The United States Congress designated the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness (map
) in 1984 and it now has a total of 20,299 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Oregon
and is managed by the Forest Service.
Instead of rising into high peaks, to offer a somewhat unique Wilderness experience the gently sloping hills of North Fork Umatilla Wilderness fall into extremely steep, timbered canyons below a high plateau. Down along the river you'll probably feel more isolated than the small acreage of the area would indicate. Vegetation ranges from juniper, sagebrush, and ponderosa pine to fir, spruce, lodgepole pine, and western larch. Elevations drop from 5,400 feet to 2,000 feet in a relatively short distance to provide a substantial physical workout. The North Fork Umatilla River supports populations of bull trout as well as runs of anadromous fish, including steelhead, a major force in pushing for designation of this area as well as an attraction to anglers. However, the river is designated catch and release only. Hunters come for big-game animals, including a fairly large population of Rocky Mountain elk.
In the northern Blue Mountains the weather tends to change radically and unpredictably any day of the year. Snow usually melts by early spring, and the lower elevation trailheads are usually accessible from April through November. The upper elevation trailheads are generally snowed in from December through early to mid-June.
The 27 miles of trails attract both backpackers and horsepackers. You can connect the Buck Creek trail with the Buck Mountain trail, by crossing a bit of non-Wilderness tableland, for a lovely 15-mile loop. The trail along North Fork Umatilla River is popular. This trail can be accessed either the trailhead along the North Fork Umatilla River, or from the Coyote Ridge trailhead.