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Belding Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Washout on the Tillamook Branch (Steve Hart)
North Fork Salmonberry Trail (Steve Hart)
Water washing over the rails (Steve Hart)
Tunnel 30 and two bridges over the Salmonberry (Steve Hart)
  • Start point: North Fork Salmonberry TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Belding
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back
  • Distance: 8.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 620 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Apr-Oct
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

Note: The Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency and the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad have declared the route through the Salmonberry Canyon "dangerous and closed to the public." No Trespassing signs have been posted at the east and west ends of the canyon. You can still access the Salmonberry Canyon by hiking down the North Fork Salmonberry Road or Beaver Slide Road, but you can't hike the route of the railroad. Plans are being considered to construct a hiking/biking trail through the canyon with the involvement of Oregon State Parks, but these are in the exploratory stages only.

The Port of Tillamook Railway that once ran through the Salmonberry Canyon was devastated by flooding in 2007. The line was never rebuilt. Even odder, the line has never been scrapped out either, so it provides a unique look at nature slowly taking back what was once a human corridor. This hike follows part of that railroad, as well as part of a closed road that is also being reclaimed.

From the trailhead, walk southward downhill on the closed road. Don't be discouraged by the steep downgrade, most of this hike is nearly flat. You'll pass a few washouts that require a bit of creative trekking but it's generally easy to find use trails through the areas. Most of this closed road is wide and flat and it's filled with Swamp Buttercups and Monkeyflower in the spring. The trail stays just high enough above the water to make scrambles to the water tricky, but there are good views of several cascades and small rapids.

There's a good campsite at the foot of the road, 1.4 miles from the trailhead. Turn to the right and follow a side road downhill toward the river. There's a bit of a scramble down to the rocky riverbed. The old steel cable here has a few burrs in it, so if you choose to use it, use heavy gloves. The North Fork flows into the main body of the Salmonberry River here, at the Salmonberry Forks. To continue the hike, you'll need to shed your shoes and wade the main fork to the south side. The water in the summer is typically only a foot deep or so, but you will get your feet wet. Once on the south side, climb on to the flat flood deposit about 5 feet above water level. All of this sediment was put down in 2007. Hike a bit to the left and look for an obvious dirt path up the hill. The upper portion of this has a knotted rope for extra grip.

When you get to the top of the hill, you'll see the obvious railroad grade. Interestingly though, this isn't a section abandoned in 2007; it was disused much earlier. Plantlife has practically buried the track here and you'll need to be a bit careful, not to trip on the hidden rails. This is what the entire line will look like in 15-20 years.

Turn left and head east a bit following the old line. You'll soon come to more recent track at the east end of Tunnel 32. There's a switchstand here that's hanging out into space, as the river has completely washed away the footing. Notice that the lock is still in place. Heading farther east on the mainline, you'll pass two large washouts that have passable bootpaths at track level.

The next washout is even larger and the right of way just ends. The entire right of way has disappeared here and you'll see broken and twisted rails all through the river channel. Backtrack through a small cut and drop off the right of way at an old railroad tie marked with an arrow in blue paint. Someone has been kind enough to mark a path through the area using the same blue paint. About half way through you'll see arrows pointing uphill to an informal path above the former track level. When this path drops to the old tracks, continue east.

The next challenge is at the Belding Creek Bridge. Belding Creek forged a new path under the tracks. Again, a bit of backtracking will show you a trail down the the Salmonberry River. Drop to the river and there's a rock hop across the mouth of Belding Creek. There's a trail back up to the grade and then you can walk across the bridge headed east.

Things get real interesting from here. You'll cross the Salmonberry on a deck bridge that has a couple of trees fallen on it. The railroad turns around a bluff and then in one 100 yard tangent, crosses the river on another deck bridge, goes through a small ridge in Tunnel 30 and then crosses the river again on a [[Fourth Salmonberry River Bridge|1925 truss bridge. There's a flatcar washed into the river just downstream from the truss bridge. There's another big washout next. Someone has hung a ladder off an old railroad car here, but the much safer course involves backtracking to path marked with blue ribbon. Head down to the river bank and the head upstream, then up to the railroad grade.

There's an unexpected road at the Belding Trailhead, the the line plunges into Tunnel 29. Just beyond this tunnel, a large landslide has blocked about a quarter mile of track. Cyclists have forged a path across the landslide through the timber. Just passed MP 806, there's a bridge, then another bridge a tight turn in a deep cut and finally, yet another bridge.

All of these bridges over the Salmonberry in the deep canyon are intact, but half of the Kinney Creek Bridge that comes next has been washed away. Find a path above the tracks here on the right. Soon there's a rough dirt slide down to the creek. You can turn back here or explore Tunnel 28, at the east end of the trestle. The entire trestle is unsafe, so hikers should stay off of it. The next mile of the line is relatively uneventful, so this hike ends here. You can return the way you came.

Note: This is not a maintained trail. Hikers should plan for unforeseen trail blockages or slides.

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Regulations or restrictions, etc

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Guidebooks that cover this hike

50 Hikes in the Tillamook State Forest by the Tillamook State Forest Committee, Columbia Group Sierra Club (pre-2007 description)

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Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.