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Green Canyon-Salmon River Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

TKO put tools to trail here.png
The Salmon River valley from a viewpoint (bobcat)
Leafy woods, Green Canyon Way (bobcat)
Heart-leaf buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum), Hunchback Mountain Trail (bobcat)
Mt. Hood from Devils Peak (bobcat)
Kinzel Lake (bobcat)
The Salmon River, Salmon River Trail (bobcat)
Map showing the loop (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Salmon River West TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Devils Peak
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 15.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 4355 feet
  • High Point: 5045 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Only on the Salmon River Trail


Hike Description

Most of the best features of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness can be visited on this rather arduous hike. You'll ascend leafy slopes of old growth montane forest, visit grassy clearings framed by stunted oaks, take in views up and down the Cascades from a lookout maintained by volunteers, stop at a secluded mountain lake, and hike along the beautiful, tumbling Salmon River. Give yourself plenty of time for this loop, and choose a day when you can take in the views. In the first part of summer, wildflowers abound in all the various habitats you'll pass through. Note that some of the trail sections are rather remote and are not maintained regularly.

To reach Green Canyon Way, walk back 0.4 miles from the trailhead. The Salmon River rushes by on the other side of the road. Pass a gully on the right and then a sign on the opposite side where the Old Salmon River Trail meets the road. Take this trail to enter deep, leafy woods of big-leaf maple, red alder, Douglas-fir and western hemlock. Note some large trees and a small waterfall spilling down into the Salmon River. The trail rejoins the road. Walk alongside the road for about 250 yards. See the sign for the Green Canyon Campground, and then find the sign for the Green Canyon Way Trail #793A at the Green Canyon Trailhead opposite the campground on the right side of the road.

The trail heads into the woods on the right side of a map sign and then runs along a fallen Douglas-fir. Traverse up under some large hemlocks and Douglas-firs. It’s a ferny woodland of maidenhair, spiny wood fern, deer fern, and sword fern. Early in the morning, this side of the slope is in deep shadow. Switchback under Douglas-firs, hemlocks and cedars at the sign proclaiming entrance to the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. Then switchback again above steep-sided Green Canyon, which is the first and last time you’ll see the bottom of it. Switchback again, ignoring a track going off to the right. Make two more switchbacks and then a longer traverse. Then switchback around the nose of the ridge into a small oak clearing. Make six more switchbacks, passing more oak grasslands. Reach the ridge crest and traverse up. Oregon grape, sword fern and vine maple dominate the understory. At a viewpoint, get a view all the way along the ridge of Hunchback Mountain. Then make a level traverse along a ridge crest, including a rather narrow spine. Traverse along the side of the ridge as rhododendrons appear in the understory. Switchback eight more times, longer and then shorter, and pass by a spur to a viewpoint. The trail then traverses in oxalis-carpeted woods with both silver fir and noble fir making their appearances. Walk above a lush devil’s club-cloaked spring area, and then the trail levels below the ridge crest in cool, pleasant woods. Vanilla leaf and foam flower are abundant here. Pass a campsite and then the trail rises to the ridge crest and reaches the Hunchback Mountain-Green Canyon Way Trail Junction.

Go right and make several drops and rises along the ridge. Tiger lilies bloom here in the summer and the forest floor sprouts coral root and bear-grass. This upper part of the Hunchback Mountain Trail may be unmaintained late into the season and there could be a fair amount of blowdown to negotiate. Pass through a couple of sunny meadows blooming with lupine, paintbrush, woolly sunflower, mariposa lilies, buckwheat, and cinquefoil. Keep rising, skirting a Sitka alder and thimbleberry thicket to reenter a forest of silver and noble fir. Pass a spring area and drop over the right side of the ridge. Head up to the ridge crest again below rocky outcrops, and then drop below the crest immediately. Again, regain the ridge crest. A spur left leads past a campsite and down to a spring. Come to the junction of the spur trail to Devils Peak and go right.

