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Drift Creek North Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Drift Creek, Drift Creek Wilderness (bobcat)
Big western hemlock, Horse Creek Trail (bobcat)
Drift Creek bottomland, Horse Creek Trail (bobcat)
Tall Douglas-fir, Horse Creek Trail (bobcat)
Horsetail Creek Trail down to Drift Creek from the north trailhead (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Horse Creek North TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Drift Creek Campsite
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 7.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1690 feet
  • High Point: 1605 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Horse Creek Trail today reaches Drift Creek via two disjunct sections that descend ridges in the Drift Creek Wilderness, the largest of Oregon’s pocket Coast Range wildernesses. There is no Horse Creek here: that lies farther to the north and was once part of a more extensive trail system before logging operations obliterated most of the tread. Big trees – western hemlock, Douglas-fir, Sitka spruce – are the main attraction on these slopes as is wide, fast-flowing Drift Creek, which is easily forded only in late summer/early fall. In spring, the forest wildflowers put on a show, and chicken-of-the-woods and golden chanterelles can be found trailside in the fall, which is also the season for creek-spawning coho and chinook.

Walk past the boulder barrier, painted “Drift Creek Trail,” on a decommissioned stretch of FR 5087 that follows the ridge crest in a secondary Douglas-fir/western hemlock forest. Soon pass a wilderness information board on your right: there are visit slips here for you to fill out at the end of your hike. Salmonberry and alder encroach on the grassy road track, which rises and falls slightly before reaching the old trailhead at a series of overgrown berms. This is about 6/10 of a mile from the “new” (2008) trailhead.

The trail heads up the ridge to the left. Pass a wilderness sign, and hike along the crest, meeting a few large hemlocks. Most of this area was scorched in a 19th century forest fire: large snags remain, but so do many old growth giants that survived the conflagration. Tunnel through a dense thicket of young hemlocks and then slip off the crest in a carpet of salal, Oregon grape, red huckleberry, and hemlock saplings. The trail reaches the crest again and then drops over to the other side to make a long traverse. After this, swing right into a domain of big Douglas-firs on a broad ridge crest carpeted with sword fern. Sitka spruce and western red-cedar can also be seen in the conifer mix.

Switchback down twice and traverse back to the ridge crest to pass a massive western hemlock. The trail descends the ridge with a salmonberry bowl down to the left. Make two more switchbacks and wind more steeply down, traverse, switchback twice and traverse along through an extensive salmonberry/evergreen huckleberry thicket. Round the nose of the ridge and make five switchbacks down to make another traverse. Switchback again at the old junction with the Harris Ranch Trail, which came up from Drift Creek to meet the Horse Creek Trail here: an abandoned section of the Horse Creek Trail disappears into the undergrowth from this point.

Continue down, making five more switchbacks and then hike along a bench. From a big Sitka spruce, drop off the bench and switchback down to a mossy bottomland of sword fern and salmonberry. Reach the Drift Creek Campsite: there are two almost vertical access trails to Drift Creek from the camp, but it is far easier to proceed upstream on a user trail that takes you on a gentler descent down the bluff at two large old-growth trees. You'll soon pass a mossy maple and come to the creek bank.

In late summer/early fall, the creek will be sufficiently low so you can ford it (Use poles for support). You can pick your way downstream about a third of a mile to connect with the Harris Ranch Trail (See the Harris Ranch Trail Hike). The third trail in the wilderness, Horse Creek South, reaches the creek just over a mile upstream.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Drift Creek Wilderness Area Trails (USFS)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service: Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, Cummins Creek Wilderness, Drift Creek Wilderness, Rock Creek Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service: Siuslaw National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Oregon Central Coast

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • none

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Oregon's Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide by Chandra LeGue
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Central Oregon Wilderness Areas by Donna Ikenberry Aitkenhead
  • Siuslaw Forest Hikes: A Guide to Oregon’s Central Coast Range Trails by Irene Lilja & Dick Lilja
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • Oregon’s Wilderness Areas by George Wuerthner
  • Oregon Coast Hikes by Paul M. Williams
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

More Links


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.