A hike on the coast of Oregon

Tillamook Lighthouse is that object in the middle of the photo almost at the horizon line. This view is at a little stop on the trail where someone is keeping the foliage trimmed enough to see the view.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a new hike, so I was happy to accompany my family on a hike on Tillamook Head in Oregon. The trail starts at Indian Beach in Ecola State Park and makes a loop through the rain forest. Even before starting the hike, the park offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. During part of the hike, you are high above the ocean and have a view of the Tillamook Lighthouse (or Terrible Tilly) way out at sea.

You can take the loop either way. Both ways involve a trek uphill on the way out and downhill on the way back, but I understand from my brother that the more eastern side of the loop has a steeper grade.

We only did part of the westernmost loop, because I hadn’t hiked in a long time and was out of shape for the steady uphill. We stopped at the view of Tillamook Lighthouse and turned around.

Clatsop Loop Trail from Indian Beach

Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach, Oregon

Distance: 2.8 miles (we went in about 0.8 miles and then turned back)

Difficulty: moderate

Panting stops: 6 or 7

Elevation changes: 784 feet

Here is the view from that first lookout on the western edge of the loop. It is a short but steep walk up from the parking lot. It was a blustery day, but we still had a great view of Haystack Rock near Cannon Beach.

Ecola State Park is a beautiful rainforest park near Cannon Beach, Oregon. However, almost every year during the winter it closes up because of roads being washed out or other reasons. So, if you decide to go, be sure to check to see if the park is open. Even if it is closed, however, locals park their cars in the neighborhood outside the park and walk in, because the winding roads through the rainforest take you through beautiful territory. However, that’s another hike. We actually went in planning to walk the roads but found to our surprise that the park was open, as it had been closed just recently.

Once in the park, we drove to Indian Beach. Even in the parking area, there are gorgeous views of the cliffs and ocean, and many people go just a short way up the Clatsop Loop trail to be able to see the views of Haystack Rock from a little higher up. Doing that involves a steep but short walk up the western loop of the trail. The trail is paved on the eastern side of the loop but although the western side is not rough, it is dirt and can be very muddy in places. The worst puddle is right after you depart from the eastern loop.

My brother on the trail. You can see that it is a narrow dirt trail but not muddy at this point.

To get to the loop trail, walk toward the bathrooms. It begins just after you pass them.

The steepest part of the western side of the loop is at the beginning up to that first lookout; however, it is pretty much all uphill, which is very hard on me. The path begins to flatten out just before you reach the view of Tillamook Lighthouse. That is where we turned back. I believe the path goes uphill some more and the loop reaches its apex at a camp for hikers. Near that point, it joins another trail that goes four miles to the North Tillamook Head parking lot or you can go back down the other edge of the loop.

The rainforest is lush and gorgeous at all times of year. We were hiking in the April. It was quite wet and muddy on the trail, but we saw huge trees and a herd of elk on the roads driving through the park.

How to get there

From Seaside

Drive south on Highway 101 until you see the signs for Ecola Park on your right, about 9.6 miles from the center of town. Follow the signs through a neighborhood and enter the park to the right. Then follow the signs to Indian Beach.

From Cannon Beach

Drive north on Highway 101 until you see the signs for Ecola Park on your left, about 3 miles from the center of town. Follow the signs through a neighborhood and enter the park to the right. Then follow the signs to Indian Beach.

Parking and facilities

At Indian Beach there is a parking lot with room for about a dozen cars. There are picnic tables there and a bench at the first lookout. There is beach access. Pets are allowed on a leash. There is an accessible bathroom with flush toilets.

However, large motor homes are discouraged from entering the park, as the roads are narrow, at times only one lane wide, and twisty. My brother saw a huge motor home down in a ravine last winter, so this “discouragement” is no joke.

A snippet of the Pacific Crest

The sign pointing the way to the Greenway from behind the dog park, where a road comes in across it

On my visit to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, my friends and I managed to hike a short way along the Bear Creek Greenway, which is part of the Pacific Crest Trail. The Ashland portion of it starts next to a dog park, goes briefly through a residential area, past the treatment plant, and then cuts out through fields and agricultural land in the foothills. We saw a few other hikers and lots and lots of bike riders.

I usually have a nice picture of the path and the scenery, but for some reason, I came away just with this one of the sign, taken by one of my friends. But you can catch a glimpse of the scenery behind it.

The path itself at this point is paved and wide enough to be a single-lane road. You can take it all the way to Medford and past it to Central Point if you want.

Bear Creek Greenway from Ashland

Bear Creek Park from Ashland Dog Park, Ashland, Oregon

Difficulty: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Distance: 16.9 miles point-to-point

Elevation changes: 157 feet

Of course, if you hike the entire 16.9 miles, that makes it more than an easy peasy hike, but we just spent about an hour hiking in a little over a mile and returning. The path is paved. It looks like it was patched with concrete, but most of it is asphalt. It goes through some pleasant agricultural land, with lots of fields and Bear Creek running along beside it. We saw some beautiful wildflowers during our early summer hike.

