Category Archives: Hiking

Throwback Thursday -Shellburg Falls

Piggybacking on last week’s throwback hike at Silver Falls State Park this week we are covering another waterfall hike in the same area – Shellburg Falls.

On 5/22/2011 we headed out for a short hike to a pair of waterfalls on Shellburg Creek.  Two trailheads offer access to the falls. The Shellburg Falls Trailhead is open year around while an upper trailhead located at the Shellburg Falls Campground is only open from May 20th through October.  We started at the upper trailhead. To reach the campground from Highway 22 turn north on Wagner Road, which is just east of Mehama, OR, and follow signs for 8 miles to the campground.
Shellburg Falls Trailhead

From there a .8 mile trail crossed Shellburg Creek twice on it’s way to Shellburg Falls and then Lower Shellburg Falls. From the looks of the creek we didn’t expect much from the falls but as is often the case looks can be deceiving.
Shellburg Creek

Shellburg Falls

The trail dropped down and passed behind the falls before continuing downhill to a short side trail to the bottom of the falls.
Shellburg Falls

Shellburg Falls

Shellburg Falls

Less than a quarter mile later we arrived at a closed road (the route up from the lower trailhead)which crossed Shellburg Creek via a concrete bridge. Lower Shellburg Falls lay just on the other side of this bridge.
Lower Shellberg Falls

We turned left (east) on the road and followed it for .3 miles to the August Mountain Trail. The August Mountain Tail climbed just over a mile to junction with the half mile Vine Maple Trail which led us back to the upper trailhead.
Shellburg Creek Trail sign

Much of these trails crossed logging roads and passed through thinned forests.
View from the Shellburg Creek Trail

From the upper trailhead the loop was right around 3 miles while starting from the lower trailhead would have added about 2.6 miles to the days total. While Silver Falls State Park sees plenty of crowds Shellburg Falls sees far fewer. If you’re in the area and love waterfalls it’s definitely worth the visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Shellburg Falls

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Throwback Thursday – Alsea Falls

Now that we are in the midst of our offseason it’s time to bring back our Throwback Thursday posts. This installment of Throwback Thursday features our final hike of 2012 and the last hike we took before starting this blog.   On 12/19/2012 we headed for the Alsea Falls Recreation Area which is located in the Coast Range west of Monroe, OR.  To reach the area from Highway 99w we turned west near Monroe at a sign for Alpine.  Signs for the recreation area kept us headed in the right direction.  We could have started our hike in a couple of places including the most popular trailhead at a day use picnic area practically next to Alsea Falls. We opted to instead to begin further up the South Fork Alsea River at a small trailhead along Miller Road.

Alsea Falls trailhead

The level trail followed the South Fork Alsea River for a mile to the Alsea Falls Campground. At the .7 mile mark a trail joined from the right which was to be our return route. Had it been earlier in the year there probably wouldn’t have been many views of the river along this stretch but with the leaves gone from the trees the river was often visible.

South Fork Alsea River

South Fork Alsea River

We didn’t take the footbridge across the river into the campground opting to stay on the east side of the river for another .6 miles to a second footbridge ignoring a side trail to the right (our return route) shortly before the bridge.

Bridge over the South Fork Alsea River

This bridge led to the day use picnic area. We crossed the bridge pausing to look downstream at the top of Alsea Falls.

South Fork Alsea River

A .3 mile path continued downstream on the south side of the river below the falls. The photos we’d seen of Alsea Falls had obviously been taken at other times of the year. The pictures we’d seen were of a terraced fall gently cascading over rocks, but what we found was a whitewater cascade.

Alsea Falls

Alsea Falls

Alsea Falls

After admiring just how much more water was flowing now than what we’d seen in the photos we recrossed the footbridge and turned left continuing downstream. The trail climbed a bit before dropping back down near river level and another split in the trail after .6 miles. A trail here descended to the river bank before petering out.

South Fork Alsea River

From here the trail soon joined an old road which we followed briefly toward McBee Park to another trail which led slightly uphill to the right.

