Mill Creek Wilderness

Area Status: Open
Mill Creek Wilderness

The southwest-tending drainage of Mill Creek makes up 85 percent of the Wilderness, with Marks Creek drainage accounting for the difference. Both creeks are tributaries of Ochoco Creek, and home to small trout. The steep, broken ridges that drop into Mill Creek rise to Bingham Prairie in the northwest corner, a virtually flat plateau with open meadows and a lodgepole pine forest.

In 2000, a lightning caused wildfire burned over half of the 17,4000 acre Wilderness. Though much of the fire burned at a stand replacement, high intensity, the area is quickly recovering and there are still some examples of an exemplary climax forest (one that has reached its peak of growth) of ponderosa pine, providing habitat for elk, mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, and the occasional black bear.

Mill Creek Wilderness resides within the 40 million year old Wildcat Mountain Caldera.  Two eroded volcanic spires distinguish the northwest-central portion:  Twin Pillars, with vertical walls rising 200 dramatic feet above the forest is a rhyolite intrusion into the caldera, and 400-foot Steins Pillar, just outside the southwestern boundary is an erosional remnant of the Tuffs of Steins Pillar that filled the caldera basin.  North of Twin Pillars lays the rugged, rocky Desolation Canyon, aptly named since its lack of trails discourages most human visitors.

Four trailheads provide access to approximately 18 miles of trails, each located adjacent to small, rustic campgrounds.  The trails can be accessed at Twin Pillars North Trailhead, Twin Pillars South Trailhead, Wildcat North Trailhead and Wildcat South Trailhead. 

At a Glance

  • Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is prohibited.
  • Possessing or using a bicycle or hang glider is prohibited.
  • Landing an aircraft, or dropping off or picking up any material by means of an aircraft is prohibited. 
  • Certified weed-free feed is required in all National Forests and National Grasslands in the Pacific Northwest.   
Closest Towns: Prineville, OR
Operated By: US Forest Service
Information Center: Ochoco National Forest Office 3160 NE 3rd St Prineville, Oregon, 97754

General Information


From Prineville, Oregon travel east on US Highway 26 for 9 miles. Turn left on Mill Creek Road (Forest Service Road #33). Follow this road 9 miles to Wildcat Campground, which is also a trailhead for Twin Pillars Trail.


Topo Maps

Opal Mountain, Stephenson Mountain, Steins Pillar, Whistler Point. Download free U.S. Forest Service Topo maps.

Buy maps online

Go to the National Forest Store.

Go to for online maps and other important Wilderness information.

General Notes:

Due to its proximity to Prineville and presence of Wildcat Campground, Mill Creek Wilderness is more heavily used than Bridge Creek and Black Canyon Wildernesses in the Ochoco National Forest.

Mill Creek Wilderness is snow free as early as April most years. Summers are dry and hot. Snowfall usually occurs mid-November through March. 

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Day Hiking

For visitors looking for a short adventure, where they may see only a few other people and still want to return home the same day, Mill Creek Wilderness is a good option.  The trails can be hiked out-and-back so it's easy to manage the amount of time invested and distance that is covered.


The three trails through Mill Creek Wilderness can be hiked as out-and-back adventures or visitors can elect to leave vehicles at different trailheads to make a one-way adventure.  Either way this wilderness area is close to town and great for an overnight or weekend get away.

Horse Riding

All of the trails in Mill Creek Wilderness are horse friendly, so depending on your desire horse camping or just a day of riding can both easily be done.

Quick Links

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities



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