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Harris Ranch Trail Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking at a big one, Harris Ranch Trail (bobcat)
Fairy lanterns (Prosartes smithii), Harris Ranch Trail (bobcat)
Drift Creek from the user trail, Drift Creek Wilderness (bobcat)
Exiting the wilderness, Harris Ranch Trail (bobcat)
The Harris Ranch Trail down to Drift Creek (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Harris Ranch TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Harris Meadow Campsites
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 6.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1365 feet
  • High Point: 1,485 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

This beautiful hike down a slope of Coast Range old-growth offers a glimpse into pre-settler times when tall trees towered over a thick, lush understory that sheltered a host of deep forest creatures. You’ll end up at a bottomland along pristine Drift Creek, where there once was a small homestead whose remains are long gone. The trail is short, and thus it is the most popular entrance to the Drift Creek Wilderness. There are only a couple of short steep sections. If you are overnighting at one of the campsites, you can also try fishing the creek for trout and gathering the crawdads that roam the creek bed. Chinook and coho salmon spawn here in the fall.

The trail at first uses a continuation of the logging road for about three-quarters of a mile. Large, mossy boulders attractively block further access by vehicles, and the track is now hemmed in by thimbleberry, salmonberry, and red alder. Pass the trail kiosk, and follow the path long a ridge through an 80 – 100-year-old secondary forest of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western red-cedar. The route descends, and you’ll see an overgrown track branching off to the right. Near here, a pronounced elk trail descends the bank. Soon you reach the end of the road, and the trail rises a little to pass the Drift Creek Wilderness sign in old-growth ridge forest.

The fern-lined trail soon begins to drop relentlessly in lush coniferous forest with the larger trees, some four feet across, being Douglas-firs. A few Sitka spruce also enter the mix. Switchback down and then switchback again under an overhanging elderberry. Cross a trickling creek, and keep descending through tunnels of salmonberry, thimbleberry, and elderberry. The trail levels under tall Douglas-firs and rises slightly. Switchback in a more open understory, and pass two large and gnarly Douglas-firs. Now cross several small creeks in soggy patches colonized by skunk-cabbage. The bottomlands next to Drift Creek appear below and Sitka spruce and cedar begin to take over the canopy. Pass the rootball of a fallen giant and then a huge eight-foot in diameter Douglas-fir on the left. Alders now rustle overhead as you reach a flat area of bracken and sword fern and cross a sedge-choked overflow channel of the creek on a boardwalk.

Enter the dark, young forest of spruce and Douglas-fir which has replaced the meadow that used to be here. At a junction, keep straight on the trail to pass through a campsite and reach the creek at a broad rocky platform where you can spend a few minutes or a day. Look for bright orange crawdads in Drift Creek and rough-skinned newts in the shallows. You may not see them, but giant salamanders also lurk under the rooty overhangs.

From the trail junction just before the campsite, you can take a user path to head downstream for about half a mile, passing a handful of campsites. You’ll see a massive rotting Douglas-fir log that nurses a row of hemlocks, tunnel through the salmonberry, and cross two creeks. An overgrown fire circle next to the trail denotes that there used to be campsites even farther down the creek. Eventually, the downed trees might get too much, and you can return the way you came.

The Harris Ranch Trail used to connect with the Horsetail Creek Trail: the trail branches off near the boardwalk, but this area is now totally overgrown. It is about a third of a mile upstream to where the north section of the Horsetail Creek Trail reaches the creek: you could try bushwhacking it as a day excursion if you are camping overnight or simply hike up the creek if water levels are low.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Drift Creek Wilderness Area Trails (USFS)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service: Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, Cummins Creek Wilderness, Drift Creek Wilderness, Rock Creek Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service: Siuslaw National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Oregon Central Coast

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • none

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Central Oregon Wilderness Areas by Donna Ikenberry Aitkenhead
  • Siuslaw Forest Hikes: A Guide to Oregon’s Central Coast Range Trails by Irene Lilja & Dick Lilja
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • Oregon’s Wilderness Areas by George Wuerthner
  • Oregon Coast Hikes by Paul M. Williams
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

More Links


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.