Alsea Falls Trail

Trail to Green Peak Falls

This trail ran parallel to Peak Creek but stayed far enough away to keep it hidden most of the half mile to Green Peak Falls.

Trail to Green Peak Falls

Meadow on the way to Green Peak Falls

Peak Creek

Having not seen any pictures of Green Peak Falls we weren’t sure what to expect but were pleasantly surprised by this 60′ waterfall.

Green Peak Falls

Green Peak Falls

Green Peak Falls

Almost as mesmerizing as the waterfall was a tree on the far side of the creek that was covered in light green lichen.

Lichen draped tree

On the way back we had a couple of loop options. We could have taken a .6 mile section of trail from the picnic area to the campground, but we chose a slightly longer loop with a little extra elevation gain. Just beyond the footbridge to the picnic area we turned left at a trail sign and headed uphill into the forest.

Trail sign in the Alsea Falls Recreation Area

This path climbed for a half mile to a road where we turned right for another half mile before descending on another half mile trail to the junction we had passed that morning .7 miles from Miller Road. This mile and a half was view less but the trails were well maintained.

Forest in the Alsea Falls Recreation Area

The Alsea Falls Recreation Area is popular in the warmer months when the river is more inviting but we had basically had the area to ourselves and the strong flow over the falls made a Winter visit worthwhile as well. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Alsea Falls

Nehalem Bay State Park, Kilchis Point Reserve, and Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint

We didn’t waste any time starting on our 2018 list of hikes as we took advantage of favorable weather on New Year’s Day and headed for the Oregon Coast. Our plan for the day was to make three stops near Tillamook. First at Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, then at Kilchis Point Reserve, and finally at Nehalem Bay State Park. As we neared Tillamook though it became apparent that we were a bit ahead of the Sun so we decided to swap the first and final stops to avoid sitting at the Cape Meares Trailhead waiting for light.

We drove north through Tillamook on Highway 101 to mile post 44 (one mile south of Manzanita) where we turned west at a sign for Nehalem Bay State Park. After paying the $5 day use fee we parked at the large day use area. We waited briefly for enough light to take a short path to the ocean.
Nehalem Bay Trailhead

Pacific Ocean

The view from the beach was a good one with some of our previous destinations visible to the north.
Neahkahanie Mountain
Neahaknie Mountain, Angora Peak, and Cape Falcon

To the south our final destination of the day, Cape Meares, jutted out into the Pacific.
Looking south from the Nehalem Spit

We walked south along the quite beach for 2.25 miles to the jetty at the end of the spit. We were joined by a lone jogger, some seagulls, and a curious seal.
Morning glow on the Pacific

Seagull

Seal

Jetty on Nehalem Spit

A mass of driftwood near the jetty forced us to backtrack a bit along the beach to a hiker sign where we turned inland.
Morning light hitting Neahkahanie Mountain

Hiker post on Nehalem Spit

We crossed the spit to the bay and turned north along the water on a worn path.
Swell heading into the bay

We were eventually able to get down onto the sandy Nehalem Beach which we walked along as far as we could before the high water forced us back up into the vegetation.
Neahkahanie Mountain across Nehalem BayNehalem Beach ahead

While we walked along the beach we spotted a bald eagle, more seals, and a varied thrush.
Bald eagle

Seals in Nehalem Bay

Varied thrush

Ideally we would have been able to keep on the sand all the way back along the bay to the park’s boat ramp but since that wasn’t an option we turned inland on what appeared to be a well traveled trail. We were hoping it would lead us to the horse trail that our map showed running down the center of the spit but after a short distance the path we were following became flooded.
More water on Nehalem Spit

We were forced to attempt to follow a maze of game trails.
Off trail travel on Nehalem Spit

We could guess who was responsible for the confusion of trails by the elk sign we continually spotted. We lucked out at one point when we came to another flooded area at a narrow point where we were able to cross on driftwood. Had we tried sticking to the bay we would have run into a spot too wide to cross and wound up where we were anyway.
Inlet along Nehalem Bay

Shortly after crossing the water travel became easier as we were able to reach another sandy beach and then pick up a wider more traveled trail back to the horse trail not far from the day use parking lot.
Nehalem Bay

Horse Trail in Nehalem Bay State Park

Our guidebook and called this a 5.2 mile loop but the time we’d arrived back at the car we had squeezed 5.7 miles out of it due to backtracking because of the flooded trail.

