Nat and I decided to backpack Underhill Trail along Fifteen Mile Creek over Memorial Day weekend. We chose this trail because of its low popularity and close proximity to The Dalles. Underhill Trail #683 is located west of Dufur, Oregon in the Mt. Hood National Forest.
The trailhead is just off of the main road, but you have to keep an eye out for the turnoff. We missed it and had to turn around the first time. There’s a roundabout and small campground area with a bathroom at the trailhead.
We arrived at around 10:30 am – we were there earlier but forgot our forest pass. There were only 3 or 4 cars and a few people camping. Yay for no crowds!
This was my first trip with my new backpack*! It took me some time to adjust the straps and organize my gear. We backpacked for only one night, so it was the perfect opportunity to figure out a good system. I realized I needed a compression sack for my sleeping bag to fit it in the bottom zippered section. A backpacking pillow was high on my list, too. I also wanted to better secure my part of the tent to the back. All things to keep in mind for next time!
Hiking Underhill Trail
You start off by going slightly downhill through a wooded area, and eventually you’ll pass by an old collapsed structure and meet up with a narrow log bridge that crosses over Ramsey Creek.
Then, you’ll travel back up a pretty steep incline until you reach a paved road at the top (see NF-4421 in the map above). Look for a pile of stacked rocks across the road that shows where Underhill Trail starts up again. Now for the great descend through grassy terrain with sparse trees and beautiful wildflowers (during the spring).
This part of Underhill trail starts off with a steep descend and then turns into a gradual switch back. The trail brings you through this open area for a while, then back into the forest, and then back out into the grassy area again. It’s also a bit difficult to see the trail in this area – we had to stop and look around a few times to make sure we were on track!
Splitting from Underhill Trail
Once you reach the bottom, you’ll find yourself back in the forest and you’ll come up to an intersection and then a wide wooden bridge going over Fifteenmile Creek. Nat and I decided to go left at the intersection (as you’re looking south toward the creek) – not over the bridge. We hiked another 1/2 mile or so and then set up camp. At this point we weren’t technically on Underhill Trail anymore – it breaks off into different trails at the intersection.
Setting Up Camp
We set up our tent adjacent to several meadows, tucked back into the tree line. Our camp was a little ways from Fifteenmile Creek, so we had to hike up about another 1/4 mile to filter water. If you’re looking for a good filtration system, I highly recommend the Sawyer filter*. It can take a while to fill up several water bottles, but it’s so nice not to have to boil water and wait for it to cool!
The bugs were pretty bad in this area – not really mosquitos, though. Mostly house flies, gnats, moths, and other small, annoying bugs. I wore one of my Briminnie headbands during most of the trip, so they didn’t bother me as much as they buzzed around my head. We made ramen for dinner and the gnats decided to plummet into the boiling water. Yes, we still ate our ramen. Extra protein!
The surrounding meadows were beautiful! There were lots of wild flowers and strawberry plants sprinkled within the shaggy grass. It felt like we were in a mystical land.
Underhill Trail is great for a day hike or backpacking trip, especially during busy holidays since the crowds are low. The meadows are perfect for setting up camp or having a picnic, and the wildflowers during the spring are definitely a sight to see. Just be sure to bring directions and know which way you plan to go at the intersection. Oh, and don’t forget the bug spray!
* this is not an affiliate link – I’m not compensated in any way – and all opinions and recommendations are my own