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Finley Refuge Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Cabell Barn, William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat)
Pacific tree frog (Pseudacris regilla) at the Beaver Pond (bobcat)
Cattail Pond, William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat)
Grazing elk and geese below Pigeon Butte (bobcat)
The Fiechter House, William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge (bobcat)
Route of this loop shown in red (bobcat)
  • Start point: Woodpecker Loop TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Cattail Pond (Finley Refuge)
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 8.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 455 feet
  • High Point: 490 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: April 1st to October 31st
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Poison Oak



The William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, named after a respected 20th century wildlife photographer and conservationist, is one of three Willamette Valley refuges set up to protect habitat for wintering waterfowl, especially the dusky Canada goose (Branta canadensis occidentalis). Several short excursions in the refuge, including the Woodpecker Loop Hike and Mill Hill Loop Hike, are open all year, while others can be hiked after April 1st. Characteristic habitat here includes wetlands and riparian shrubbery at the lowest elevations and mixed forest dominated by Douglas-fir, Oregon white oak, and big-leaf maple on hillsides. There are also numerous meadows and open fields. Between April 1st and October 31st, a larger loop hike with a couple of spurs is possible around the northern reaches of the refuge taking all its salient points: deciduous valley woodland, lush meadows, ponds and marshes, views to the Cascades, lots of wildflowers and wildlife!

Head up from the Woodpecker Loop Trailhead and come to the loop junction. Bear right over a stream on a footbridge and boardwalk. Hike under lichen-draped oaks with some Douglas-fir and a shrubby understory of hazel and wild rose. Pass into an open area with a blooming copse of crabapple. Then pass through a large clump of poison oak. Blackberry thickets also abound and clusters of mistletoe are visible up in the oaks. Come to the Woodpecker Observation Deck with information signs under a splendid old oak. Take time here to scan the foliage for small birds and, yes, there are several species of woodpecker that haunt these woods. On a nice day, there are expansive views east across the Willamette Valley to the central Cascades, dominated by Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters. Continue on the trail to course downhill past a pond and then over a boardwalk. Enter mixed woods of oak, Douglas-fir, Oregon ash and big-leaf maple. Cross a bridge and then a boardwalk in an ash and sedge swale. Then descend to the junction with the Intertie Trail.

Go right here under more Douglas-firs and cross a rivulet on a footbridge. The trail levels and crosses a road and then a stream. We head down in Douglas-fir woods to a junction, where you go right into an open oak savannah blooming with serviceberry in the spring.

Reach a gravel road and go right, strolling through an oak forest. At a junction for many destinations, go right and uphill on the Mill Hill Trail. Soon reach another junction for the loop and go right. Walk in lovely, mossy oak woods blooming with toothworts, orchids and violets in spring. Higher up, more Douglas-firs enter the mix. The trail exits these more mature woods and bends left, heading down a grassy alley bordered by young Douglas-firs with the occasional grand fir. Mosquitoes whine in profusion here during spring. Head up above marshy Gray Creek on the old road bed (Look for wood ducks on the creek) and, at a junction, keep right (straight) to end the loop. Soon come to the main junction, and proceed right.

There’s an oak forest on the right and a field to the left. Head into the open field on a gravel road. Come to the junction with the Beaver Pond and Cattail Pond Trail and go right. Walk up the grassy track, pass Beaver Pond, and cross a bridge. Enter a brushy area and look for a trail leading right into a thicket (If you reach an old quarry, you've gone too far). Walk through the thicket. The trail is wide, but the tread is often boggy and sometimes submerged; elk have churned up the track also. Emerge from the thicket at a signpost and head left along the edge of a field. Look up to the green slopes of Pigeon Butte for herds of grazing elk. Go left on a maintenance track to pass Cattail Pond, ringed with its namesake. Keep your eyes open and binoculars trained for various species of waterfowl: herons, grebes, mergansers, mallards, teals, egrets, wood ducks, and Canada geese are all common here. Turn right when you reach the main track.

The main road curves to the right past an ash swale. The vast Cabell Marsh appears on the left with gaggles of teals in the spring. You can get another view of elk-dotted slopes from here. Then pass through an avenue of ash trees and turn left at a junction for Cabell Marsh and Muddy Creek. Cross the outflow creek from the marsh and find a barkdust trail leading right up to a white kiosk with a spotting telescope and information signs. The path from the kiosk leads to the parking area for the refuge headquarters, located in the brick-chimneyed Cabell Hunting Lodge. There’s also a grass trail leading down to the historic 1857 Fiechter farmhouse. The headquarters road joins Finley Refuge Road at the splendid Cabell Barn.

Go left on the refuge road at a small camas field and head up through a thicket under oak trees into an open area. Pass a pullout with signs about geese and the 200-year-old oaks. Then head downhill and turn right into the parking area for the Woodpecker Loop.

Note: Some sections of this loop, especially the Beaver Pond and Cattail Pond section, may be closed off during very wet periods.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No fee
  • No dogs allowed
  • Port-a-potty and picnic table at trailhead
  • Interpretive signs
  • Obey wildlife refuge No Entry signs
  • Some of the loop only open April 1st to October 31st; Woodpecker Loop, Mill Hill Loop, Inter-tie Trail and Homer Campbell Memorial Trail open all year.


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Corvallis Trails by Margie C. Powell
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast and Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • A Guide to Trails in the Corvallis Area by Phillip R. Hays

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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.

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.