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Cougar Valley Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking down on Lost Creek, Cougar Valley State Park (bobcat)
Maple meadow, Cougar Valley State Park (bobcat)
Lost Creek and old bridge, Cougar Valley State Park (bobcat)
Walking opportunities at Cougar Valley (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Cougar Valley TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Lost Creek Road End
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 855 feet
  • High Point: 750 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

You may not see a cougar in Cougar Valley State Park: the big cats in the area could well have been traumatized by the fact that this used to be the backwoods homestead of the mountain lion bounty hunters Cougar Bill and Cougar Marie. The 315-acre parcel land was acquired by the State of Oregon in 2005 using lottery funds as part of Governor Kulongoski’s “one new state park a year” initiative. In 2008, however, local residents protested the plan to develop the area with RV campsites and other facilities, and the park has remained undeveloped ever since: the area has become one of those obscure "state parks" that gets no mention on the official website. Once past the closed entrance gate, there is no signage, but you can wander freely on the old roads: the main one leads along Lost Creek to a dead end; another track branches off, crosses the creek, and then rises to the top of the steep-sided Knoll 750. Alder has taken over the slopes, there are a Douglas-fir plantations along the creek, and invasive species, such as creeping buttercup and blackberry, abound. However, there are a few older Sitka spruce, salmon runs come up Lost Creek, and there is a healthy local elk herd. Most of all, there will probably be no one else here!

Hike past the gate with an alder slope to the left and Lost Creek running down to your right. Keep to the grassy track as it passes through a blackberry thicket and enters a young Douglas-fir plantation. The road bed curves between two big Sitka spruce above a large meadow with a couple of big-leaf maples. Pass by more Douglas-firs before reaching a junction.

Here you can go right to descend to an old road bridge to cross Lost Creek. The bridge has lost its decking, so be careful! The track then crosses a very wet, boggy spot carpeted with buttercup before running up the slope of the hill under a canopy of alders. There is plenty of elk sign in this area, but you will be lucky to see one of these elusive animals. Come to a junction: going left here, you rise a little and then drop to a small meadow planted with Douglas-firs. From here, you can cross an expanse of bulrushes, salmonberry, and sword fern to come to a point above a steep gully.

The better option is to keep right at the junction east of the bridge and head up to a clearcut slope. Step over the log debris here and keep rising to enter a shady alder and Douglas-fir forest again. The road becomes hemmed in with salmonberry as you curve left on a steep slope and keep ascending. After negotiating some blowdown, drop on the grassy track and keep heading around the southeast face of the hill. Then turn steeply up the slope to reach the top of Knoll 750. The cleared area at the top is now a thicket of alder saplings surrounded by larger Douglas-firs, so there is no view, but at least you got in a little exercise!

Return to the bridge over Lost Creek, cross it, and go right on the main track. Cross a blackberry-choked creek and hike above Lost Creek, which is rimmed by some large old alders. Cross another creek and come to another open area with plantings. There is easy access down to the creek where it braids around an alder gravel bar. On the main track, pass through another Douglas-fir plantation and reach a meadow with a line of tall Sitka spruce near the creek. There is a lot of elk sign here. Continue over a small creek and notice some very large log piles in Lost Creek. After another plantation, the track narrows, and you pass a rusting, overgrown dozer blade on your left. Cross some mossy blowdown before reaching the Lost Creek Road End at a salmonberry thicket. This logging road used to continue about another two miles along the north bank of the creek, but the bed has been considerably eroded and, in a couple of places, has completely disappeared into the creek. You could also try fording the creek at low water and exploring the opposite bank on a road bed that follows the south bank.

You can return to the dozer blade and find elk trails that lead down to a grassy verge on Lost Creek, a quiet spot for a picnic lunch or some contemplation. Afterwards, return to your car along the main road bed.


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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.

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