Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Drive the Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway or hike two off-beat locations in the Owyhee Canyonlands

Sheep Creek below Mary's Creek ... very remote spot with plenty of solitude.

Huck checks out Sheep Creek
War Eagle Mountain can been seen in the distance behind Steve. Hiking to the west of Toy Pass is easy with big views.
Hi all,

The weather appears to be turning cool and moist heading into the weekend. Saturday looks like the most promising day to go hiking, with no chance of rain and a high of 65 degrees. Perfect conditions for a hike in the Owyhee Canyonlands!

For people in the know, the Owyhees are a great place to explore in the spring before the summer heat comes to SW Idaho and the rattlesnakes come out in the high desert. And if you don't know much about the Owyhees, you can pick up a copy of my Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook, which features 55 hiking and biking routes in the greater area, plus a guide to the Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway.
Here are three destinations:

1. Drive the 100-mile Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway and enjoy a big-picture overview of the Owyhee Mountains and Owyhee Plateau. The drive can be done in a day. The byway has a good-quality dirt road that travels out into "The Big Wide Open" (no services, BTW) and eventually drops back to civilization in Jordan Valley, Oregon. I recommend starting on the byway in Grand View and traveling in a east-to-west direction to Jordan Valley. Pack a lunch, some beverages and enjoy the drive. The backcountry byway will pass many intriguing areas, such as the Antelope Springs Road, Deep Creek junction, Nickel Creek Table and the North Fork of the Owyhee BLM campsite, the only developed campsite on the 100-mile byway. The byway is suitable for 2WD vehicles. But make sure your spare tire is in good shape. Again, there are no services out there, and no mobile service.

Wendy pretends she's an eagle on top of the Owyhee Mountains near Toy Pass. Bachman Grade Road can be seen below. 
2. Toy Pass - I've got 2 hikes in the Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook that start and finish at Toy Pass, accessed from the Bachman Grade Road, south of the little town of Oreana, between Murphy and Grand View in the Owyhee Front. Toy Pass sits at 5,875-foot elevation, south of Oreana. Drive to Toy Pass, do a day hike from the pass to the mountains on either side of the road, and then either go look for a campsite afterwards or head back home. To reach Toy Pass, take Simco Road to Grand View. Go right on ID 78 in Grand View and travel west to Oreana. Watch for a road sign for the historic Owyhee town. Turn left and drive 2 miles into town. Bear right at Our Lady, Queen of Heaven Catholic Church at the corner, and take the Bachman Grade Road to Toy Pass. It's about 13.5 miles to the top. This road is suitable for 2WD vehicles. Park at the pass and decide which mountain you'd like to climb. See maps below for hiking to the west or to the east. Both routes are about 5 miles.

Map courtesy of Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide.

3. Mary's Creek/Sheep Creek Wilderness. Mary's Creek is an easy-to-access tributary of Sheep Creek Canyon, which is one of the BLM wilderness areas in the Owyhee Canyonlands. There is a self-support camping area at the "trailhead" next to Roland Road. You could camp there, and then do the Mary's Creek Loop, hiking into the bottom of spectacular Sheep Creek Canyon, and then hike back. You also could backpack into Sheep Creek Canyon and camp there. The full loop detailed in our guidebook is 8.75 miles, with 1,400 feet of vertical gain/loss. Scenic hike and nice spot to camp. To reach Mary's Creek, take ID 51 south of Bruneau about 40 miles to a signed turnoff for the Rowland Road by the old bar and junk yard at Grasmere. Turn left on Rowland Road and follow that 5.2 miles to the Mary's Creek trailhead. There's a BLM kiosk at the trailhead.

Views of Sheep Creek from the rim above.
Map of the Mary's Creek Loop
There you have it!

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