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home : columns : columns July 22, 2014


6/18/2013 1:20:00 PM
Sisters Trails start at the edge of town
The Sisters Trails Alliance maintains popular hiking and biking trails at the edge of town. photo by Craig Eisenbeis
+ click to enlarge
The Sisters Trails Alliance maintains popular hiking and biking trails at the edge of town. photo by Craig Eisenbeis

By Craig Eisenbeis


The community trail network sponsored by the Sisters Trails Alliance (STA) receives plenty of use, but a surprising number of local people are not familiar with it. According to an informal survey conducted by the STA, most STA trail users are from places other than Sisters.

It stands to reason that, if people are traveling from far and wide to use the Sisters trail system, local residents ought to take advantage of it, too! Truth be told, the principal trailhead is so close to town that it has the not-entirely undeserved reputation as an urban trail system.

Still, when it seems like it's time to get off the pavement, and you don't want to pack up the car and drive to the mountains, STA offers convenient, close-to-home, and comfortingly woodsy settings. On a recent sunny Saturday, I decided to investigate myself and see who was out on the local trail system.

STA offers dedicated equestrian routes, but most trails are dedicated to foot and bicycle use. I selected a four-mile loop starting from the Elm Street Trailhead to, and returning from, the vicinity of the old logging railroad grade, and subsequent Brooks Scanlon haul road, now known as Forest Road 4606. FR 4606 is the wide gravel road that crosses Three Creek Road and takes off toward the rodeo grounds just a mile south of town.

These are the seminal trails of the Peterson Ridge Trail system and comprise parallel east and west tracks, which may or may not be visible from each other, depending on where you are. In this area, they are smooth and well-designed. I saw joggers, walkers, and bicyclists.

On the day of my sampling, bicycles outnumbered foot traffic by a ratio of 3 to 1. The STA trail system is constructed with parallel sets of trails linked together by a non-stop series of connector trails. The numerous connectors comprise a ladder-like design that makes it possible to return on a different trail, with an endless selection of hiking or biking distances.

There are no instructions dictating direction of travel, but most trail users seemed to keep to the right for a counterclockwise traffic flow on the very elongated loops. Between the trailhead and FR 4606, there are multiple connectors. The first cross-loop trail is the Dog Walk Connector, the purpose of which, I guess, is self explanatory. Nearby, there is also a trail leading east-west to the FivePine complex at the southeast edge of town.

Next up, heading south and away from town, are the Tin Can and Powerline Connectors. Along this section of trail is the ancient hulk of a photo-worthy juniper tree completely festooned with green lichens, not unlike a flocked Christmas tree. This whole area is flat and offers very easy going. There are more difficult trails farther out in the STA system, but here the trails are all easy.

Another blessing of this trail system is an abundance of signage. Sturdy posts, with identification and directional clues have been installed at nearly every trail junction, plus free descriptive trail maps are available at the trailhead information kiosk.

The distance from the trailhead to FR 4606 is a little less than two miles. When I reached the road, I wandered east a bit (which one can do on either side or along the road) in order to make sure that I clocked at least a four-mile round-trip. I was amused to observe, at the Boneyard Connector Trail signpost, that a deer spine and nearly compete rib cage rested at the base of the Boneyard sign. Obviously, someone at STA is paying attention to detail.

In the area between the Boneyard Connector and the Little Bridge Connector, a significant amount of tree thinning has recently taken place. Most of the junipers, and even some of the pines, have been cut down in this area, in the continuing effort to thin and open up the forest to make it less susceptible to intense wildfire. This ongoing program has been particularly evident near where communities and the forest meet in what has been termed the wildland interface.

To enjoy this portion of the STA trail network, simply turn south on Elm Street. The trailhead is on the left, at the edge of town shortly after crossing Whychus Creek. The system can also be accessed from a trailhead in the FivePine complex. Trail maps are available at the trailheads and at bike shops and other businesses in town.

The Sisters Trails Alliance is a community volunteer organization. Help and new members are always welcome. For further information, log on to their website at www.sisterstrails.com.

Sisters Country Weddings




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