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Cascade Streamwatch Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

At the Underwater Viewing Area, Cascade Streamwatch Trail (bobcat)
Shady forest, Boulder Ridge Trail, Wildwood Recreation Area (bobcat)
Boardwalk, Wetland Trail (bobcat)
Coho fingerling, Underwater Viewing Area, Cascade Streamwatch Trail (bobcat)
Salmon River, Wildwood Recreation Area (bobcat)
The route described traced in red (BLM brochure map) (bobcat)
  • Start point: Wildwood Recreation Area TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Old Mill Ruins
  • Hike Type: Multiple short loops and spurs
  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 40 feet
  • High Point: 1,235 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes (Late spring into fall)



The federally-designated Wild and Scenic Salmon River issues from the Palmer Snowfield on Mount Hood and runs for 33 pristine miles. This forested recreation area right off of Highway 26 is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management and is the last developed public access to the Salmon River before its confluence with the Sandy River. A network of trails with interpretive signs run through the shady forest to a wetland, a salmon spawning creek, the ruins of a mill, and the Salmon River itself: the hike described takes advantage of most of the trails here, but most visitors restrict themselves to the popular Wetlands and Cascade Streamwatch Loops (about 1.75 miles for both). The recreation area is set up for day-long visits using outdoor kitchens and sports fields. You can drive into the site from early spring through the summer, but other months of the year, you need to park at the entrance gate (See the Wildwood Recreation Area Winter Trailhead) and walk in half a mile. In the fall, spawning salmon, especially coho, can be seen from the banks of the Salmon River here.

Find the Boulder Ridge Trailhead sign to the left of the restroom building and take a paved trail using the attractive, arched footbridge over the Salmon River. A set of steps leads down to the left: you can take this riverside trail when you return from the boardwalk loop. These are lush, shady mixed woods of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, western red-cedar, red alder, big-leaf maple, cottonwood, and vine maple. Go left on the Wetlands Trail and begin the boardwalk. The trail has a total of five spurs that leads to viewing platforms over the skunk-cabbage swamps of Sixes Creek. There are nature guides and three-dimensional plaques illustrating local species. Undergrowth on the drier side of the boardwalk includes trailing blackberry, vine maple, elderberry, wood fern, sword fern, and nightshade. These wetlands were created as holding ponds when there was a private sawmill at Wildwood during the first half of the 20th century. At the western end of the boardwalk, go right at the Boulder Ridge-Wetlands Trail Junction into lovely forest with an oxalis, sword fern, and huckleberry carpet among large cedar stumps.

At the footbridge, go right down the stairs on a narrow trail that parallels the Salmon River for about half a mile. Pass a covered picnic shelter and then several spur trails that access the cobbled shore of the river. The Salmon River has cut deeply into its north bank and colorful sedimentary deposits are exposed. Reach a Private Property sign and turn back.

Return to the trailhead and take the paved Cascade Streamwatch Trail to the right of the information kiosk. Pass a shiny salmon sculpture by Norris Peterson and walk above the river under cedars and Douglas-firs. A boardwalk traverses down a slope and joins a paved trail. Go left here and come to a three-dimensional watershed map just above the river. Go right at a junction to do the Cascade Streamwatch interpretive loop counter-clockwise. Keep left at a junction and cross a small stream, and then go right at the next junction, following the signs. You’ll recross the stream on a footbridge and go left into the underwater viewing area, where you may see several coho fingerlings darting about a forest pool. Next, go left and cross the stream for the third time. Reach the river again and go left, passing some restrooms. Continue to keep along the river: a couple of paths lead down to the water. Reach the beginning of the loop and retrace a few yards to the junction for the Salmon River Shelter.

Go right here and take a paved trail past the large shelter and some restrooms. Reach a large parking area and go left. Walk around the rim of this parking area and take the second paved trail on the left. At picnic spot #2, go right at the signs for the Group Picnic Area and Mt. Hood Village. This gravel trail wanders through shady Douglas-fir, hemlock and maple forest. At a junction, go left for your last chance to access the Salmon River at a relatively secluded spot. Return along this spur and keep hiking through an alder bottom. The trail leads up a slope in a dense understory of salmonberry, wood fern, and sword fern. The tread levels at a pair of benches. Go left at a sign for the Group Area and walk along an old road track. The trail drops to a junction, where you should keep straight.

After this, go right, left and then right at three junctions. Wind around through lush, shady woods and reach the Old Mill Nature Loop. Go left here. The path drops on a numbered interpretive trail. Cross seasonal Mill Creek on a footbridge and then encounter a second footbridge. Enter an alder bottomland. At a junction, keep left and pass a large, fallen Douglas-fir. At station #3, you will find the Old Mill Ruins, represented by some concrete remnants. The sign that explained the mill site has disappeared. Cross a footbridge and go left at a junction for Trailhead Parking.

You’ve been on this short section before. After a gentle uphill, keep left at an unsigned junction, and at the next junction, go right to leave the Old Mill Nature Loop. Walk on a wide trail and reach the paved road. Cross the road and go left into the parking area.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Open early spring to fall; open 8:00 a.m. to sunset
  • $5 day-use fee or BLM Northwest Oregon Pass or America the Beautiful Pass required
  • Dogs on leash


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Wildwood Recreation Site (BLM)
  • Green Trails Maps: Government Camp, OR #461
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Oregon: The Creaky Knees Guide by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Best Hikes with Children: Western & Central Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson

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.