The drive to Alder Springs trailhead is a little tricky, some more bumpy, and a lot worth it! This trailhead is hardly ever crowded which, in my opinion, make it a true desert oasis.
The trail begins atop a flat, sparsely vegatated ridge. Enjoy sweeping views of Wychus Creek Canyon as you descend 450 feet to Alder Springs. Shortly after beginning the hike you will reach a junction, take the steep 1/4 mile trail to discover red stick figure pictographs on the base of a cliff along Wychus Creek.
Continuing on the main trail you will pass by an ancient, dry waterfall. Here you can step inside the red layered room of rock. The bubbling of Wychus Creek grows louder as you reach the canyon floor, greenery and wildflowers suddenly erupt into a lush desert wellspring.
Alder Springs is alive with water, rosebushes, and migratory birds. Some years find the creek knee deep, frigid, and swift of current. Drier Springs yield a more mild ford. Water shoes (or brave feet) and a rope are advisable tools if one wishes to continue from here.
Of course, things are always greener on the other side! Several campsites are available within a verdant, meadow-ed Ponderosa stand, just beyond the Springs.
Past that is the confluence! Here the trail cuts through deep grass and marsh reeds, several more campsites speckle the trail. Then The Deschutes and Wychus Creek become one and the water magnifies. Here you will find the ‘official end’ of the trail. Warm yourself on massive river boulders before heading up and out of the grassland canyon.
Watch for swallow tail butterflies, garter (and rattle) snakes, as well as the monolith palisades located along the canyon rim.
Out & Back to Alder Springs (including Petroglyphs): 3.6 miles
Out & Back to Confluence: 6+ miles
From Sisters, Oregon: Head east on Highway 126 for 5.4 miles, then take a left onto Holmes Rd. After 1.5 miles, take a right to stay on Holmes Rd. At milepost 7, take a left on NF 1393. Go past the kiosk and up the hill. After about 5 miles on the gravel road, turn right at the sign for Alder Springs Trailhead.