By Nicole Vulcan
Distance: 6.2 miles one way with car shuttle
Difficulty: Weekend Warrior
Directions to Willow Creek Canyon Trail: From Portland, take Interstate 84 to Highway 26 and drive for about 90 miles. Turn right onto Northwest Pelton Dam Road to reach Lake Simtustus Resort, 5 miles away on the right.
To get some up-close views of the area’s amazing water features, continue south along Highway 26 looking for signs to Lake Simtustus. You’ll reach the reservoir after passing the enormous Pelton Dam, which created room for a small marina, a store and grill as well as Pelton Park, equipped with campsites, cabins and yomes (a yurt-dome hybrid). Rent a kayak or hydro bike and brave the speed boaters, if you dare, or press on to Lake Simtustus Resort (2750 NW Pelton Dam Road, Madras, 541-475-1085, lakesimtustusresort.com) to give your legs some exercise. From the parking lot, the trailhead to the Willow Creek Canyon Trail is roughly a half-mile north on the opposite side of the road. It’s a steep climb to head up the canyon wall, but that doesn’t last long. Eventually, the path evens out, giving you the opportunity to appreciate the scenery—gnarly old junipers and the river below. Continue for however long you like. The path meanders all the way to the edge of downtown Madras.