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Cardwell Hill-Fitton Green Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Cardwell Hill Road (bobcat)
Giant white fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum), Cardwell Hill Road (bobcat)
The oak-lined Marys River, Cardwell Hill Road (bobcat)
Great hound's tongue (Cynoglossum grande), Fitton Green (bobcat)
View to Marys Peak, Fitton Green (bobcat)
Cardwell Hill and Allen Throop Trails in red; optional loop on streets in blue (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Cardwell Hill East TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Fitton Green Viewpoint
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out or partial loop
  • Distance: 7.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1075 feet
  • High Point: 1,135 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Poison Oak

Contents

Description

As early settlers populated the low valleys of the eastern foothills of the Coast Range, a need was recognized for a direct route from the Luckiamute River valley to the nearest town, Corvallis. Benton County surveyors drew up a plan and constructed County Road No. 10, now known as the Cardwell Hill Road. The road was never more than a fairly rough, narrow track used by wagons and early automobiles, but it saw important use from 1856 to 1865, when Fort Hoskins, an outpost near the western boundary of the vast Siletz Indian Reservation, was staffed (See the Fort Hoskins Loop Hike). Still a county right-of-way, the section of the Cardwell Hill Road described here has been closed to vehicles for decades. More recently, a 308-acre section of logged-over mixed forest hillside and wildflower meadows was acquired by Elsie Fitton Ross and Charles Ross, who founded the Greenbelt Land Trust: this parcel of land, now administered by Benton County Parks as the Fitton Green Natural Area, is being restored to its native state. For hikers, these roads and trails are a rare opportunity to experience the foothill forest and savannah. An in and out option keeps you to the trail sections, but you can also end with a quiet loop through Corvallis' leafy western suburbs.

Walk up a narrow, graveled road bed sunk five to ten feet in the forested hillside. This section of the road bed ascends through a forest of Douglas-fir, Oregon white oak, Pacific madrone, grand fir and big-leaf maple. Calypso orchids and giant white fawn lilies bloom along the path in the spring. Note a pair of bullet-riddled autos rusting in the bushes on the left. Pass through an open area under power lines as you continue up. The road becomes muddier and then descends. Pass a strange, many-trunked Douglas-fir in a woodland carpeted by invasive false-brome grass. Lichen-draped maples extend mossy limbs, and in spring, hound's tongue, toothwort and fawn lilies bloom among the oak leaves and clusters of poison oak. After crossing a creek, the road curves to the left and passes the Cardwell Hill-Allen Throop Trail Junction. The trail becomes grassier as you continue downhill. Note a creek to the left as the trail becomes boggier in more open woods. At a road junction, a spur to the left crosses the creek, but the trail continues straight and curves right under a crumbling embankment above the Marys River. Pass through a cleared area and see a railroad bridge over the river. There’s a small ponderosa pine plantation to the right as you head up to a junction. Continue straight, paralleling the railroad to the left. Pass through a gate in an oak savannah, walk under powerlines and head up and over a knoll crowned by an oak copse. Descend past cows in a field to the left and a small, flower-dotted seep on the right side to reach a gate and information kiosk at the Cardwell Hill West Trailhead.

Return to the Cardwell Hill-Allen Throop Trail Junction, and head uphill on an old road bed. Soon descend past moss-covered maples to cross a creek, and then rise to a road junction, where you keep to the left on a scrubby, logged-over hillside of Douglas-fir, oak, grand fir and maple. The road widens as you keep heading up, passing a young stand of red alder lining a ditch on the left. In spring, the maples are blooming in dazzling yellow sprays when the sun is out. Come to an open area with a view west to Marys Peak. At the junction for the Allen Throop Loop, turn right into an oak and Douglas-fir studded grassland. Keep walking to the Mulkey Ridge-Allen Throop Trail Junction where the trail heads up to the left. This spur becomes a graveled trail which heads into a small, toothwort-carpeted oak grove and then up to a ridge line. There’s a many-windowed mansion crowning the hill, obviously not part of the park. The trail switchbacks at a view of Bald Hill, Corvallis and points south down the valley. Strawberries proliferate along the trail. A bench at the Fitton Green Viewpoint offers views south and west to Marys Peak and the Coast Range; looking east beyond a lone Douglas-fir, you can make out the profile of the central Cascades and the Three Sisters on a clear day. The trail continues up to an old road bed, where you turn left. Descend past a sign explaining the creation of the Fitton Green Natural Area. At the next junction, you need to make choice: go left and you can return down the Allen Throop Trail to Cardwell Hill Road the way you came up; go right and you can complete a loop using suburban streets.

Loop option: Go right for the Panorama Drive Trailhead. Pass a wooden fence above a slide and come to the gate and kiosk by the parking area (You'll notice an old road bed descending from the kiosk. You can take this to join up with the Allen Throop Trail and return to your car via Cardwell Hill Road if you don't want to follow suburban streets). Head up Panorama, a wide gravel road, and then descend through a leafy neighborhood. At a junction, NW Wynoochee Drive heads right towards Bald Hill. Continue straight as Panorama becomes Chaparral Drive. Drop to a sunny saddle, passing two junctions, and then pass Skipanon Drive going off to the right. The next junction, up a slight rise, is with paved Chinook Drive. Take a left here, passing Takena Drive in mixed woods with orange-barked madrones on the left. The hill becomes steeper as it descends to Cardwell Hill Road. Turn left here, where the road becomes gravel, and walk a quarter mile uphill to the Cardwell Hill East Trailhead.

Note that there is a plan to try and get an easement and build a trail from Fitton Green to cross the ridge and join the Mulkey Creek Trail, which connects to the Bald Hill trail system.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No fee
  • Dogs on leash at Fitton Green
  • Interpretive signs, information kiosks
  • Cardwell Hill Road is a right-of-way through private property: Stay on the road.

Maps

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Corvallis Trails by Margie C. Powell
  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger

More Links


Page 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.