The green-gray expanse of the West’s sagebrush plateau seems to go on forever with each step. But no matter which direction you go across what is known as the sagebrush sea, you’ll soon come to a slice in the earth and be surprised by a deep, craggy basalt or rhyolite canyon. It’s the beauty and intrigue of hiking canyon rims of the high desert.
Idaho’s and Oregon’s desert is a magnificent place to be in the fall and there are plenty of places to explore within a couple of hours of the Treasure Valley. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management manages more than 267,000 acres of public lands in the Owyhee River Wilderness and recommended a fall trek across the desert canyon rims where Wickahoney and Big Jacks creeks come together. The area is about 30 miles southwest of Bruneau and can be done in a day trip.
It’s a hike the requires moderate-to-strenuous cross-country trekking and knowledge of traveling desert back roads. Picture a triangle on a desert plateau and that’s the hike. I did it a number of years ago and never forgot it.
To get an idea where the area is, check out “The Owyhee Canyonlands — An Outdoor Adventure Guide,” by Steve Stuebner and Mark Lisk. It’s in Chapter 31 — Big Jacks Creek and the Parker Trail.
The hike I did was no formal trail. You can head cross country on rimrock along Wickahoney Creek to the point where Wickahoney Creek meets Big Jacks Creek.
It’s a great place for a lunch stop with views that are incredible. You can hike back along the Big Jacks Creek and Duncan Creek rims and then cut cross country back to your starting place. One thing that will be apparent is that there are canyons within canyons.
Picture the hike as a a big triangle. Be sure to take your GPS and mark where your car is located.
Getting there: On Idaho 51, head south from Bruneau 25 miles to milepost 45 and continue .1 miles farther south. Head right (west) on Wickahoney Road, which is unmarked.
At just a hair less than 5 miles, you’ll come to a T intersection by Wickahoney Creek. Go right but instead of going to the Parker Trail trailhead you can head cross country to the Wickahoney rim.
Whenever heading into remote areas, I feel I have to offer my grandfatherly advice: Before leaving the pavement, check the weather. Avoid rain, snow and muddy roads. Be prepared to spend the night if you get stuck. Pack sleeping bags, water, and food for an overnight stay. Make sure your tires (and spare), and car are in good shape.
OK, with that said, good hiking. By the way, according to BLM, Wickahoney is a Shoshone name for beaver.