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Alder Flat Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Alder-shaded beach on the Clackamas River (bobcat)
At Dry Creek Lake, Alder Flat Trail (bobcat)
Massive cedar, Alder Flat Trail (bobcat)
Route of the Alder Flat Trail to the camping area on the Clackamas River (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Alder Flat TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Alder Flat
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 210 feet
  • High Point: 1,490 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Spring through fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: On summer weekends

Contents

Description

This short hike down to a swimming hole and primitive campground on the Clackamas River is often overlooked by hikers speeding up the Clackamas River Road. It’s an excellent adjunct hike to bigger excursions further east and packs a lot of punch over its short length: some impressive old growth trees, a lush forest understory, an old beaver pond, skunk-cabbage bogs, and a (usually) quiet bend in the river. Steelhead fishermen like this spot in the spring. The trail can be busy on warm summer weekends, and the primitive camping area at Alder Flat has something of a reputation for rowdy partying, but it’s a great first backpack trip for families with young children if you’re willing to take your chances.

Drop down the Alder Flat Trail #574 past a picnic table. You immediately enter lush old growth forest distinguished by many massive Douglas-firs and some impressive western hemlocks. Spring wildflowers include trillium, Oregon grape, vanilla leaf, and inside-out flower. Old numbered interpretive signs can be seen next to the trail, but the context for these is lost in time. Cross a shallow draw and traverse a slope. Down to the left, you’ll see duckweed-coated Dry Creek Pond, the work of a long gone family of beavers. A user trail takes you to the shore, and you can even walk out to the middle of this pond on a fallen Douglas-fir. Cattails crowd the edge, and yellow beggarticks bloom here in late summer. Continue on the main trail to a junction: the trail to the left is a dead end that takes you down to the Dry Creek outlet at the old beaver dam (There also used to be a beaver lodge here) and some nesting boxes placed by the Oregon Hunters Association.

Keep to the right on the main trail. Just past the junction a plaque on the ground to the left of the trail commemorates the construction of the trail in 1966 by Job Corps volunteers based at the nearby Timberlake Conservation Center. Traverse down a slope above a swampy gully with skunk-cabbage marshes and tall cedars. Cross a skunk-cabbage/wood fern creek on a footbridge, and then walk over two more bridges in this marshy bottomland. Pass a grove of massive old-growth cedars, and proceed along one more short boardwalk in a horsetail swamp. Arrive at Alder Flat, an area of shaded campsites right on a bend of the Clackamas River. Alders bend over the flowing waters, and a high bluff is in a constant state of erosion. A breccia-like rock formation in midstream is known as Skull Island. The swimming hole here is safe as long as you don’t head out into the full current. The campsite is more primitive than it was: most of the picnic tables, the outhouse, and fire pits have succumbed to vandalism/lack of maintenance over the years and have not been replaced.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • none

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Alder Flat Trail #574 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Fish Creek Mtn, OR #492
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Clackamas River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Mount Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain

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.