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Step Creek Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Footbridge over Plenty Big Creek, Step Creek Trail (bobcat)
Nehalem River, Gales Creek Trail (bobcat)
Sign at the west end of the new Step Creek extension (aiwetir)
Secondary Douglas-fir forest on the new Step Creek extension (aiwetir)
The Step Creek Loop Hike (aiwetir)
Profile of the Step Creek Loop Hike (aiwetir)


Hike Description

Step Creek runs for about two miles from south to north and joins the Nehalem River Trail below Reehers Camp. This hike take you across the alder-shaded Nehalem and across mossy Douglas-fir slopes before heading up an old logging road above Step Creek’s west bank. It should be noted that some maps show the old Step Creek Trail alignment, having the trail crossing the Nehalem below Reehers Camp and continuing south. The new alignment takes you on the Gales Creek Trail first before branching off. As of 2013, the Step Creek Trail was extended 0.9 miles to avoid too much of a hike on Rice Road in order to complete a loop.

Hike down an old road bed from the trailhead and then along the course of the Nehalem River shaded by Douglas-fir, red alder, and western red-cedar with an understory of sword fern, Oregon grape, and salmonberry. Soon enough, the trail rises to the Nehalem River bridge on Cochran Road. The Gales Creek-Triple C Trail Junction is across the road. Cross the bridge and pick up the Gales Creek Trail where it rises off a blocked-off logging road to the left.

Head downstream above the Nehalem and then cross a footbridge over an unnamed creek. The trail rises on a slope of Douglas-fir, Oregon grape, mossy vine maples, and salal. You will see some larger Douglas-firs just before you cross the tracks of the abandoned Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad. Wind up from the tracks, dip, and then rise to the Gales Creek-Step Creek Trail Junction, where you go left.

The sign states that Rice Road, the end of the Step Creek Trail, is 1.7 miles. Drop to a road bed, walk 15 yards to the right, and resume the trail. Traverse up in a Douglas-fir plantation. Switchback up to an old road bed at the crest of a hill and then switchback down twice. The trail now drops down an decommissioned, alder-lined road. Plenty Big Creek runs to the right. At a junction in the road, switchback down to the right (Keeping straight will take you on the old route of the Step Creek Trail, which leads back to the Nehalem River). Cross Plenty Big Creek on a footbridge and head up to reach another road bed above a slope of mossy alders.

Now Step Creek itself is running down to your left. Cross a footbridge over a tributary and pass through a road cutting. Continue upward above Step Creek until the road curves to the right up the hillside. If you are doing this as an in and out, this is a good point to turn back, but not before you take a game trail into the woods and down a short slope to the large boggy meadow on Step Creek’s east bank.

Continue up the road grade. Just before the Step Creek Trail-Rice Road Junction, a new trail segment branches off to the right at a well-marked junction, first dropping in shady Douglas-fir/alder woods and then winding up the slope to a logging spur. You'll cross one creek on a footbridge on this section. Hike out 0.3 miles to Rice Road and then go right to reach Round Top Road. Keep right here for about 50 yards to the Gales Creek Trail-Round Top Road Junction. Head down the Gales Creek Trail on a gentle slope in a thinned forest, crossing a road and then winding along a bench. Switchback down into dense forest, cross another road, and rise to the Gales Creek-Step Creek Trail Junction. Return to Reehers Camp from here.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Share trail with mountain bikers

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain (Describes old alignment)
  • 50 Hikes in the Tillamook State Forest by the Tillamook State Forest Committee, Columbia Group Sierra Club (Describes old alignment)

More Links


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.