If you’re looking for solitude and a primitive trail experience, look no further than the Fremont National Recreation Trail near Silver Lake, Oregon. The Fremont NRT, also known as the Southern Oregon Inter-tie Trail, runs almost the entire length of the Fremont National Forest. One of the best segments to enjoy on horseback runs from Silver Creek Marsh Campground eastward to the base of Hager Mountain.
And if you’re up for a challenging climb, you can continue up to the lookout at the Hager Mountain summit and take in the 360-degree panoramic views.
Difficulty: Moderate to the base of Hager Mountain, Difficult beyond that point
Distance: 15 miles round trip to the base of Hager Mountain, 19.5 miles round trip to the summit
Elevation: 4,800 to 5,700 feet to the base of Hager Mountain, or 7,150 feet to the summit
You’ll start on the southwest side of Silver Creek Marsh Campground, located south of Silver Lake, Oregon. The trail skirts the camp and runs east through the area burned by the 2002 Toolbox Fire and through pretty ponderosa pine forest. The trail crosses Silver Creek in a canyon about three miles into the ride.
This trail is very lightly used, so it’s entirely possible you may not see another person the entire day. Please note that because of the fire, some sections of the trail may be brushy and overgrown.
After 7.5 miles, you’ll reach the Hager Mountain hiker trailhead at the base of the mountain, a nice spot for lunch. From there, it’s two strenuous and challenging miles on steep side slopes to reach the summit. Depending on your tolerance for heights, though, the incredible views may well be worth the exertion.
Silver Creek Marsh Campground has fifteen sites, nine of which allow horses. Three sites have 2- or 4-horse corrals, and the rest allow you to highline or put up a portable corral. The camp has a toilet and a manure bin, and you can get stock water from the West Fork of Silver Creek, which runs along the edge of the camp.
Getting to Silver Creek Marsh Campground
From Bend, drive south on Hwy. 97 for 32 miles. Turn left on Hwy. 31 and in 46.5 miles (between mileposts 46 and 47), turn right on Silver Creek Road (Road 4-11), which becomes Road 27. Continue 10 miles to the campground.
You’ll find more information about the Fremont National Recreation Trail near Silver Creek Marsh Campground in Riding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2017), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.