This is a great area for horse camping and riding! The area has variety from high desert to high mountain trails. There are three horse camps in the area, accessing a different area for variety. There is easy terrain, progressing to more physically challenging, all to practice natural horsemanship skills! Take a look!
Silvercreek Marsh Campground
Uses: Mixed, one loop for horses, one loop for humans. Horse loop has access to creek at far side of loop. No potable water. Restrooms. Each back in or pull thru has a hitching rail, with the centrally located sites having one 2-stall structure, and one 4-stall structure. Plenty of room to highline at the other sites that have no corral. There are manure collection pits at the corral sites.
This is a beautiful area of wide open vistas, and dense mountain forests, depending on the altitude you choose to ride! Deep ponderosa forests and steep canyons add variety! The terrain is moderate to easy with mostly sandy footing with some rocky areas. Horses should be shod.
From La Pine, Oregon, go south to Hwy 31, about a mile out of town, proceed left. After about an hour’s driving, arrive at the little town of Silverlake. There is a dry lakebed, a small store, a gas station with propane and diesel. The Forest Service has a facility there with a water source and hose to refill tanks. Check inside for updates on trail clearing. Some of the trails traverse an old burn area from about 2002.
Directions: Just before arriving in the town of Silverlake, turn right on Rd 27. This is a paved road for the entire 11 miles to the camp, which will be on the left. Turn in and bear to the right for the horse loop. This camp is free. It is located in a grove of Ponderosas. A beautiful setting.
Back on the highway, if you continue, you will pass the Forest Service on the right. Then you will see Rd 28 to the right. Watch for the sign for the Cowboy Dinner Tree. This is a great place to plan for a dinner out. Be sure to make reservations, this place is famous clear to Bend! Steak or Chicken with all the soup, salad, lemonade or iced tea that you can eat! Along with their famous baked rolls, and cobbler dessert! Make time to shop in the trading post, some local treats and offerings.
Access to the trails is right across from the main corral site. First day’s ride towards Hager Mountain, trail 018. This has been rerouted from the other side of the camp and does not seem to be very well marked. However, just follow your nose and you will come out fine. First, follow the trail which turns into a two track, then there will be an arrow on the pavement, follow that. Follow another two track, looking for rock cairns and USA markers on the trees. This is the US National Scenic Trail. Eventually you will come to a trail marker. The trail then becomes a single track, watch for the rock cairns and the occasional tree marker. You will pass through a couple of fence lines. Eventually you come to a four-way intersection, unmarked. Take the far right two track, there are ribbons on the tree. As you go along, watch to the right, the single track trail will go up the embankment and be marked with the tree marker. This is single track once again, flat and easy. You will pass through a fence line with a green gate. After a while, you will come to a canyon with a steady descent. The trail is good. It will flatten out along the creek bank of Silver Creek and then cross a bridge with side rails. After the bridge, go to the right, the trail is good along the creek bank again, then the canyon widens out. You will see to the left where to go up and out of the canyon, but give yourself a a break and proceed to Auger Campground up ahead where stock can access the creek and have a lush bite of grass. There is a picnic table here. It is a beautiful spot!
Backtrack to the intersection and it is a steady pull up out of the canyon with nice switchbacks, no drop offs here. Give the horses a breather occasionally. Continue on, passing interesting rock formations, to where it crosses Rd 28 and continues on to the Hager Mtn lookout. I’ve heard it becomes quite steep and there are some sidehill areas, so you’ll have to play it by ear!
TRAIL NOTE: At the point of intersecting Rd 28, there is a turnout where you can park the rig, perhaps to ride Hager Mtn another day from a closer access point for the last pull!
We turned around, retracing our steps, this is a 10 mile total ride. We ended up putting on extra mileage dinking around and circling around on the road. What we did was when you drop down the embankment to the two-track road, take a right and ride to where the road intersects with road 018. There is a section of red rock here, and some water in the swamp area to the right. The dogs and stock snagged a drink here. Proceed up this dirt road to the next intersection, take a left. Another opportunity to water the horses is at the creek, we managed to access it to the right of the locked gate. Then up and over the hill, back to the paved road 27, take a left back to camp on Rd 2917. You could also opt to start the trail this way. In some ways, it is more straightforward! So we ended up riding more than 10 miles that day, a good 9-hour ride total with an hour to just sit and rest during the heat of the day!
