… at least it’s new to me! After running into Larry R. and Brian M. a couple weeks ago in Waterfall Canyon, we were looking at some elk way up high in the sunshine above tree line on the eastern ridgeline of the mouth of Watefall canyon. I asked about whether or not there was a trail to get up there, and they said yes & in fact was one of the best hikes around Ophir. I didn’t get exact directions, but was told the trail head is on the east side of the Opus loop and actually dead ends; requiring one to bushwhack it along the ridgeline.
So, I first started out by hiking to the east Ophir bridge and took an immediate left … I hiked about a 1/10 of a mile before approaching what was either a natural cave or old mine on the right with what looked to be tailings on the left (north) … all near the beaver ponds. I couldn’t find any distinct trails from this point on, so I backtracked and continued up the Opus trail. Eventually, I found smaller single track heading east. I stayed on that which climbed steadily along the mountainside. Eventually there was an old tram station with a mine probably very nearby (tailings present). I continued on another 1/4 mile or so and eventually came to the major drainage in between Swamp and Waterfall canyons. The intersection of the trail I was on and the drainage was basically just a wide choke with scree on either side of the water … which I hiked directly up about another 1/4 mile or so (I believe continuing on the trail would’ve brought me to Swamp Canyon.). I reached a slight plateau and noticed what was either human or elk trail cutting back west. Knowing the switchbacks I was after were back west (and possibly on the west face of the target ridgeline), I proceeded. The trail is almost certainly an elk trail … saw plenty of elk tracks as well as some bear tracks. I basically had to bushwack a traverse across the mountain side. Nothing too technical, but a fair amount of needling through relatively heavy foliage was necessary. I could look to my right (north) and occasionally see landmarks on the Ophir valley floor … so I was able to track where I was east – west. Eventually I wound up on a very well defined elk track on the target ridgline: so I was now at the mouth of Waterfall canyon (the canyon now being to my left [south]). The elk trail decended quickly on to what was clearly an old mining road, even though it was fairly well grown over by foliage.
I finally found the trail I was seeking and proceeded up, but was fairly well spent in terms of my feet condition … so only made it up a few switchbacks (which were fairly long). I was amazed to be able to peer downvalley and almost “around the corner” of the Ophir Needles! It’s kind of the ultimate relief for the often claustrophibic feeling of living in the Ophir valley. I did not see Sunshine Mountain, but I imagine if I were to go up higher it would all come into view. Waterfall canyon was also seen from a different perspective; from the east, but much more immersed in so far as everything being “right there” in front of you. Jane’s and the other popular backcountry routes were all visble as well. I imagine sunrise must be excellent; sunsets as well … especially when there’s a cloud ceiling which allows sunlight to pass through and illuminate the often colorful sky.