After returning to the highway we headed south to Bay City for our second stop of the morning – Kilchis Point Reserve. We turned towards Tillamook Bay on Warren Street near mile post 61 and followed pointers to the parking area on Spurce Street.
Kilshis Point Reserve Trailhead

Kilchis Point is the site of one of the largest Native American villages along the Northern Oregon Coast. It is also the location where the Morning Star of Tillamook, first ship registered in the Oregon Territory, was built. The small park is very nice with plenty of amenities and a plethora of information posted throughout. It was a little chilly out so we didn’t stop to read all the signs this time but that just gives us a reason to stop again and check it out in the Spring or Summertime.
Path at Kilchis Point Reserve

Interpretive sign at Kilchis Point Reserve

Interpretive sign at Kilchis Point Reserve

Interpretive sign at Kilchis Point Reserve

We followed the brick path from the parking area keeping right at junctions a total of 1.2 miles to a bird watching gazebo at Tillamook Bay.
Brick path at Kilchis Point Reserve

Gazeebo for birdwatching at Kilchis Point Reserve

Tillamook Bay

We didn’t spot many animals (other than dogs) along the way but we did get to listen to a pair of bald eagles for a bit.
Bald eagle

After a short break by the bay we returned to the parking area by following signs and staying right at trail junctions to complete two short loops.
Trail sign at Kilchis Point Reserve

Kilchis Point

We then drove south to Tillamook and followed signs to Oceanside on Highway 131. From Oceanside we followed signs to Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint and parked at a trailhead parking area at the park entrance.
Cape Meares Trailhead

A mudslide in January of 2013 closed the Three Capes Scenic Loop beyond the park entrance. That slide continues to slowly shift the area and has affected a trail between the trailhead and the beach to the north of Cape Meares. We decided to head down this trail to see the conditions first hand.
Cape Meares Trail map

Trail at Cape Meares

The upper portion of the trail was in reasonably good shape although there was a small tree that required ducking under.
Trail at Cape Meares

Shortly after passing a fairly nice view of another place we had previously hiked, Bayocean Spit, we came to a jumble of debris.
Bayocean Spit from Cape Meares

Washed out trail at Cape Meares

That was our turn around point,a little over half a mile from the trialhead. We headed back up to the trailhead and took the .2 mile Big Spruce Trail. The tree is estimated to be 750 to 800 years old and is the largest known Sitka spruce in Oregon.
Sign for the Big Spurce

Big Spruce

Big Spruce at Cape Meares

For a bit of perspective if the tree sprouted in 1217 it was there at the start of the fifth crusade.

After visiting the old tree we road walked .6 miles along the entrance road to the crowded parking area for the Cape Meares Lighthouse.
Cape Meares lighthouse parking

We stopped at a viewpoint platform overlooking Tower and Pillar Rocks to the north.
Tower and Pillar Rocks

A .2 mile path led from the parking area past more viewpoints to the lighthouse.
Cape Meares

Waterfall at Cape Meares

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Cape Meares Lighthouse

A second .2 mile path led back to the parking lot allowing for a short loop and providing views south to Cape Lookout and the Three Arch Rocks Wilderness, one of the two off-limits wilderness areas in Oregon.
Looking south from Cape Meares

After returning to the parking area we headed for the Octopus Tree which was just a tenth of a mile away.
Sign for the Octopus Tree

