Tag Archives: gales creek

Gales Creek Trail

A day off of work for New Years and a clear weather forecast = our first hike of 2019. Our trail of choice was the Gales Creek Trail in the Tillamook State Forest. We began our hike at the Gales Creek Trailhead, the same trailhead that we used in 2015 for a hike to nearby University Falls (post).

We began this hike as we had on our previous visit by following the Gales Creek Trail west from the parking area.

The first .8 miles to the Storey Burn Trail was a repeat of 2015 as we crossed Low Divide Creek on a footbridge and arrived at the trail junction.


Unlike last time when we turned left onto the Storey Burn Trail this time we turned right sticking to the Gales Creek Trail which paralleled Gales Creek.

It was a chilly morning, about 28 degrees, and there was a fair amount of frost on the ground and plants. In addition to the typical frost we see on a chilly morning, we had been noticing white clumps here and there. The clumps looked like they could be garbage at first glance but it wasn’t. Other thoughts were fur but we couldn’t think of any animals in the area with white fur or something from a tree but it wasn’t the right time of year for things like cottonwood. Our next guess was a little closer with a fungus but upon closer inspection we determined it was some sort of fine ice/frost.


It was very interesting. The scarcity of the clumps told us that there must be some set of conditions to create these frost clumps and spent much of the hike marveling at the designs. Thanks to the help of some fellow hikers over at Oregonhikers.org we later learned that this type of frost is the result of a fungus inside certain rotting wood that leaves water and carbon dioxide behind as the wood decays. The CO2 forces the water out of the wood through tiny holes and when the temperature is just a bit below freezing creates the frost “hairs” . Here is a post describing the phenomena in more detail and a article on BBC – Earth with a time lapse video of the frost forming.

The Gales Creek Trail stuck fairly close to the creek, sometimes rising a bit above it as it passed through the forest and crossed several streams that would likely have been dry in the summer months.




A mile and a half from the Storey Burn Trail junction we did come to a dry creek bed, but a flash of water back in the trees looked like it might be a decent waterfall. The terrain looked like it might make for a reasonable off-trail jaunt and the fact that there was no water down at the trail but there was some further up made us curious so we decided to head uphill. After about a quarter mile climb over and around downed trees we found ourselves looking at a nice 20′ or so waterfall. The terrain narrowed enough that we couldn’t get right up to the falls but it was still a nice view (although not the best lighting for photos).


IMG_5450The route we came up.

After admiring the falls we returned to the trail and continued west toward the Bell Camp Trailhead.
IMG_5453A short section of railroad grade.

More creek crossings followed, some trickier than others, but we managed to keep our feet fairly dry using rocks or logs.

A total of 2.25 miles from the junction we arrived at stand of alders as the site of good sized slide that occurred in 2007.



Just over a mile from the alder stand we came to the trickiest crossing of the day. There appeared to be two options across, a lone rock barely sticking out of the water and a pile of slick looking logs. Due to the direction we were heading the rock was too far to reach so we opted for the logs. Some carefully placed steps got us across dry.
IMG_5471The logs we came across.

IMG_5472The rock after having crossed.

On the way back I opted to attempt a jump from the rock. It worked but after watching Heather recross fairly easily on the logs my 46 year old body thought that would have been a better choice.
IMG_5508Heather finishing her crossing on the way back.

Beyond this crossing the trail turned inland away from Gales Creek a bit. Slides apparently forced the trail to be rerouted at some point because a footbridge could still be seen through the trees closer to Gales Creek.

We passed a very small cascade along this section and then approximately 1.75 miles from the tricky creek crossing arrived at our turn around point, a 25′ waterfall right along the trail.



We took a break at the falls and as we studied the falls the light moved enough to create a small rainbow.


We returned the way we’d come. The sun was shining but it was still chilly as we made our way back.



We didn’t see much wildlife, just a handful of birds, and being the middle of winter no wildflowers but there were a few mushrooms to enjoy.



With the half mile side trip the hike wound up being just under 12.5 miles with approximately 1500′ of elevation gain. It was a nice start to a new year of hiking. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Gales Creek Trail

Gales Creek and University Falls

We were back on the trails after a long break following our New Years Day outing. This month we were looking for a hike involving waterfalls to take advantage of the higher water flows of late winter. We wound up heading to the Tillamook State Forest to check out University Falls and the Gales Creek area. There were several options as far as trails went, a half-mile trail beginning above University Falls, a longer loop passing the falls starting at Rogers Camp on the south side of Highway 6, or starting at one of the trailheads along the Gales Creek Loop on the north side of the highway. We chose to start at a small trailhead just before reaching Gales Creek Campground. A small post and footbridge were the only markers for this starting point.
Gales Creek Trailhead

A short distance from this trailhead the path joined the main Gales Creek Loop at a well marked junction.

Our plan was to take the trail to the highway and then walk up the road a few hundred feet and cross into Rogers Camp, another possible trailhead and staging area for Off-Highway Vehicles which are allowed on the south side of the highway. At the entrance to Rogers Camp we headed for a trail sign positioned between the entrance road and a highway equipment yard. Here the Gravelle Brothers Trail began.

Following signs for University Falls we stuck to this non-motorized path reaching a footbridge and little bench at the Devils Fork Wilson River.

After crossing the river the trail turned south and began to climb through the forest toward University Falls.

A colorful sign greeted us near University Falls.

A short trail from the sign to the right led down to Elliot Creek but the falls were almost entirely obscured.


To get to the falls we returned to the sign and took the trail directly behind it a short distance to the falls. The falls were going strong making for an impressive show.

University Falls

After visiting the falls we returned down the trail and recrossed the river. Not too far from the crossing we arrived at a trail junction we had passed earlier. Here we turned left on the Storey Burn Trail.

This trail lead us past a marshy area along the river where skunk cabbage was begging to bloom.

We then climbed away from the river and passed beneath a highway bridge returning to the north side of Highway 6. The Storey Burn Trail climbed steadily along hillsides up to Storey Burn Road, another possible trailhead. We crossed the road and continued on toward Gales Creek Campground. We were mostly going downhill now in a much quieter forest. While on the south side of the highway the sounds of Off-Highway Vehicles and target shooters competed with the water and the birds. Even after returning to the north side of the highway where OHV are banned there was an almost constant barrage of gunfire. Here on the final stretch birdsong and running water became the only sounds making for a pleasant final stretch. The trail also passed by small but scenic Slide Falls.


A final trail junction awaited, just .8 miles from Gales Campground.

The final portion of the trail paralleled Gales Creek before arriving at the trailhead.
Gales Creek

We could have walked 300 yards up the road to our car and the other smaller trailhead or take a connector trail through the forest. We chose the trail which wound around and gained some unnecessary elevation before dropping us back down to our car. We both agreed that we should have taken the road 🙂 Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157650431797248/