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Gales Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Gales Creek at the Gales Creek Forest Camp (bobcat)
Gales Creek near the Storey Burn junction (bobcat)
Salal-covered stump, Gales Creek Trail (bobcat)
Waterfall near the source of the creek, Gales Creek Trail (bobcat)
Gales Creek Trail route to Bell Camp Road (bobcat)

Contents

Hike Description

The central portion of the Gales Creek Trail, in the heart of the Tillamook Burn, was closed for five years between the Winter of 2007-08 and Summer 2012 so that the part of the trail that ran along the east bank of the creek could be rerouted to the west bank. Numerous slides and washouts in the 07-08 winter necessitated three miles of new trail and, during construction, a trail worker was killed by a tumbling boulder after dynamiting a rock face, thus prolonging the project. Nonetheless, the work is now done, and hikers can enjoy a gradually ascending walk in and out of small gullies as they follow the course of Gales Creek almost to its source. After crossing Gales Creek, the trail ascends to Bell Camp Road and then drops to reach Reehers Camp (described in the North Gales Creek Trail Hike).

Note: Between the 1st October and May, you will have to park at the top of Rogers Road next to Highway 6 (the Gales Creek Winter Trailhead). There is a gate here, so do not block the gate. In fact, the gate might be open for logging or state forest traffic, but under no circumstances should you drive beyond the gate as it can get closed at any time. Hike down to the Gales Creek Trailhead from here, adding about 1.2 miles and 80 feet of elevation to the hike. Alternatively, you could begin at the Summit Trailhead, taking the route described in the Low Divide Creek Hike.

From the Gales Creek Trailhead, walk left to the trail sign where the Gales Creek Trail resumes. This is just before Rogers Road crosses the bridge to the campground area. The sign tells you that Bells Camp Road is 6.0 miles from here. Head up the trail under Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and alder. Soon you are looking down on Gales Creek, with its many log jams. The campground area is across the creek. Large stumps with springboard notches attest to the logging of massive old growth before the Tillamook Burn. Keep traversing up and then drop past a large Douglas-fir, the lone old growth tree on this hike. Reach a double bridge over a tributary and then the footbridge at the Gales Creek-Storey Burn Trail Junction.

Go right here and walk down towards Gales Creek under cottonwoods and alders. The trail ascends west of the creek up an old road bed bulldozed during salvage operations after the Tillamook Burn. Look to the left for the bullet-riddled remains of a washer and dryer that were dumped here. The tread leaves the road bed and soon drops to rejoin it. Traverse gradually up and cross a creek below a slope of Douglas-fir, hemlock, alder and some western red-cedar. The trail undulates above an alder bottomland where Gales Creek braids. A clearcut is visible through the trees on the opposite hillside. In a gully, a waterfall gushes behind a thicket of young big-leaf maples. Then the trail drops above another alder bottomland and begins to rise and fall on a road bed. Look across Gales Creek to see a tall waterfall tumbling down the creek's steep east bank. Cross more creeks as the trail rises in a carpet of oxalis and sword fern. Cross a massive slide created during the Winter 1996 floods and now cloaked by a dense growth of young red alder.

From here, cross a creek in a gully and keep ascending high above Gales Creek. Then the trail drops and crosses a bouldery creek bed and debris flow, also from the 1996 floods. Rise again above another alder bottomland on Gales Creek. Cross a creek and switchback up twice before crossing an old road bed. Head in and out of a gully with rushing stream and rise above a campsite from the salvaging days. Hike under big-leaf maples into a gully and, as the trail rises again, crosses several small streams. Eventually, the trail drops to a road bed, leaves it, and then rejoins it. Switchback off the road bed and switchback in a carpet of salal and Oregon grape. Cross Gales Creek now at the base of a pretty waterfall, head steeply up, and then traverse through salal under a canopy of secondary-growth Douglas-firs that have been thinned. The trail rises in an eroded gully, crosses a spur of Bell Camp Road, and heads gently up a road bed to the signed Bell Camp Road Trailhead. There is parking to the west of the trailhead sign. The short, sharp mountain biking descent known as Ravens Ridge begins past here.

Cross the road and shortly come to another spur road, which you cross to begin the descent to Reehers Camp, 3.4 miles from here.

This is the central, and longest, section of the Gales Creek Trail. The three sections are:

Maps

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Share trail with mountain bikers

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Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking from Portland to the Coast by James D. Thayer
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 50 Hikes in the Tillamook State Forest by the Tillamook State Forest Committee, Columbia Group Sierra Club
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast and Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Kissing the Trail by John Zilly

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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.