Another day, take the same access trail from the campground, go a little ways, then you will sort of intersect with the paved road. Cross here and go up the road directly across, Rd 12. There is a wire gate across here, go thru it and up this road, you will see the tree markers for the trail. There are a lot of cow trails taking off to the left, ignore these and go up to where the rock cairn is on the left hand side, and the trail takes off here with a nice wide tread. This trail rolls along, then drops down to the creek drainage for the North Fork Silver Creek trail. There will be a trail sign to reinforce your direction. Head up the drainage that goes through the old burn area. The trail is good, wide, and probably this is the easiest and flattest creek drainage you can find! There is a creek crossing, easy, and the trail is a little narrow after this for a little way, but there is no drop off. It is rocky. Then there is a bridge with no rails, but easy, and then climb a hill and travel more along the top of the drainage. We eventually could go no further, there was a red ribbon stretched and tied along the trail, which matched our map of the end of the cleared trail. We headed back out, this was a nice, shorter ride, about 3-4 hours. You can pick up this trail at Antler Campground.
Antler Trailhead: From paved road 27, follow the signage to Antler Trailhead, on good gravel graded road for 10 miles to a large Forest Service Sign. Take a right and go up to the trailhead. You are at 6,000 ft here. There are five sites here, with a 4-stall corral centrally located and a hitching rail at each site. There is a new potable water pump, new restroom and a day use parking area. This is much quieter here, as the other campground is off the road on the way to Thompson Resorvoir, so is quite a bit busier. There are ponderosas here and a more alpine feeling at this elevation. There are a couple of steep spots on the way, 4-wheel drive while hauling would be a recommendation.
Across from the day use area is a trail marked Scenic Rock trail. This loops back to camp, coming out by the corrals. Take this moderately uphill to start to a large pile of rocks creating an interesting aspect about halfway up. It flattens out, then comes to an unmarked intersection to the right. This is Yamsay Mtn trail. Continue on to the left and you will come upon another intersection to the right, the other end of the Silver Creek trail. Continue on, you will pass a beautiful meadow on the left, with large boulders laying throughout. Then come out to camp by the corral. This trail is new, with good footing, and will take an hour or less. Keep on down opposite the day use area, and another trail takes off to the right. This is a short feeder trail to the Silver Creek Trail.
Yamsay Mountain: This trail is 8 miles to Yamsay Mountain, going through dense forest, up one ridge and down another. This pattern repeats itself with some vistas. This would be a good days ride from Antler Trailhead. We did not have time to do this leg of trail. We did not do this upper section of Silver Creek Trail, however, it was cleared for a bit, and according to the cleared section on the map, leaving the middle section unfinished. So, plenty of out and backs here.
TRAIL NOTE: Some folks have ridden to the Cowboy Dinner Tree from camp, coming out on the paved road, take a right, then a right on the next dirt Rd 2917, riding over to Rd 28, paved, and then to the left to the restaurant. There is ample hitching rail for a group. There is also a spot to park a rig across from the restaurant if a point-to-point is desired with a haul back to camp!
Farm Well Camp: This is the third location accommodating horses in the area. From Rd 28, turn left on Rd 2916, directly across from Rd 2917. This is a good graded road traveling through the burn area. You will pass a beautiful open area with great views to the north. You eventually get through the burn area and will be in beautiful ponderosa forest. Turn left into camp. There is one central 4-stall corral and a pull through to fit two rigs. There are 4 more back in sites with hitching rails. There is a bathroom, potable water pump, and a large water collection-type pond next to a meadow. I’ve been told (by George) that this is a steeper access trail to Hager Mtn Lookout, but the first part is a ponderosa wonderland! Check it out for yourself!
With three horse camps and a variety of terrain, this makes a wonderful destination to explore and put some miles and experience on your animal. Take the time to have a day for the Summer Lake Hot Springs, rustic and built like a swimming pool with changing booths lining the periphery. Lots of open parking. You can have lunch in Paisley a little further south, then double back for a soak! The hot springs are only 30 miles further from Silverlake, and worth the outing!
On the way back to La Pine, take time to ride the Hole in the Ground. Watch for the sign on the left, and turn to the right on Rd 3125. Then a right on Rd 3130. It is about 5 miles total of dirt road to the treed area to unload and ride to the rim. You have views to Fort Rock in the distance. There is a road to the bottom. The sides are a bit steep for coming out. This and Fort Rock are both tops of volcanoes, very fascinating! You can ride around the rim, exploring the network of two tracks through ponderosas, more open here with gentle terrain. Coming from La Pine, turn to the left at the 25-mile marker.
Take the time to explore all the options for your natural horsemanship journey!