It’s a few yards up to the lookout. The Devils Peak Lookout is maintained by volunteers and is open to all-comers, first-come, first-served. The expansive views have shrunk somewhat over the years as trees have grown up around the summit. Walk down from the lookout tower to viewpoints over the wilderness and south to Olallie Butte, Mount Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack. There’s a great view north to Mount Hood and, on a clear day you should be able to see the Washington mountains from here. The peak is fringed with a forest of Douglas-fir, subalpine fir, noble fir, and mountain hemlock. Common juniper forms mats among the rocks blooming with paintbrush, lousewort, penstemon, and phlox.

Back down at the junction, go right on the Hunchback Trail. Soon, come to the Hunchback Mountain-Cool Creek Trail Junction, but keep straight of course. The trail drops and you switchback twice past blooming rhododendrons. At a rocky vantage point, there’s another great view of Mount Hood. Hike on the level along a rocky ridgetop with a viewpoint on the right. Undulate along and soon come to the end of the road at the Devils Peak Trailhead. It’s about 30 yards down the road to the beginning of the Kinzel Lake Trail #665.

Head down in silver fir and rhododendron forest. Soon, there’s an unmarked junction on the left. Take this incredibly steep, short and sliding use trail down to Kinzel Lake. The trail parts about halfway down. Left goes to a campsite. Dayhikers can go right: this fork leads steeply down to an alder/willow marsh and, past the thicket, a bog of northern star flower, sundew, marsh cinquefoil and false asphodel.

After exploring this small lake's shore, return to the main trail. Cross an old, cleared path through the woods, the route of the old communications line up to the lookout. Pass the wilderness sign. Kinzel Creek is rushing down to the left. Switchback twice on a hot, exposed trail in a former burn sporadically shaded with young Douglas-fir, mountain hemlock, chinquapin and rhododendron. Then enter unburned forest of western hemlock, vine maple and Douglas-fir, and keep descending. Switchback, make a long descent, then switchback three times down to a more level area thickly vegetated with salal, rhododendron, and vine maple. Reach the Salmon River-Kinzel Lake Trail Junction and go right.

The trail courses through shady woods and crosses a creek. Pass campsites on the right and cross another creek. The trail is level and a spur trail left leads to a view of Little Niagara Falls far below. Come to another small creek. There are trails down to several campsites on the left. Cross bigger Goat Creek in hemlock and Douglas-fir forest. Now rise out of the Goat Creek drainage. Pass by a steep grassy meadow and promontory and look for a scramble trail that leads down to the canyon bottom for a view of Frustration Falls. Then it’s back into shady woods as you head in and up to cross another creek. A spur trail leads down to a campsite as you’re above the Salmon River again. Pass by some seeps. A spur left leads to a grassy viewpoint. Then the main trail braids, the left track switchbacking down and then crossing an exposed meadow below the Salmon River Viewpoint. Alternatively, you can keep to the high road, which prefers the shady woods with some detours to rocky viewpoints. Soon the trails come together again. Descend in shady forest and pass by a small boulder field. Some larger Douglas-firs appear in this vicinity. Head down to cross a creek and then a another small brook. The trail comes close to the river. Spurs to the left from now on lead to numerous campsites. Walk past a wilderness sign and pass the permit box and map board. Cross a bigger creek on a log bridge and lope through lush woods of cedar, Douglas-fir and hemlock. Oxalis and sword fern are the main ingredients in the forest carpet. Pass a large cedar on the right, and come to a bend in the river under a maple-cloaked cliff. Cross a plank bridge over a gully and note more large Douglas-firs. There’s a small boardwalk and then the trail cuts off another bend. Hook in and rise above a high-water channel which cuts across a bend in the river. The trail drops to the trailhead just before the road bridge.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Government Camp, OR #461 and High Rock, OR #493
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Bull of the Woods Wilderness, Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood Wilderness
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required
  • Self-issued wilderness permit

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland and Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Best Hikes Near Portland by Fred Barstad (partial)
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill

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.

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