Octopus Tree at Cape Meares

Octopus Tree at Cape Meares

Another Sitka spruce, this unique tree has no central trunk. Instead several limbs have grown vertically. After visiting this tree we walked back up the entrance road to our car and headed home, capping off our first outing of 2018. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Nehalem Bay, Kilchis Point, and Cape Meares

Heceta Head and Brain Booth State Park

For our final outing of 2017 we returned to the Oregon Coast for three short hikes between Newport and Florence. We began our day by driving Highway 101 35 miles south of Newport (14 miles north of Florence) to the Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park Day Use parking lot.
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Our plan was to hike to the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint and then return on a different route. In order to complete the loop portion of the hike we needed to cross Highway 101 twice. We decided to get the crossing done as soon as possible thinking that traffic would be less problematic earlier in the day. From the parking area we took a paved path east following a pointer for the Campground Trail.
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After a tenth of a mile we crossed the empty highway and continued on the campground entrance road for just over an additional tenth of a mile where we turned right at a signpost onto the Valley Trail.
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We followed this trail for three tenths of mile to a junction in a meadow with the China Creek Loop Trail.
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The loop added a little distance to the hike but not enough to keep us from turning left and crossing China Creek on a footbridge.
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The China Creek Loop passed through a green coastal forest crossing China Creek again after .3 miles.
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A half mile from the second crossing we found ourselves back at the Valley Trail where we turned left toward the lighthouse.
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Over the next mile the trail passed two small ponds, crossed Blowout Creek on what appeared to be a recently installed footbridge, and skirted a beaver lake.
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We were now at the second crossing of Highway 101 at the Hobbit Trailhead, another possible starting point.
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On the other side of the highway the trail split, right was our return route via Hobbit Beach but first we turned left to visit the lighthouse. We were now following the route of the Oregon Coast Trail.
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At first the trail remained near the highway but soon veered away toward the ocean as it began to climb up Heceta Head.
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The trail climbed gradually and offered a few views north to Cape Perpetua.
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After reaching a saddle on the head, the trail descended to the south in a series of switchbacks before following a ridge and finally arriving above the lighthouse at the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint.
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Seal Lion Point jutted out to the south where the occasional bark of a sea lion drifted our way.
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We made our way down to the lighthouse to get a closer look.
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After a short break we returned the way we’d come to the fork and turned toward Hobbit Beach. We arrived at the beach in a little under half a mile.
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A quiet 1.2 mile walk along the beach (and across Blowout Creek) brought us back to our car at the day use area.
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From there we drove north on Highway 101 for 28 miles to Ona Beach State Park, one of two units of Brian Booth State Park.
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For this hike we planned on hiking along Ona Beach to Seal Rock and back. We passed through a large picnic area avoiding some flooded trails and arriving at a footbridge over Beaver Creek.
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After crossing the creek we turned south along Ona Beach.
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Portions of the beach can be impassible at high tide but we had arrived an hour and a half below low tide. Exposed rocks made the first stretch of beach very interesting.
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The rock along the beach eventually petered out but a number of ocean rocks just offshore held our interest.
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Further to the south lay the Seal Rock Recreation Site.
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Approximately 1.75 miles from the footbridge we turned inland along a small creek on an unmarked but obvious trail. We followed this path up to Highway 101 where a short road walk brought us to the entrance of the park.
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We followed a paved path out to a viewpoint where much of the area was roped off for erosion control.
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After admiring the views we returned the way we’d come and headed for our final stop at the Beaver Creek Natural Area, the second unit of Brian Booth State Park. To reach the winter trailhead for the Beaver Creek Loop from Ona Beach State Park we crossed Highway 101 onto N. Beaver Creek Road. After a mile we turned right onto S. Beaver Creek Road for another 1.1 miles and parked on the shoulder across from a gate.
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We picked up a trail map and set off on the gated service road.
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After .4 miles we turned uphill on a mowed path following posts for the Beaver Creek Loop.
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Being the coast we’d seen a few flowers still blooming despite it being mid-December and even eaten a few huckleberries along the China Creek Loop earlier in the day. Here we found a few blackberry? blossoms.
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After climbing for .3 miles we arrived at a saddle where we could have turned right on the Elk Meadow Trail for a half mile loop.
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We already had enough mileage planned for the day so we saved that for another time and continued on the Beaver Creek Loop. After passing another trail to Snaggy Point we began to descend toward the marshes surrounding Beaver Creek.
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We stopped to watch a couple of woodpeckers circle a tree. They didn’t seem too bothered by us but they wouldn’t hold still long enough for a decent photo.
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We briefly followed a pointer for the Marsh Trail which brought us to a footbridge over Beaver Creek. For about two months during Summer the marsh is apparently dry enough to cross without too much trouble.
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We heard some ducks and startled a great blue heron (a couple of times) as we continued along the loop. We also spotted a hawk, more woodpeckers, and some small birds before arriving at a pole barn at the end of the service road we’d started on that seemed to be undergoing some construction.
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From the barn it was only .2 miles back to the start of the loop. The hike here came in at an even three miles. Ona Beach to Seal Rock had been 4.6 miles round trip and our hike to Heceta Head was 6.6 miles giving us a total of 14.2 miles for the day. Each of the hikes would be worthy destinations on their own and there were several more trails to explore in the Beaver Creek Natural Area making a return visit tempting someday.

