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Buck Mountain Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Footbridge, first Howard Creek tributary, Buck Mountain Loop (bobcat)
Big Douglas-fir, Howard Creek Loop (bobcat)
Tortured vine maple, Buck Mountain Loop (bobcat)
Misty woods, Buck Mountain Loop (bobcat)
The Buck Mountain Loop indicated in yellow (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo



Silver Falls, Oregon’s largest state park at 9,200 acres, has an expansive backcountry with a network of trails for hikers, bikers, and horses leading along mostly gentle slopes. This is a good area to explore in the winter months, when it's hard to find hikes of some distance that are free of snow. There is some impressive old growth in the area of Howard Creek; the higher slopes are composed of secondary woodland and the trails mostly follow old logging roads, but this is a quiet space through which bears and cougars roam although you have little chance of encountering one.

The trail sign is to the right of the information kiosk, which displays a large map of the park. Follow the trail in under tall Douglas-firs and past a watering trough. Reach the gravel entrance road to the horse camp, and go left. At a sign for the Buck Mountain and Howard Creek Loops, bear right and parallel a gravel track under stately Douglas-firs. Keep straight at another trail sign, and follow the gravel road track through a lush green carpet of sword fern, salmonberry, and salal. At the next junction, keep right and descend past a huge Douglas-fir to the Howard Creek-Buck Mountain Trail North Junction.

Go left here to head up the slope on a wide track. The Buck Mountain Trail loops up and then drops; you’ll see a short connector leading left which cuts off this meander in the trail. After this, reach a junction with a fire road which connects to the Rackett Ridge Trail. Turn right here and rise in mossy woods of hemlock and Douglas-fir where you can admire more large old growth. Pass the one-mile marker in secondary forest just before the track dips to a shallow saddle and then bends to the left. Drop again and, where the trail levels, keep right at a junction with a fire road that leads down to the Silver Creek Youth Camp. Continue along a broad ridge crest in mostly 100-year woods with some large hemlocks and Douglas-firs standing out. Ascend gradually in previously logged forest to the four-way Buck Mountain-Perimeter Trail Junction, with the latter trail on your left leading towards Upper North Falls.

Go right to continue on the Buck Mountain Trail, descending to cross two solid footbridges over the upper tributaries of Howard Creek. At a junction after the second footbridge, go left on a narrow trail to wind up and then traverse along a sword fern cloaked slope. Soon the trail runs near the ridge crest in secondary Douglas-fir forest with a dense carpet of Oregon grape, sword fern, and salal. Then the path gradually drops to the four-way Buck Mountain-Lost Creek Trail Junction. Keep right on the Buck Mountain Loop, and pass the four-mile marker. Now drop more steeply, and cross a creek on a gravel causeway through a salmonberry thicket. Pass a fire road, and reach the Buck Mountain-Smith Creek Trail Junction, where you stay right.

The trail narrows under alders and passes through more salmonberries before it gets to the Buck Mountain-Cut Off Trail Junction. Make a gradual descent from here as you walk through a more open, brushy area of lichen-draped ocean spray and hazel. After the six-mile marker, head through a dense copse of hemlock and traverse down the slope under mossy maples. Cross a creek, and then switchback to recross the creek to reach a soggy bench colonized by salmonberry.

Come to the Howard Creek-Buck Mountain Trail South Junction, and go right and steeply downhill on a graveled track. Cross Howard Creek, and head up to reach the Howard Creek-Buck Mountain Trail North Junction. Here you go left to return to the Howard Creek Trailhead the way you came in.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $5 day-use fee or $30 State Parks annual pass
  • Dogs on leash
  • Port-a-potty at Howard Creek Trailhead
  • Share trails with mountain bikers


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Oregon Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan

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.