. Keep an eye out to the right for the trail which makes its way up the hill (continuing straight leads a few yards to an old, and very dark mine).
The path up the ridge is a steep and pretty rough path, but if done during the spring, it hardly matters—the wide variety of wildflowers, great views to the eastern Oregon plains, and interesting rock formations keep you climbing. The wildflowers are very spectacular in late May and June, with the hillside covered in Balsamroot, Indian Paintbrush, and Lupine. After 0.7 miles, and 800 vertical feet the trail starts to level out, meeting the School Canyon Trail in a large meadow.
Turn east on the much easier trail and follow it along the ridge, reaching a saddle and crossing onto the north side of Ball Point through a forest of Pine and Fir. Also keep an eye out for flowering Dogwood trees and the occassional flower filled meadow. The walking is very pleasant along the ridge, as the path swings around Ball Point, eventually opening up onto the open eastern slopes of the peak. Views of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters mark the southern horizon, with the endless expanse of the Eastern Oregon Prairie marking the east. The trail drops into the lower slopes, dominated by small oak trees and makes its way back to the trailhead.