With our 2017 hikes completed it’s time to get to work on 2018. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Heceta Head and Brian Booth State Park

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge

We made a late addition to our scheduled hikes when it became clear that the weather on the day of the Give and Get Social for Trailkeepers of Oregon (TKO) was going to be too nice to pass up.  We had short two featured hikes in Portland from William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in NW Oregon & SW Washington that we had not been able to work into our future plans.   The TKO event was taking place at Dig a Pony which was conveniently close to one of these two hikes, Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.

We began our hike uncharacteristically late, just after 1:15pm, from the north parking area on SE Milwaukee Ave.

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We followed a paved path downhill to a sign for the Oaks Bottom Bluff Trail.

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Here the trail split and we stayed left crossing a small footbridge. We would return via the right fork after completing a loop around Wapato Marsh.

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The amount of water in the marsh increased as we went. The first wildlife we spotted were small birds, squirrels and a hawk.

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As the amount of water increased we began to see a number of ducks. Several species were present, some of which we were unfamiliar with.

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IMG_1339Green-winged teal

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IMG_1377Ring necked duck?

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IMG_1360Not sure what kind of duck is in the upper left hand corner.

At the far end of the marsh trails from Sellwood Park joined at a meadow. Across the meadow to the west the Holiday Express train was preparing to depart.

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We continued around the marsh passing under the train tracks and turned right on the paved Springwater Corridor. The Holiday Express passed us as we went.

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From this path we spotted some other birds including several herons, a cormorant, and a kingfisher.

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We passed a viewpoint of the Willamette River to the west before passing back under the railroad tracks.

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Before passing back under the the tracks we took a short path to the west toward the river where a few pieces of art could be seen amid the trees.

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We turned off the paved path at a hiker only sign and passed through a wooden fence.

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We were quickly back at the start of the loop and returned uphill to our car. A nice three mile or so stroll with lots of wildlife to watch. We ended our day at Give and Get where we had a good time despite not winning any of the raffles. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge

Cummins Ridge Trail – Cummins Creek Wilderness

On Veterans day we celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary by visiting our 34th Oregon wilderness area – the Cummins Creek Wilderness. The 9,173 acre wilderness is located along the Oregon Coast between Florence and Waldport. The Cummins Creek Wilderness is home to the only old-growth Sitka Spruce forest in the state. For our visit we chose the only designated trail in the wilderness, the Cummins Ridge Trail.

