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McDonald Homestead Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Homestead, McDonald Trail, North Umpqua (bobcat)
Above Ten Pull Pool, Mott Segment, North Umpqua Trail (bobcat)
Big Douglas-fir, Interpretive Loop, Mott Segment, North Umpqua Trail (bobcat)
Madrones, McDonald Trail, North Umpqua (bobcat)
The route from Wright Creek Trailhead to the McDonald Homestead (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Wright Creek Trailhead
  • Ending Point: McDonald Homestead
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 5.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 995 feet
  • High Point: 1,975 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Poison Oak
Snakes
Ticks

Contents

Hike Description

This hike ends up on a section of private land within the Umpqua National Forest at the remains of a small homestead: respect the area and don’t touch or remove any artifacts. You’ll begin by hiking along the beautiful North Umpqua River and admiring some of the massive old-growth Douglas-firs on an interpretive loop. Then take the MacDonald Trail for a mile up through madrone woods and oak grasslands to the lush, sedge-choked spring where the homestead is located. The McDonald Trail, recently restored by the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps but still little hiked beyond this point, continues for another three miles if you want to extend the day.

This hike begins on the Mott Segment of the North Umpqua Trail. Walk out to the road and go left to pass a campsite on your left and then cross Wright Creek. The signed North Umpqua Trail #1414 resumes past the creek. Head down and note an abandoned cable car line and pylon to your left. The sign showing that the McDonald Trail is 2 miles is an exaggeration: it’s more like 1 ½. The riverside canopy here is composed mainly of Douglas-fir, western red-cedar, and big-leaf maple, with red alders along the rocky verge. You may note a couple of incense cedars and sugar pines as well. A spur leads to a campsite on the river. Pass the first, and arguably the most massive, of the big Douglas-firs you’ll see on this section of the trail. Another one that has fallen over the trail has been cut through so you can attempt to count the rings.

Reach the junction with the Old Growth Interpretive Loop and go right in an understory of vine maple and salal. Hiking along a low bench above the river, you’ll come across more ancient Douglas-firs, some up to 500 years old. A kiosk explains some of the wildlife of the forest. The trail drops past more big trees and reaches the North Umpqua Trail, where you go right.

Cross John Creek, which has a small slide waterfall, on a footbridge, and then ascend a bluff above a large rocky islet in the North Umpqua. The trail drops down a sword fern slope to a calm stretch of the river: Highway 138 is visible across the water. Here the trail follows an elevated concrete path along a rock face before it reaches the North Umpqua-Cougar Creek Trail Junction. Take the footbridge over Cougar Creek, which meets the North Umpqua under a shady canopy of alders: this is a good spot to check out the river bank as most other access points involve contact with poison oak. Then come to the North Umpqua-McDonald Trail Junction, and go right.

The McDonald Trail #1515 makes six shady switchbacks up in an understory of salal, Oregon grape, sword fern, and poison oak. Madrones occur with increasing frequency as you get higher. Reach an area of large old-growth Douglas-firs and switchback again, passing several more giant trees. Make a traverse, passing below a mossy outcrop where the trail is shaded by Pacific madrone and Oregon white oak. Traverse a bitterbrush meadow below an oak woodland and reenter madrone/Douglas-fir woods (This is about where the private property begins although there are no signs: just stay on the trail). Reach a broad ridge crest, and then drop gently through a lush carpet of salal to the remains of the McDonald Homestead.

There is little information to find about the place and the tiny log building has fallen in on itself, with the hinged door now supporting a display of artifacts: enamel bowls, parts of a wood stove, metal wheels, a galvanized tub, etc. In 2006, the walls of the homestead were still standing, and the various possessions hung on nails, but there has been a total collapse since then. The cabin remains sit above a lush bowl of Sitka alder and sedges. About 20 yards below the homestead site is the water source: a hole dug out at a spring.

On your return along the North Umpqua Trail, after crossing John Creek, you’ll take the riverside section of the Interpretive Loop. Here a spur leads right to an expansive rocky area free of poison oak. On a sunny day, this is a great picnic spot and swimming hole. A wide splash of uric acid comes from a frequently used osprey perch high above on an old snag. Look for steelhead in the pools and migrating chinook in the fall.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Information kiosk, interpretive signs, vault toilet
  • Respect private property and stay on the trail
  • Share trail with mountain bikes

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service & U.S. Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management: Land of Umpqua
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Umpqua National Forest

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • none

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.