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Croisan Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Joggers on abandoned road, Croisan Scenic Trail (bobcat)
Big Douglas-fir, Skyline Natural Area (bobcat)
Croisan Creek, Skyline Natural Area (bobcat)
In Belcrest Memorial Park, Salem (bobcat)
The trail system above Croisan Creek; road sections in orange (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
Poison Oak



The Salem Hills, also known as the Red Clay Hills, form a small range in the southern part of the City of Salem. Suburban development has spread over the hills and abuts expansive rural properties. There are few trails here, but the Salem Area Trail Alliance is busy remedying the problem. The two trails described in this entry were developed in the new millennium. In 2006, work began on long-established user trails along an abandoned route of Croisan Scenic Way. In 2012, under the vision of Mark Wigg, the Trail Alliance and the Chemeketans worked together to develop the Croisan Meadow Loop in the Skyline Natural Area next to Sprague High School. From the Meadow Loop, you can also access Croisan Creek, which is out of sight for most of this hike. The two trail systems described can be connected via a short walk on city streets.

The Skyline Natural Area Trailhead is on the grounds of Charles A. Sprague High School, and the parking area may be fully occupied during the week. Use this trailhead in the summer and on weekends only, and begin at the Croisan Scenic Trailhead on weekdays at other times of the year (The route is described below to begin at the Skyline Natural Area Trailhead).

From the Skyline Natural Area Trailhead, hike past the Salem Area Trail Alliance sign to a junction. Make a left to begin the lower section of the Croisan Meadow Loop. Douglas-fir is the dominant conifer here, with snowberry, trailing blackberry, sword fern, hazel, and invasive ivy in the understory. Poison oak can be seen climbing the tree trunks in a few places. At a junction, keep right and make a gently descending traverse under oak trees. Cross a trickling creek, and descend to the left on a spur that takes you out to a sloping meadow. Below you, Croisan Creek cuts through a layer of 15 million-year-old lava. You can take a user trail down the grassy sward to the creek itself. Tall big-leaf maples and cottonwoods shade the stream. Return to the main trail, and continue to the left. Keep left at another junction, and drop along an old road bed. Traverse up, and make two short switchbacks. Keep left at the north end of the loop, and arrive at the grounds of Sprague High School under a spreading oak tree.

If you’re continuing to the Croisan Scenic Trail, walk a short distance to a gate at Joseph Street. Go one block out along Joseph to Croisan Scenic Way, and turn left. It’s three blocks north on Croisan, crossing Joplin Street and Brock Loop, to the Croisan Scenic Trailhead.

With private homes on both sides, the trail drops off a gravel road bed to the left under a canopy of oaks. Enter a leafy big-leaf maple/Douglas-fir wood. Where the trail splits, keep left under a bower of hazel, and pass through a thimbleberry thicket. Keep left at the junction with Tony’s Trail, and stay left again to cross a footbridge, where you might spot a bat box on a tree. Head down to the left at the next junction, and cross a trickling brook to join an abandoned section of Croisan Scenic Way. This paved road is now shaded by a leafy maple bower. Stay on this road to pass a steep spur leading up to Cloudview Drive. The foot trail resumes at a grate and crosses North Croisan Creek in an ivy-carpeted forest. Keep left at all junctions (You’ll be returning to the first of these to loop up to Belcrest Memorial Park). The trail levels in a grove of hazel and cherry trees and terminates at a grassy patch on Spring Street.

To complete the northern loop, return through the hazel/cherry grove, and take the second trail on the left. Go left again before you reach the abandoned section of Croisan Scenic Way. Pass a twenty-trunk maple, adult suckers that sprang from a large stump! Make a fairly level traverse through a carpet of ivy. Head into a lush gully, and keep left to cross North Croisan Creek to hike up a slope of ivy-draped oaks and Douglas-firs. At a junction, make a right to head steeply up to reach Belcrest Memorial Park (Keeping left at the junction would take you to the Dogwood Drive Trailhead).

You can walk up through the tranquil setting of the cemetery to the crest of the hill and then go right to exit through the brick gate and reach Browning Avenue. Make a right on Browning to pass Kurth Street and Cloud Drive. Browning veers left to crest a rise and drops to cross Cloudview Drive. A spur of the Croisan Scenic Trail takes you back into the woods at the end of Browning Avenue.

Keep left at two junctions, and cross the bat box footbridge on the main trail. At the next junction with Tony’s Trail, go left and head up the slope. Hike uphill, and then drop downhill to the right at another junction. Reach the main trail again, and go left to return to the Croisan Scenic Trailhead.

Return to Sprague High School the way you had come along Croisan Scenic Way and Joseph Street. Take the Croisan Meadow Trail into the Skyline Natural Area. Descend the slope a little from the spreading oak and, at the first junction, go left. The upper section of the loop makes an undulating traverse under Douglas-firs and big-leaf maples. There are also a few madrones reaching for the canopy. The trail drops a little to two junctions, where you need to keep left. Ascend again, and step over a few log jumps constructed by bikers. At the last junction, go left to the parking area at the Skyline Natural Area Trailhead.

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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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