There are trailheads at either end of the nearly 6 mile long Cummins Ridge Trail which opens up the option of a car shuttle if one only wanted to hike the trail one way. For a shuttle hike starting at the upper (east) trailhead located along Forest Road 5694 would make the most sense as the majority of the hike would be downhill. Our plan was to do an out and back so we started from the lower (west) trailhead located approximately 2.5 miles from Highway 101 on Forest Road 1051.
Lower Cummins Ridge Trailhead

The trail almost immediately enters the wilderness area.
Informational sign board at the lower trailhead

Cummins Creek Wilderness sign

It was raining steadily as we set off which we hadn’t really expected based on the forecast but as the day progressed the rain lessened and eventually quit. The lower portion of the trial followed an old road bed which at times was obvious but at others the vegetation had nearly hidden it.
Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

After about 3 miles on the old road bed the trail forked to the right leaving the road and leading us into a foggy forest.
Cummins Ridge Trail

The trail was in good shape with just a couple of short overgrown sections and never very steep as it followed the ridge up and down to the upper trailhead.
Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Cummins Ridge Trail

Upper Cummins Ridge Trailhead

We returned the way we’d come for an 11.9 mile hike with approximately 1200′ of elevation gain. The forest along the ridge limit any real views that might otherwise be available from the trail.
View from the Cummins Ridge Trail

We did manage a couple of brief glimpses of the Pacific Ocean through the trees.
Pacific Ocean from the Cummins Ridge Trail

With no viewpoints and no water features along the trail it is strictly a hike for those who are looking for a nice forest stroll. Not all hikes need to lead to an amazing view or some Instagram destination to be enjoyable. We enjoyed the moss covered trees, various mushrooms, and some bird sightings on our visit.
Mossy tree

Fuzzy little tree

Mushrooms along the Cummins Ridge Trail

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Varied Thrush

This was a great cloudy/rainy day hike and leaves us with just 11 of the 45 visit-able Oregon Wilderness areas left to go. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cummins Ridge Trail

Mirror Lake and Pioneer Bridle Trails

As our official 2017 hiking season came to a close, a break from the recent wet and cold weather provided us an opportunity to turn back to a hike we had be planning to do two weeks earlier. Possible icy road conditions had kept us from attempting the early morning drive to the Mirror Lake Trailhead near Government Camp, OR then.

The Mirror Lake Trail is one of the most popular trails in the Mt. Hood area and the parking area fills up fast so we wanted to get to the trailhead as early as possible. The Federal Highway Administration is in the process of moving the trailhead which is scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2018 (click here for details).

We arrived before dawn and then discovered that the batteries were dead in my headlamp so we had to wait for some light before setting off on the trail which starts by crossing Camp Creek on a footbridge.
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A second footbridge crosses over Mirror Lake’s outlet creek.
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It was still fairly dark as we climbed up towards Mirror Lake which is just 1.4 miles from the trailhead. The short distance is part of the reason for the trails popularity as it makes it kid friendly. As it climbs the trail passes through some rock slides with limited views.
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Just before reaching the lake the trail splits providing a loop around the water. We went left crossing the outlet creek again and worked our way clockwise around the small lake.
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Across the lake we could see our goal for this hike, Tom Dick and Harry Mountain.
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One of the other things that makes this hike popular is that there is a view of Mt. Hood from the south end of Mirror Lake.
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It was too windy to have a reflection of Oregon’s tallest peak.
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When we came to a T-shaped junction on the west side of the lake we turned left toward Tom Dick and Harry Mountain and we were soon in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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The trail traversed along a hillside passing through more rock slides where we heard some pikas and had a view across Highway 26 and back over our shoulders to Mt. Hood.
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Approximately a mile from the junction the trail turned sharply left at a huge rock pile.
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The trail then climbed gradually through an open forest to the rocky summit of the western most of three summits that earned the mountain three names.
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Two weeks before, snow had been down to Mirror Lake and the summit was covered but warmer weather had melted all of it. It was going to be another unseasonably warm bluebird day which allowed us a clear 360 degree view from the summit.
IMG_1077Mt. Hood and Mirror Lake with Mt. Adams in the background

IMG_1081From left to right: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.

