The run/scramble up Ruckel Ridge is not for inexperienced runners, dogs, or children. Good boots, good route-finding skills, a lot of stamina, and dry weather are essential. This route is not maintained, marked, or part of the USFS trail system, so use at your own risk.
The ridge can be ascended when there is snow on the Benson Plateau but finding the start of the descent route (the Ruckel Creek Trail #405
) can be very difficult when it's covered with snow.
The Ruckel Ridge use-trail starts from the end of the Buck Point Trail #439
. The #439 starts between camp sites 5 and 6 in the Eagle Creek Campground and goes up from there through a series of switchbacks, across a clearing, under the power line, and to the edge of the trees where it officially ends. The Ruckel Ridge Trail simply continues as an obvious use trail from where the #439 ends.
The use-trail to the ridge dips downhill and to the right, then traverses a lichen-covered talus slope. Switchback up the rockslide, following occasional cairns to the crest of the ridge, using your hands as needed. After reaching the top of the talus and scree, the trail then ascends directly up the crest of the ridge, alternating between steep sections and very steep sections. In places, following the "trail" involves short Class 2/easy Class 3 scrambling — not technical rock climbing - but you'll have to use your hands a lot.
After about two miles and at about 2,700 feet, you'll come to The Catwalk, a very exposed section on the crest of the ridge. This narrow section can be traversed carefully with hands, feet, and patience. For runners who want to experience Ruckel Ridge but don't like exposure, there's an alternate "bail-out" path below The Catwalk on the south side.
The Catwalk marks the end of the scrambling, as the trail drops into a saddle and then begins an increasingly steep climb to the Benson Plateau. This part is mostly in the trees, but there is a rocky outcrop next to the trail at about 3,200 feet from where you can get a view of Tanner Butte and the Eagle Creek drainage. This is a nice spot for a break and/or a snack.
The use-trail can get a little sketchy once you finally level off on the plateau at 3,700 feet, but continue heading northeast, descend to a crossing of Ruckel Creek (by wading or rock hopping), and then make a short ascent to a junction with the Ruckel Creek Trail #405
. The easiest return is via the #405; downclimbing the ridge is not recommended.