At least the part we hiked was almost totally flat, and you can see by the small elevation gain over a long stretch that it would never qualify as a very difficult hike. The profile of the path shows that it goes steadily uphill all the way. Its consistency and length means that you can go as far as you want with little difficulty.

How to get there

From Downtown Ashland

From Main Street, turn north on Oak Street. Follow Oak Street to E. Nevada St. and turn left. Turn right on Helman Street, then right again on Perozzi Street. (Alternatively, you can turn north on Helman Street from Main Street and take it all the way to Perozzi Street. We were coming from the other direction.) Perozzi street ends in the parking lot for Ashland Dog Park. We parked there and found the trail going off from the west side of the parking lot.

Parking and Facilities

The dog park has parking for about fifty cars. There is also a restroom.

 

A ramble with beauty

This view doesn’t show very many of the rhododendrons but does provide an idea of the beauty of the park. Here we were up high in the park, close to the entrance but on our way out.

Last week, my friend and I went to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. To call this a hike is pushing it a little, because there are lots of paths in the park, but none of them are very long. Still, I thought I’d write about this beautiful location. It is actually in All Trails, so someone thought it was worthwhile documenting as a hike.

The park has more than 2500 rhododendron bushes. I understand from its web site that the best time to go is June or July. We went in early May on a very hot day. Lots of the plants seemed a little wilty, probably because it was 90 degrees and so much hotter than usual at that time of the year. Still, the park features windy paths along a creek and small lake, lots of places to sit and enjoy the view, and beautiful landscaping. In early May, we saw lots of water birds.

Crystal Springs and Johnson Creek Trail

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Portland, Oregon

Difficulty: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Distance: 1.2 miles

Elevation change: 62 feet

Here is one of the several bridges in the park. You can get an idea of the path from this picture. There is a waterfall on the left and ducks on the right.

Right up front, let me tell you to check whether there are any special events going on in the park before you go. When we went, it was a Friday morning, and they were setting up to have a rhododendron sale in the only park parking lot. Reed College, across the street, had its parking marked for a private event and there is no street parking right around the park, so we had to drive back up into a nearby neighborhood and find street parking there. If you have mobility problems, this could be an issue for you. We had to walk about four blocks to the park, which was no issue for us.

Here are some actual rhododendrons.

This park does have an entrance fee, $5, but my friend was able to get free cultural passes for the park from her local library. When you walk in the entrance, you immediately have several choices for directions to go, since the paths through the park go off in several directions. There are several sets of stairs, but if you have mobility issues, you can stay off the staircases and just keep to the flats. You can easily see lots of the park that way.

We took a staircase down to a shady area around the creek, where there were waterfalls and ducks as well as beautiful landscaping. Then we looped around and basically randomly followed trails to try to cover most of the park. The paths are all paved, so the only barrier to seeing the entire park would be if you can’t take the stairs that go into some of the areas. Still, the park materials say you can see all of the major trails without using the stairs.

There is plenty to look at, benches and open areas to relax in, lots of photography opportunities. It’s a beautiful place.

How to get there

From Downtown Portland

Go over the Hawthorne Bridge and take SE McLouglin Boulevard south to SE 23rd Avenue. Turn right on SE Bybee Boulevard. Continue on to SE Tolman Street. SE Tolman Street veers slightly left and becomes SE 28th Avenue. The park is on your left across the street from Reed College.

Parking and Amenities

The park has a small parking lot for about 30 cars, but it was blocked off the day we arrived in preparation for a rhododendron sale. Parking at Reed College was also closed off, but if you cannot find a place to park in the parking lot, you can drive up to the nearby neighborhood around the corner.

The park has plenty of benches and places to rest. There is an information booth and restrooms. Major areas of the park are wheelchair accessible.

 

Beautiful views of Mt. Hood

The view of Mt. Hood from the top picnic area on the Lava Loop

Strictly speaking, I didn’t hike the trails at Scouters Mountain. Instead, I walked on them briefly during a Mushroom Discovery class. However, I think I saw enough of them to write up a hike review for those who are interested. Scouters Mountain has three trails, the Lava Loop, the Boomer Trail, and the Shelter Trail. The first two trails provide a couple of loops around the top of the mountain, one gentle, the other with a few more elevation changes. The Shelter Trail is paved and provides a path from the end of the Boomer Trail between the two parking lots. Both paths provide striking views of Mt. Hood.

Scouters Mountain Trails

Scouters Mountain Nature Park, Happy Valley, Oregon

Difficulty: Easy

Panting stops: 0-1

Distance: 1.2 miles

Elevation changes: 180 feet

Two deer in the park didn’t seem to be worried about us at all.

