There are certain trails to avoid during the summer. They have little shade and can be too grueling under the hot Central Oregon sun, especially with this past summer’s record breaking temps.

For the 5.7-mile (round trip) Alder Springs Trail, fall is the perfect time to venture out and explore the rugged and picturesque hike through the High Desert. The trail starts off easy enough, gently crossing a plateau above Whychus Creek and then at about a half mile in, it quickly drops into the the canyon cut out by Alder Creek, where the trail gets its name.

While the trail is manageable, some of the descents (and eventual ascent) are steeper and rockier than others, so if your footing isn’t as good as it used to be or you suffer from creaky knees, bring some trekking poles with you to make sure you make it down and out without an injury.

Regardless of how you hike, take time to admire some of the stunning geologic features you’ll be met with along the way including the Dry Falls area about a mile in.

At 1.3 miles you’ll reach Whychus Creek and you have a choice to make, ford the chilly creek and continue on to its convergence with the Deschutes River — another 1.6 miles, or use this as your turnaround point. I chose the latter, cutting the trip short in favor of keeping my hiking shoes dry.

If you do venture out to the trail, you have until the end of November to do it by car, after that the access road closes through March 31 to help protect winter range for the local deer population. You can still use the trail, but will have to hike or bike to the trailhead.

That road, by the way, is pretty bumpy, and should only be taken if you have some ground clearance on your car and can maneuver well around some serious potholes and rocks.

Getting there: From Bend, take U.S. Highway 20 toward Sisters 10.8 mile then turn right on Fryrear Road. After 5.6 miles, continue straight onto Holmes Road and stay right after 1.5 miles to continue on it for 5.5 miles. Then turn left onto Forest Road 1393 and follow the signs towards Alder Springs Trail for 2.6 miles.

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