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Gales Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Gales Creek at the Gales Creek Forest Camp (bobcat)
Gales Creek near the Storey Burn junction (bobcat)
Salal-covered stump, Gales Creek Trail (bobcat)
Waterfall near the source of the creek, Gales Creek Trail (bobcat)
Gales Creek Trail route to Bell Camp Road (bobcat)
  • Start point: Gales Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Bell Camp Road Trailhead
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 13.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2040 feet
  • High Point: 2520 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

Gales Creek was the origin of the first two Tillamook Burns of 1933 and 1939, both initiated during summer logging operations. The burns (There were two more major burns in 1945 and 1951) have defined the current ecology of this part of the Coast Range, with nitrogen-fixing alders seeding naturally on the slopes and millions of conifers, mainly Douglas-firs, being hand-planted. Other natural events have taken place since. The central portion of the Gales Creek Trail, in the heart of the Tillamook Burn, was closed for five years between the Winter of 2007-08 and Summer 2012 so that the part of the trail that ran along the east bank of the creek could be rerouted to the west bank. Numerous slides and washouts in the 07-08 winter necessitated three miles of new trail and, during construction, a trail worker was killed by a tumbling boulder after dynamiting a rock face, thus prolonging the project. Nowadays, hikers can enjoy a gradually ascending walk in and out of small gullies as they follow the course of Gales Creek almost to its source. After crossing Gales Creek, the trail ascends to Bell Camp Road and then drops to reach Reehers Camp (described in the North Gales Creek Trail Hike).

From the Gales Creek Trailhead, walk left to the trail sign where the Gales Creek Trail resumes. This is just before Rogers Road crosses the bridge to the campground area. The sign tells you that Bells Camp Road is 6.0 miles from here. A plaque on a mossy rock honors Randy Hodges, the contracted trail builderwho was killed. Head up the trail under Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and alder. Soon you are looking down on Gales Creek, with its many log jams. The campground area is across the creek. Large stumps with springboard notches attest to the logging of massive old growth before the Tillamook Burn. Keep traversing up and then drop past a large Douglas-fir, the lone old growth tree on this hike, and one that survived the conflagrations. Reach a bridge over a tributary and then the footbridge at the Gales Creek-Storey Burn Trail Junction.

Go right here and walk down towards Gales Creek under cottonwoods and alders. The trail ascends west of the creek up an old road bed bulldozed during salvage operations after the Tillamook Burn. Look to the left for the bullet-riddled remains of a washer and dryer that were dumped here. The tread leaves the road bed and soon drops to rejoin it. Traverse gradually up and cross a creek below a slope of Douglas-fir, hemlock, alder and some western red-cedar. Then the trail undulates above an alder bottomland where Gales Creek braids. A clearcut is visible through the trees on the opposite hillside. In a gully, a waterfall gushes behind a thicket of young big-leaf maples. Soon the trail drops above another alder bottomland and begins to rise and fall on a road bed. Look across Gales Creek to see a tall waterfall tumbling down the creek's steep east bank. Cross more creeks as the trail rises in a carpet of oxalis and sword fern. Traverse a massive slide created during the Winter 1996 floods and now cloaked by a dense growth of young red alder.

From here, step over a creek in a gully, and keep ascending high above Gales Creek. Then the trail drops and crosses a bouldery creek bed and debris flow, also from the 1996 floods. Rise again above another alder bottomland on Gales Creek. Come to another creek, and switchback up twice before crossing an old road bed. Head in and out of a gully with rushing stream and rise above a campsite from the salvaging days. Hike under big-leaf maples into a gully and, as the trail rises again, pass over several small streams. Eventually, the trail drops to a road bed, leaves it, and then rejoins it. Switchback off the road bed, and make another switchback in a carpet of salal and Oregon grape. Cross Gales Creek now at the base of a pretty waterfall, head steeply up, and then traverse through salal under a canopy of second-growth Douglas-firs that have been thinned. The trail rises in an eroded gully, crosses a spur of Bell Camp Road, and heads gently up a road bed to the signed Bell Camp Road Trailhead. There is parking to the west of the trailhead sign. The short, sharp mountain biking descent known as Ravens Ridge begins past here.

Cross the road and shortly come to another spur road, which you cross to begin the descent to Reehers Camp, 3.4 miles from here (See the North Gales Creek Trail Hike).

This is the central, and longest, section of the Gales Creek Trail. The three sections are:


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Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 25 Hikes on Oregon's Tillamook Coast by Adam Sawyer
  • Hiking from Portland to the Coast by James D. Thayer
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 50 Hikes in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests by the Sierra Club, Oregon Chapter
  • 50 Hikes in the Tillamook State Forest by the Tillamook State Forest Committee, Columbia Group Sierra Club
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast and Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Kissing the Trail by John Zilly

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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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