Black Canyon Trail (#820)

This scenic trail parallels Owl Creek and Black Canyon Creek for the length of the Black Canyon Wilderness, descending from near the summit of Wolf Mountain to the South Fork of the John Day River.

Black Canyon Trail connects with South Prong Trail #821 and Kelsey Trail.

Black Canyon Trail can be accessed from these trailheads: South Prong, Black Canyon West, Boeing Field, Coffeepot, Kelsey, Payten, Cottonwood, and Black Canyon East

View a Black Canyon Wilderness area trails map

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Trails are intermittently maintained and downed trees and route finding challenges may be expected. 
Restrictions: Mountain bikes & motorized use prohibited.
Closest Towns: Paulina, OR
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Paulina Ranger Station, Ochoco National Forest

General Information


Black Canyon trailhead:

  • From Dayville, Oregon take County Road 42 south for about 13 miles to the Black Canyon Trailhead located near South Fork John Day River.

Black Canyon Trail access via South Prong Trail:

Dusty Camp trailhead:

  • Take Forest Service Road 5840 for 3.7 miles past Mud Springs Campground to reach this trailhead which accesses Black Canyon Trail #820.  ALERT- Forest Service Road 5840 beyond Mud Springs Campground is unsuitable for two-wheel drive vehicles when wet, and is not recommended for low clearance vehicles or trailers at any time.


Day Hiking

The generally moderate trail gradient passes through a diverse mosaic of open ponderosa pine forest, dense mixed conifer forest, small meadows, shrubby streamsides, and open grassy slopes, ending in a narrow canyon between basalt cliffs. This trail connects with all other developed trails in the wilderness, although some trail junctions are not marked. Undeveloped trailside campsites are most suitable for small groups. Some parties can make a one-way through trip in a single day by shuttling vehicles, but less ambitious day trips are generally more relaxing. There are no bridges at stream crossings. Numerous wet fords of Black Canyon Creek are required, especially on the easternmost three miles of trail and at the trailhead crossing of the South Fork of the John Day River.  River crossing in the spring during high water conditions can be extremely hazardous, and should not be attempted. Travel cautiously, and be alert for close encounters with rattlesnakes, black bears, mountain lions, and other wildlife – especially in dense vegetation. Trail is maintained every year to primitive standards.

Difficulty Level: Most Difficult

Horse Riding

The Black Canyon Wilderness Area can be entered through the west end (higher elevation), or the east end (lower elevation). The South Fork John Day River on the east end requires fording, advisable only in summer and early fall months.

Difficulty Level: More Difficult

Quick Links

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities



  Area/Length : 
11.7 miles

  Elevation : 
2850 - 6350