We parked at the lot and took the Shelter Trail up to the picnic area. From there we went around part of the Lava Loop and descended the Boomer Trail a bit for our class. On the way up the Shelter Trail, we saw two deer who weren’t afraid of us at all, and judging by some reviews I’ve read, this is not an unusual experience. At the top, there were beautiful views of Mt. Hood, and the park in general is very pretty, especially on a chilly but clear fall day.

The Shelter Trail is paved, and the other trails are well-kept gravel paths. Dogs are not allowed, however. The Lava Loop is wheelchair-accessible.

I didn’t actually walk the whole trail, so I put in one panting stop just because of the change in elevation. The rise between the parking lots on the Shelter Trail is very gradual, though, so you can probably park in the lower lot (you must park there unless you have a disability pass), walk up, and then take the Boomer Trail back down.

How to get there

From Portland or Vancouver

From I-205, take exit 17 for SE Foster Road. Turn left onto SE Woodstock Boulevard. Woodstock Boulevard becomes SE Foster Road. Go 0.6 miles and turn right onto SE 110th Avenue. SE 110th becomes SE 112th Blvd., and then SE Mt. Scott Blvd., and finally SE King Road. After 0.8 miles on SE King Road, turn right onto SE 145th Avenue. After 0.4 miles, turn left onto SE Boy Scout Lodge Road and follow the park signs.

Parking and Amenities

There is a large lower lot and a smaller upper lot that is only for folks with disabilities. The park has a covered picnic area and a bathroom at the top of the park.

 

Lighthouse along the Columbia

The Warrior Rock Lighthouse isn’t very impressive, but it’s a nice goal for a hike.

Take a walk through lush fields and woods and along the sandy banks of the Columbia River. This trail is an easy walk along the edge of Sauvie Island in the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area. Depending upon whether you choose to walk along the shore or stay on the trail, take the loop at the end or not, the hike can be as long as six or seven miles, in and out. There are very few changes in elevation.

Parking for this trail requires an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife day pass, but you can buy this pass at the grocery store on the island right when you cross the bridge.

Warrior Rock Lighthouse Trail

Rating: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Distance: 6-7 miles, in and out

Elevation changes: 42 feet

The banks of Sauvie Island

Part of the time taking this hike, we used a guide book that my friend brought. Because the trail sometimes follows an old road but has forks off to the water, we couldn’t always figure out where the trail was and the book’s instructions were confusing.

Reeder Road dead ends at the trail head where there is parking and a porta-potty. Park there. If you want to start the trail by going down to the river bank, go through the fence at the right side of the parking area and take the trail down to the bank. If you want to stay on the trail, go past the trailhead sign.

Some classic fairy tale mushrooms along the trail

The guide book we used advised branching off to the river bank immediately and following it up until the sand starts to vanish, where you rejoin the trail. We had a hard time identifying that point, because it said it was a beacon 3. It is actually between the 3rd and 4th beacon. If you choose to take part of the hike along the river bank, you will see a fence between you and the trail and then a cliff. You can rejoin the trail by climbing up a little bit after the cliff disappears and just before you get to the point where the sand disappears.

The trail becomes an old road, but it sometimes diverges. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter which way you go, although some of the divergent paths just take you back to the bank. However, once you are well into the woods and about three miles from the start, if you want to go directly to the lighthouse, take the path that diverges there. If you look into the woods, you can see a small birdhouse or bat house attached to a tree at that point.

The path varies from being an old road, at times overgrown (which is why we sometimes accidentally ended up on the trail when we meant to be on the road) and a path that goes from wider to narrow and lined with grass and brambles. However, none of it is difficult to navigate. If it has been rainy lately, though, boots are recommended.

The road makes a loop away from the lighthouse and then returns to it, so if you take the loop, you will go the full seven miles and see the lighthouse on your way back.

How to get there

Sauvie Island Wildlife Area, Sauvie Island, Oregon

From Portland

Take US-30 toward St. Helens to Sauvie Island. Turn right across the Sauvie Island bridge. Turn left on Sauvie Island Road, where you can stop at the grocery store and buy your pass. Then turn left. Make a right on Reeder Road, and follow it all the way out to the end. There are lots of places to stop and go to the river bank if you would like to do that before going to the trailhead.

From Vancouver

Take I-5 south and take the Marine Drive exit right after you cross the river. This becomes US-30/St. Helens road. Follow US-30 until you turn right on the Sauvie Island bridge. Turn left on Sauvie Island Road, where you can stop at the grocery store and buy your pass. Then turn left. Make a right on Reeder Road, and follow it all the way out to the end. There are lots of places to stop and go to the river bank if you would like to do that before going to the trailhead.

