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Clackamas River Trail Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Clackamas River from the trail (cfm)
The Narrows (The log is no longer there) (bobcat)
Typical trail scene (cfm)
Half Cave (bobcat)
Pup Creek Falls (bobcat)
The route of the Clackamas River Trail #715 (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Fish Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Indian Henry Trailhead
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Traverse
  • Distance: 8.2 miles one way
  • High point: 1,520 feet
  • Elevation gain: 1550 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Accessible year round, but may have snow in winter
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No
Poison Oak

Contents

Hike Description

This riverside trail is an ideal shuttle hike. The two trailheads are almost eight miles apart on the same well maintained road. You don't even need another car: do it as a bike shuttle, hiking uphill and coasting back down on the Clackamas River Road viewing the route you just took from the opposite side of the river. This is also not a bad in and out hike although the constant undulations pack in about 3,200 feet of elevation gain. Star attractions on the trail are tall Pup Creek Falls and the picturesque chasm at The Narrows. Past The Narrows, you'll be entering the Clackamas Wilderness, decreed in 2009 by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. Pass through several groves of old-growth conifers and the along the cliffs at Half Cave before reaching the southern terminus of the trail at the Indian Henry Trailhead. For the out and back to Pup Creek Falls, see the Pup Creek Falls Hike.

If you're doing this as an out an back hike, it's 16.0 miles, including the spur to Pup Creek Falls, with a total of 2,600 feet in elevation gain on this undulating trail.

Cross the road and begin the hike on the Clackamas River Trail #715. The trail heads along an old road bed in an avenue of cedars before passing into mossy Douglas-fir/hemlock woods with sword fern and salal. The path drops slightly and continues above the Clackamas River. Enter the area of the September 2002 Bowl Burn. Cross a creek as the trail levels by the river at a mossy basalt bench. You'll see basalt cliffs up to the right. Head into a gully and rise several hundred feet above the river to hike along a steep slope. The trail then makes two switchbacks down, in an area where poison oak overhangs the trail, and drops to a campsite among old growth Douglas-firs below mossy cliffs. There are views across the river to the ballast banks below Highway 224. The trail rises past a zip line on a bank above the river. Cross a rockslide gully and then turn in on an unstable slope to pass below a trickling waterfall. The path now drops in unburned woods to an old-growth cedar grove. The trail passes through this lush grove, which has its own campsite. Behind it, there’s a narrow gorge with a two-tier waterfall at its head.

Make two switchbacks up from this bottomland before the trail levels high above the river again. Across the valley, you can see the Roaring River entering the Clackamas. Then the trail drops in younger woods and crosses Steppingstone Creek on, well, stepping stones. There’s a small waterfall here, too. Continue below cliffs and see the Sunstrip Campground across the river. Next, enter a powerline corridor and reach a pylon and then the signpost that designates the side trail to Pup Creek Falls. This trail heads into mossy woods and switchbacks up a ravine to a view of the two-tiered falls with drops of 205 feet and 35 feet. You can drop down to a better viewpoint for a full view: this last part of the approach was recently made much safer by a Trailkeepers of Oregon work party.

Back at the main trail, descend to cross maple and alder-shaded Pup Creek. The trail heads back into the powerline corridor. This area is swampy in parts and you'll pass over a slippery footbridge. The route then exits the corridor and passes a campsite. Then gradually rise among large cedars, Douglas-firs, and hemlocks with a sword fern and Oregon grape carpet. There’s another campsite under big Douglas-firs to the left with river access. Head up into the powerline corridor again, and look ahead to see where the powerlines cross the river just below The Narrows. The trail makes two switchbacks down. A spur leads left to the rocks at The Narrows, and you'll notice a zip line here as well. This is a great mid-hike picnic spot: spend some time clambering over the odd, weathered basalt hummocks along the river here. There is a nice camping area in the woods near the trail at The Narrows.

From here, the trail enters the Clackamas Wilderness and passes under more ancient cedars and Douglas-firs before crossing a footbridge and then heading down along a steep slope. The path crosses Cat Creek, and then reenters the powerline corridor, passing into the woods briefly. Continue to hike under powerlines and then ascend a slope, with views ahead to the surge tank above Three Lynx, to make a traverse past a dripping amphitheater and along a cliff face. Pass through Half Cave, a dripping mossy overhang carved in a soft stratum in the rock, and duck under a fallen Douglas-fir. You can see Highway 224 below now as it has recrossed the Clackamas to be on the same side of the river as the trail. The trail rises, levels, and then drops. Hike under an overhanging rock cliff and drop into a mossy cedar, hemlock, Douglas-fir pocket. The trail then rises to a new footbridge over a ravine and makes a traverse with FR 4620 below. Proceed through a patch of cleared blowdown before the trail rises up a steep slope and then drops gently. The tread rises again with a cistern above and heads out to 4620 and the Indian Henry Trailhead. A short trail leads up to the “Cistern Viewpoint,” which has no views at all.

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Fish Creek Mtn, OR #492
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon by Douglas Lorain
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Hiking Mount Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Old-growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon Cascades by John & Diane Cissel
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


Contributors

  • CFM (creator)
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.

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