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IMG_1094Olallie Butte, Mt. Jefferson, and the top of Three Fingered Jack

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IMG_1099Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte in the Badger Creek Wilderness east of Mt. Hood.

There were a few other hikers at the summit (those that had working headlamps) but it was still early enough not to feel crowded. We spent a while sitting on the rocks and might have spent more time had it been a little less breezy. Instead of pulling layers out of our packs we headed back down. We passed a lot of people on their way up, but we also passed a number of local residents including a squirrel and a pika who both took a breaks from gathering food to pose for us.
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Any hike that involves a pika sighting is a success.

By the time we passed by Mirror Lake there was a steady stream of hikers coming uphill. Luckily the trail is wide enough to allow two way traffic in many places. IMG_1126

The roundtrip distance for the hike was 6.5 miles with 1500′ of elevation gain. That left us with plenty of time and enough gas in our tanks for a second stop.

That second stop was basically just across Highway 26. From the current Mirror Lake Trailhead we headed east on the highway for three quarters of a mile where we turned left opposite the western entrance to Mt. Hood Ski Bowl at a sign for the Glacier View Sno-Park. We parked at a gate after just .2 miles and followed a pointer for the Crosstown and Pioneer Bridle Trails.
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A confusion of trails met here but we followed the pointers and signs for the Pioneer Bridle Trail.
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After a very short distance on the Pioneer Bridle Trail we came to a fork where a sign on the path to the left identified it as the “Route of Barlow Road
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The 80 mile Barlow Road is a historic wagon road was built by Sam Barlow, Phillip Foster and their crews in 1846 as a new route on the Oregon Trail. Although it was steep and rough the route offered an alternative to the dangerous and expensive Columbia River passage. The ability of large wagons to pass over the Cascades to the Willamette Valley led to a significant increase in the number of emigrants to Oregon.

Our route followed the Pioneer Bridle Trail though so we took the signed right hand fork which soon crossed over the small outlet creek of Enid Lake.
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The Pioneer Bridle Trail spent most of it’s time close enough to Highway 26 that the sound of traffic on the road was consistent and for a short stretch was right next to the guard rail which didn’t make for the most peaceful hike. Just under a mile and a half from where we’d parked the Pioneer Bridle Trail passed under the abandoned Mt. Hood loop highway.
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Before descending to the tunnel we took a short spur path to the old road and turned right hoping to visit Little Zigzag Falls.
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After following the road for a tenth of a mile we arrived at the Little Zigzag Falls Trailhead (yes you can drive here).
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A short quarter mile family friendly path here follows Little Zigzag Creek to scenic Little Zigzag Falls.
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After visiting the falls, which we were lucky enough to have to ourselves for a bit, we returned to the Pioneer Bridle Trail. We turned right and passed through the tunnel continuing west on the trail.
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Not long after passing under the old highway the current highway began to fall away from the trail making this section a bit more serene. A fence along the way marked the spot of an old mine shaft.
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Approximately three quarters of a mile from the tunnel the trail split. This wasn’t shown on our map or in our guidebook but we forked right which wound up being the Original route of the Oregon Trail.
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The trails rejoined in under a half mile (the Pioneer Bridle Trail was often visible through the trees). We continued for approximately another 3/4 miles to the start of a series of switchbacks. We decided to end our hike here instead of descending for about a mile to the lower Pioneer Bridle Laurel Hill Trailhead.
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We stuck to the Pioneer Bridle Trail on the way back. The total distance for this hike was 7.4 miles with around 700′ of elevation gain. If we were to do it over as a stand alone hike we probably would have started at the lower trailhead and hiked up to Little Zigzag Falls and back due to how close Highway 26 was to the trail at the upper end but having done the Mirror Lake hike first it made more sense to start at the upper end.

For the day we put in 13.9 miles and we got a lot back. Clear views of 5 volcanoes (and the top of Three Fingered Jack), a lake with a mountain view, a waterfall, some history and best of all a Pika. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mirror Lake and Pioneer Bridle Trails