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Williams Creek-Hares Canyon Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Oregon forestsnail (Allogona townsendiana), Hares Canyon Trail (bobcat)
Old railroad ties, Williams Creek Horseshoe Trail (bobcat)
Williams Creek, Williams Creek Horseshoe Trail (bobcat)
Fairy lanterns (Prosartes smithii), Unfit Settlement View Trail (bobcat)
Blacktail doe, Skidder Row Loop (bobcat)
The route described traced in red (from the State Parks brochure)
  • Start point: Hilltop TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Caddywhomper Viewpoint
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: Four loops with spurs
  • Distance: 10.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1910 feet
  • High Point: 1530 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes, in shorter sections
  • Backpackable: Yes, if you stay at the Brooke Creek Hike-in Camp
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

One of Oregon’s newest state parks, opened officially in July 2007, this is also one of the largest. Situated in the Coast Range foothills of Washington County, the park was carefully developed and caters to hikers, campers, RVers, mountain bikers, and horse riders. It is named after “Stub” Stewart, a noted timberman and philanthropist who also served on the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission. There is no old growth here, and some of the land has been logged quite recently, but the park promises to mature as the years go on. Close to the Hilltop Trailhead, the trails go in short loops, but there are opportunities to hike farther afield on extended trails. These are all well-signed, often on abandoned logging roads, but very muddy in places during the wet season. The loop described takes you south along remote Williams Creek and then north along the park’s eastern edge to a high point and the park’s tallest trees. The excursion is perhaps best done in the spring, when everything is lush and green and the forest flowers are in full bloom.

Cross the entrance road at the Hilltop Day Use sign and find the Hooktender Horseshoe Trail that leads downhill. You will immediately encounter the trails around the disc gold course, but keep straight to reach the junction with the Bullbucker Trail. Go right here on an old road bed for a short distance in Douglas-fir forest with a carpet of oxalis, woods violet, and sword fern. Reach the Hares Canyon-Bullbucker Trail Junction. The Hares Canyon Trail here also doubles as a wide, graveled service road. Go right and pass tees #10 and #13 on the disc gold course. Reach the junction with Widow Maker Way and go right. This trail follows another road bed and heads gently down with the park road up to the right.

When you get close to the Stub Stewart Welcome Center, you’ll come to a four-way trail junction. Take the track to your immediate left, the Brooke Creek Trail. Hike through a thicket of hazel, salmonberry, elderberry, vine maple, and red alder. Cross Brooke Creek and head up. You’ll see the self-registration kiosk for the Brooke Creek Hike-in Camp to your right. Continue on the road, dropping a little and rising past campsites 21, 22, and a restroom. Keep right at the junction with the Jackstrawed Tarry Trail and reach the Hares Canyon-Brooke Creek Trail Junction. Here go right and walk down an avenue of young alders. Pass a closed trail, head through a small clearing and then enter a dense plantation of Douglas-fir. Where the road bed descends to the right, keep right and make three wide biker switchbacks to the Banks Vernonia-Hares Canyon Trail Junction, is also the junction with the Williams Creek Horseshoe Trail.

Cross the paved Banks-Vernonia Trail and go left on the Williams Creek Trail. This parallels the paved path for a short distance and then heads away from it to reach a picnic table, a remnant of the railroad itself, and a crossing sign. Continue straight and you will see piles of old railroad ties stashed on the hillside. From the picnic table, make three switchbacks down and undulate along a low ridge. Descend in two more switchbacks and reach a road bed. Hike on the level under alders to a footbridge over Williams Creek. The trail is sometimes overgrown with grass here and swings away from the creek then approaches it again. Look down on the lush creek bottom shaded by mossy maples, cedars, and alders. The trail bends and rises to a junction at a rail crossing sign. Keep straight here to the Banks Vernonia Trail-South Caddywhomper Way Junction.