Parking and facilities

At the trailhead, there is parking for about a dozen cars and a porta-potty.

Urban grit or lost: a hike unfinished

On Sunday, my friend Deb and I attempted to do a hike in Oregon City. I say attempted, because we couldn’t actually find the location for part of the hike. It’s hard to know how to break this one down as a result. I think I’ll start with a general description of our experience and then describe the hike as I normally would.

The top of the elevator from the promenade

We wanted to hike the McLoughlin Promenade in Oregon City. The first part of the hike, as described in an article on Oregon Live, is easy to find and easy to do. It begins with the city’s famous elevator, and then there are two directions in which you can go. Our mistake was in not bringing along the article, which we had in the car, and forgetting that it included directions for that part of the hike.

The hike begins in a lovely walk above the downtown, where you have views of the Willamette River, the Willamette Falls, and an interesting old area of factories perched above the river. It’s when you go down that the urban grit comes in and we got lost. We were unable to find the part of the hike that goes to Canemah Park. We went back, got our car, and tried to drive there, but we saw no sign of access to the park except for areas where we couldn’t park. We even asked a resident, who had no idea what we were talking about. If we had taken the article along with us on the walk, we might have found it, but there seems to be no access to the park for a car. We also missed the waterfalls, because we ran out of time looking for the park. Hint: whatever you do, don’t try to find the park using the Heritage Trail brochure, available at the elevator.

There are also several ways to do this hike, only a few of which we took, which makes it more difficult to describe.

McLoughlin Promenade

Rating: Easy if you just go down the stairs and don’t have mobility issues (or you can stop at the stairs), Moderate if you decide to go back up the stairs instead of taking the elevator

Panting stops: 0 if you take the elevator up; otherwise, 1.

Length: 1.3 miles if you go as far as the pullout viewpoint of the falls; 2.5 miles if you can find the park and take the hike in both directions from the elevator

Elevation changes: 190 feet down the stairs; I don’t know about parts of the hikes we didn’t do.

You can park in downtown Oregon City and go up the elevator or do what we did, park near the elevator and take it back up at the end of the hike.

The hike we took

A view of the river from the promenade. You can see the quality of the path and get an idea of the scenery from up above

From the elevator, we turned right and walked along the promenade above the city to the southwest. From there, you can see a bit of the city but mostly the river and the Willamette Falls. At the falls, there is a collection of disused factories and docks that the city plans to make its centerpiece in years to come. The walk is pleasant. Even though it was hot, there was plenty of shade, and people came along the path with strollers. The path is paved and lined with a stone parapet built by the WPA in 1937.

The Willamette Falls from above

At the end of the upper part of the promenade you get a beautiful view of the Willamette Falls. At that point, you will see an old green metal stairway going down to the lower level. Take that stairway down. Here’s where the urban grit comes in. You will be walking alongside a busy highway (Hwy 99). When we were there, construction was going on. The sidewalk is right against the highway with no buffer, so just beware that there is lots of traffic.

When we got to the turnout, we saw another nice view of the falls, but we couldn’t figure out where to go from there to get to the park. We spent so much time after that trying to find the park that we didn’t see the other end of the promenade with the waterfalls.

The downtown area from next to the elevator with a view of the bridge over the Willamette

To get back you can return on the staircase or walk up the ramp to a pedestrian tunnel that goes above the traffic tunnel. This is a little creepy. The tunnel takes you out at the back of a parking lot. If you walk along the backs of the parking lots and around a corner, you can take the elevator back up. It might be more fun to explore the streets of the downtown area before going back, as it looks like a vibrant, interesting downtown with lots of shops and restaurants.

The hikes we didn’t take

South beyond the viewpoint: If you take the hike as described down the staircase ending with the viewpoint, cross the street at the viewpoint. I will warn you that at the time we went, a Sunday afternoon, this would have been difficult to do without being killed. There is no crosswalk, and there was construction. Walk down the highway until you see a power station on your left. Enter the parking lot and go to the back of the fenced-in station. There should be a path that takes you through a small field to the Old Canemah Park.

North to the left of the elevator: I’m now disappointed we didn’t go that way, because if we had, we would have gone down a set of concrete steps, followed a fence down the hill, and ended at a waterfall along Singer Creek and the Dr. John McLoughlin House. I can’t say anything about this end of the path, as we didn’t go this way.

How to get there

From Portland, take I-205 South. Take Exit 9 and turn left onto McLoughlin Boulevard. Turn left on 10th Street. Go up Sugar Hill and turn left onto 7th Street. The elevator is at the end of 7th Street, if you want to start at the bottom.

If you want to start at the top like we did, 7th Street veers right onto Mollala Avenue. That takes you to the elevator at the top.

Parking

You can park in one of several parking lots near the elevator, on the streets downtown, or in a very small parking lot at the top of the elevator.