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Wolf Creek Trestle Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Wolf Creek Trestle, Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad (bobcat)
Cochran Pond, Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad (bobcat)
On the Big Baldwin Trestle, Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad (bobcat)
Tunnel 27, Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad (bobcat)
Suspended tracks, Wolf Creek Horseshoe, Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad (bobcat)
Topo map showing section of the railroad described in this hike (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Cochran TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Wolf Creek Flats
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 10.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 740 feet
  • High Point: 1830 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

Note: The Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency and the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad have declared the route through the Salmonberry Canyon "dangerous and closed to the public." No Trespassing signs have been posted at the east and west ends of the canyon. You can still access the Salmonberry Canyon by hiking down the North Fork Salmonberry Road or Beaver Slide Road, but you can't hike the route of the railroad. Plans are being considered to construct a hiking/biking trail through the canyon with the involvement of Oregon State Parks, but these are in the exploratory stages only.

The Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad, a successor to Southern Pacific, was 88 miles long, with 60 trestles, large and small. Mileage markers along the track run from MP 769 in Banks to MP 856 in Tillamook. When in operation, the railroad allowed hikers to use the section between the Salmonberry/Nehalem confluence and Cochran. Now, after the December 2007 Great Coastal Gale, the railroad is in disrepair and the line will probably never be used by trains again. This section was one of the most damaged in the storms. In parts, tracks are suspended in mid-air above slides, but these sections are easily negotiable. However, the tracks are becoming overgrown with baby alders, but are still eminently hikeable at your own risk. As of 2013, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and other groups are working to make this a biking/hiking route for the entire length of the line. You should bring a decent headlamp or flashlight to get through the tunnels. Maintenance here is voluntary and sporadic, so you may have to clamber over blown down trees.

From Cochran crossing, walk down along the tracks along a jeep track. Pennoyer Creek runs to the right under alders and Douglas-firs. The track is getting overgrown here with Scots broom and baby alders. There are a number of beaver dams along the creek and on the south side of the tracks. Pass Cochran Pond, with the remains of the old mill complex across it, now pockmarked with bullet holes. There’s a gully down to the right under shady cedars and Douglas-firs below the mill pond dam. Cross over a washout on the tracks: the fiber optic cables once buried here are now exposed. Pass another alder bottom on the right. There’s a sinkhole under the tracks as you reach the 801 marker. Take a look at an abandoned ballast regulator parked on a small siding, the Tunnel 26 Spur, and then reach Tunnel 26. Soon, down to the right, you can see small waterfalls on Pennoyer Creek.

On the other side of the tunnel is the old permit box, a place where hikers would sign a disclaimer when the track was active. Now you are above the Salmonberry River. There is a small waterfall gushing down on the left. On the right, there’s a viewpoint down into the canyon. Walk over three short trestles as the railroad passes along rock faces. Reach a rusting water tank, tagged by graffiti artists, and cross the steel-girdered Big Baldwin Trestle. This is about 165’ high and 520’ in length, the largest trestle on the line. There are wide wooden walkways on both sides fo the tracks and wooden railings. Take in a view down the forested Salmonberry valley. You also look straight down the steel girders to Baldwin Creek below. Pass a second water tank on the west side of the trestle.

A hose runs along the tracks from this water tank as far as the Wolf Creek Trestle. To the right is a grassy area with a memorial plaque to seven railroad workers killed in the 1930s when the Little Baldwin Trestle collapsed. Pass the 803 marker in secondary Douglas-fir, cedar, and hemlock woods. The track turns into the Wolf Creek Canyon in a long horseshoe bend. A larger section of the tracks are in suspension over a huge slide. One can see the railroad suspended on the other side of the creek as well. Pass through Tunnel 27, which is dripping and darker than the previous one. Then walk along the wooden Wolf Creek Trestle on steel gratings and get great views of the creek below.

Continue along the creek and pass by the suspended tracks seen from the other side of the horseshoe. Walk over a section of tracks buried by a slide below a cascading stream. Now come to a huge slide over which the tracks are suspended. Across the canyon and below you is another section of the railroad suspended. Pass the 804 sign; then come to another landslide at a stream, where you can get a view down into the creek. The tracks turn to the left and soon you're above the Salmonberry again, which is shaded by big-leaf maples and alders. Pass over another big slide and then another one with a small waterfall. Reach the marker 805 above Wolf Creek Flats, an alder-rimmed open area down by the Salmonberry. You can find a use trail leading down to the water, where you can eat lunch an imbibe the remoteness of the area.

Some facts:

  • The railroad was acquired by the Port of Tillamook Bay in 1991, with an infusion of state lottery funding, after Southern Pacific deemed it too expensive to maintain.
  • Storms in 1992, 1996, and finally 2007 wiped out sections of the line.
  • The Port never turned a profit on the line, but was able to get federal funds to repair it after the 1996 storms. It was primarily used to transport lumber, but only one mill in the Tillamook area used it. At times, other goods, such as cattle feed, were transported and there were also tourist excursions.
  • Increased logging in adjacent areas of the Tillamook State Forest contributed to the disaster damage. Also, the Port was never able to keep up with the extensive routine maintenance needed in such rugged, unstable country. At times when the railroad was operational, train speed was restricted to 10 mph because of the shaky condition of the tracks.
  • Cochran, at 1,830 feet, is the high point of the route at MP 800.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • State of Oregon, Department of Forestry: Tillamook State Forest

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Bring a headlamp or flashlight for the tunnels.
  • Take care at eroded sections of the track; stability is never guaranteed!

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder
  • Hiking from Portland to the Coast by James D. Thayer
  • 50 Hikes in the Tillamook State Forest by the Tillamook State Forest Committee, Columbia Group Sierra Club (pre-2007 description)

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.