If you want to take the 1.6 mile return trip to the Caddywhomper Viewpoint, cross the paved Banks-Vernonia Trail and continue straight on a logging road. This track rises through a dense Douglas-fir plantation, dips once and curves around to a clearing harboring a thicket of Scots broom. A bench here offers a view northwest although only the tops of the hills can be seen over the tops of the conifers.

Return to the Banks Vernonia Trail-South Caddywhomper Way Junction, cross the paved trail, and go right after the railroad crossing sign. The trail here follows the old railroad bed to the site of a trestle where it bridged a gully now choked with alders. Continue to the paved trail and go left past an interpretive sign explaining the trestle. Pick up another trail heading in to the north end of the trestle and hike along it before returning to the paved trail again. The Banks-Vernonis rides high above an alder bottomland before reaching the Banks Vernonia-Felling’s Wedge Trail Junction. If you want to take this spur go right on a recently refurbished tread. Head down past a closed connector to the Hares Canyon Trail. At a split in the road bed, go left to a footbridge offering an elevated view of Williams Creek (Going right at the split takes you to the soggy alder bottomland you just saw from above). Hikers cannot go past this bridge as it leads to the mountain biker-only section of the park.

Back on the Banks-Vernonia, walk north to the Banks Vernonia-Hares Canyon Trail Junction. Redo the southern section of the Hares Canyon Trail. When you reach the Hares Canyon-Brooke Creek Trail Junction, keep right and head up in a vine maple understory. Make a sharp left at a closed trail and make a long, looping switchback up into dark woods. Cross a steep logging track, switchback, and join the track. Pass the Jackstrawed Tarry Trail junction and reach Widow Maker Way. Go right on this road bed, pass a couple of tees for the disc golf course and revisit the Hares Canyon-Bullbucker Trail Junction.

Keep right here and continue through the disc gold course to the junction with Peavey Hook Bridleway. Keep right, drop to cross a creek over a culvert, and ascend into a Douglas-fir plantation. Reach a crest, drop past the portal (Hares Canyon Trail-North Caddywhomper Way Junction) that leads to the mountain biking area, and rise to the right. At the Hares Canyon-Unfit Settlement View Trail East Junction, go right.

Head into Douglas-fir forest with a carpet of Oregon grape. Wind up and switchback; in the spring, violets and deer’s-head orchids bloom here in profusion. Reach a junction, and take a spur right for 125 yards to the Unfit Settlement Viewpoint, the highest point in the park (1,528 feet). After getting views of the foothills to the north and west, descend to the junction and go right. The trail switchbacks down through a brushy clearcut with young Douglas-fir, elderberry, serviceberry, and flowering currant. After two more switchbacks, reach a woodland of young maples, cross a service road, drop into Douglas-fir forest, and then rise to the Hares Canyon-Unfit Settlement View Trail West Junction.

Go right and make a brushy passage through elderberry, wild strawberry, and flowering currant. Reach the Clayhill Horse Trailhead, and walk across the gravel expanse to a track that leads west to a junction. Go right here, and wind down under tall Douglas-firs with a vine maple understory, keep right at a cutoff trail, and reach a four-way junction. Take a right on the Skidder Row Loop. Reach the loop junction and go right. Ascend a slope under an alder/vine maple arbor and emerge at a replanted clearcut with expansive views to the north. The trail drops steeply from here into Douglas-fir – big-leaf maple – red alder woodland. Close the loop, go right to the four-way junction, and take the second right on the Boomscooter Trail.

At the junction with the Bucking Pass Trail, keep left, and then keep right at spur trails leading to the park’s camping cabins. Head past the junction with the Barberchair Trail and walk up a grassy slope to get a view of the Hilltop Trailhead parking and picnic area.


Maps

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $5 day use fee
  • Open for day use 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Restrooms, brochures, information kiosks, campgrounds, horse staging area, disc golf
  • Dogs on leash except in the designated off-leash area
  • Share some trails with mountain bikers and horses
  • Some trails could be closed for rerouting or reconstruction

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Guidebooks that cover this hike

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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.