The Metolius-Windigo Trail in Oregon was primarily designed as an alternative to the Pacific Crest Trail for horseback riders. This 120-mile trail could make for a week-long thru-hike or a shorter hike starting at any of the many trailheads along its course.
The southernmost point of the trail is just north of Windigo Butte where NF-60 crosses the Pacific Crest Trail. You'll find a parking area here that will require a National Forest Recreation Pass that costs $5 for one day and $30 annually. Many parking areas along the trail require the same pass, though not all do. Of course, you won't need one at all if you have a shuttle drop you off and pick you up!
The trail shadows the higher-elevation Pacific Crest Trail and takes somewhat easier routes up and around mountains than it does. Where there is elevation gain on this trail, it is usually steady and gentle. The lower elevation also means there are fewer mosquitoes and that the trail is snow-free longer than the Pacific Crest Trail. The Metolius-Windigo Trail is sandy and the surface is often loose due to being kicked up by hooves.
The Metolius-Windigo Trail passes several lakes and crosses many rivers, but mostly winds through forests. Some are densely populated with fir and hemlock, while others are more open, with stands of Ponderosa and lodgepole pine. Open sections of trail yield beautiful views of mountain peaks rising in the distance. Between the scent of pine and the deep blue waters of alpine lakes, the feeling of this trail is of pristine wilderness. Enjoy the copious wildflowers in the summer.
Many trails intersect with the Metolius-Windigo Trail or run close to it, meaning that with careful planning, you can use it as the basis of many different day hikes. At its northernmost point, the trail ends between Three Fingered Jack, a popular hiking peak, and the small town of Camp Sherman. As with any long wilderness trail, it's a good idea to get a physical map and determine the route you want to take before heading out. However you use this trail, and whether you have more than one kind of four-legged companion to bring along, you're sure to treasure the time you spend in the mountains with your furry friends.