USDA Forest Service
Crooked River National Grassland
Ochoco National Forest
Jefferson County, Oregon
T.13 S, R.14 E, Section 33, Willamette Meridian
Skull Hollow is the busiest recreation site on the Crooked River National Grassland due to its close proximity to urban communities and to the adjacent Smith Rock State Park. Located minutes away from Redmond, Terrebonne, Prineville, Sisters, and Bend, the area has become a popular recreation site for nearby communities during the winter and spring months when higher elevation areas are inaccessible due to mud and snow. Skull Hollow serves as a launching point for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and camping.
Skull Hollow Campground consists of a concessionaire-operated campground that offers 28 campsites from mid-May to mid-November and a trailhead that accesses the popular Gray Butte and Smith Rock. Public use of the site has exceeded the capacity of current infrastructure. Between 2010 and 2016, recreation use nearly doubled at the campground, from 6,586 camper days in 2010 to 12,618 camper days in 2016. The
campground is often full so dispersed camping and parking sprawls out around the trailhead, even though dispersed camping with a vehicle within 300 feet of a road is not permitted in this area. Dispersed campers often enter the campground to use the two existing toilets though they have not paid the campground fees.
With the dispersed camper’s unauthorized use of the campground toilets, there is often lines of 10 or 12 people waiting for each toilet during the high season. There is no designated parking area, toilets or water available at the trailhead.
The Crooked River National Grassland is proposing to improve recreational facilities at Skull Hollow Campground and Trailhead. Proposed activities at the campground would include adding 32 developed campsites with gravel parking spurs, three vault toilets, a potable water system with pump house, hydrant and storage tank, and a 12-foot culvert pipe. Proposed activities at the trailhead would include developing ADA compliant parking areas for hikers, bikers and equestrians, installing two vault toilets, horse tethering rails and feeding troughs, a bicycle maintenance area, up to three picnic pavilion shelters with cement pads, paved day use trails and an information kiosk. This project also proposes to remove the cattle guard at the junction of Lone Pine Road and Jefferson County Public Use Road 5710 and relocate it at the north side of the trailhead exit and to reroute portions of the Cole Loop Trail to provide segregated access for equestrians and bikers. Refer to Map 1 and 2 for details about the campground and trailhead improvements.
Current recreation funding is very limited and there is no money to purchase new toilets. Eight vault toilets that currently receive little to no use in other areas of the Ochoco National Forest will be evaluated for relocation and up to five of these toilets would be moved to the Skull Hollow Campground and Trailhead. Relocating toilets that receive little to no use will make the best use of existing amenities for a greater number of public visitors. Refer to Map 3 and 4 for toilet locations. Appendix A includes a list of these toilets, a description of the site, use levels, and other considerations.
The proposed work at the campground and trailhead would be accomplished using a backhoe, road grader, dump trucks, cement trucks, and asphalt equipment. Toilet relocation would involve lifting the top structure and vault with the use of a crane and backfilling the resulting holes using weed-free fill from a local Forest Service pit. All areas of ground disturbance would take place on the previously disturbed ground in order to minimize impacts. Work would include rehabilitation of the old trail parking area and the user created dirt road that parallels the north boundary of the campground and relocation of approximately 400 feet of wire fencing at the southwest corner of the campground.
Purpose and Need
The purpose of the proposed project is to improve recreation facilities at Skull Hollow Campground and Trailhead in order to accommodate increased use, improve visitor experience, and better protect nearby resources from unplanned and unsustainable use. The project is needed to prevent people from damaging the surrounding area by camping illegally and driving on and trampling sensitive soils and spreading invasive
weeds and leaving excessive amounts of trash and human waste. The project would provide adequate designated parking areas for hikers, bikers and horse trailers and more designated camping sites and restrooms to accommodate increasing numbers of visitors. The proposed work would also alleviate conflicts between overnight and day users, and between different types of recreation use, by providing adequate parking and facilities to accommodate different uses. Information signage is needed to promote sustainable use of the recreation site in accordance with Leave No Trace principles.
Land and Resource Management Plan Direction
The proposed project is expected to meet Forest-wide standards and guidelines and Management Area standards and guidelines as described in the Ochoco National Forest and Crooked River National Grassland Land and Resource Management Plan as amended. Management allocations for the project area include MA-G3 General Forage.
Categorical Exclusion Criteria
Decisions may be categorically excluded from documentation in an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment when they are within one of the categories identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 7 CFR part 1b.3 or one of the categories identified by the Chief of the Forest Service in Forest Service Handbook (FSH) 1909.15 sections 31.12 or 32.2, and there are no extraordinary circumstances
related to the decision that may result in a significant individual or cumulative environmental effect. The specific category anticipated for this proposed action is found in 36 CFR 220.6(d) (5) and described in Forest Service Handbook (FSH) 1909.15, Chapter 30, Section 32.12(5) – Repair and maintenance of recreation sites and facilities.
Comments may be submitted online through the Forest Service online comment system available at
or mailed to:
Recreation Planner, Ochoco National Forest
3160 NE Third Street
Prineville, Oregon 97754
Implementation is anticipated to begin Summer 2018.
For further information, please contact Kent Koeller, Recreation Planner, Ochoco National Forest, at: