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McCulloch Peak Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View down Blakesley Creek to Marys Peak, Alder Creek Tree Farm, Starker Forests (bobcat)
Soap Creek in the McDonald Research Forest (bobcat)
On the Rocky Road Trail, McDonald Research Forest (bobcat)
Snow queen (Synthyris reniformis), No Secret Trail, McDonald Research Forest (bobcat)
The loop to McCulloch Peak with the optional diversion on the No Secret Trail (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/MapBuilderTopo
  • Start point: Sulphur Springs Road TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: McCulloch Peak
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 7.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1605 feet
  • High Point: 2155 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year except for occasional snow
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Poison-Oak

Contents

Description

McCulloch Peak is the highest point in the McDonald Research Forest and offers views to Bald Hill, Dimple Hill, and across the Willamette Valley to the Cascade crest and the snowy summits of the Three Sisters. The loop described here mostly uses gravel logging roads that wind up slopes and along a ridge in the Cardwell Hills. There’s one shortcut on a mountain bike trail and another option on a new trail that needs a permit from Starker Forests. The secondary growth Douglas-fir forest has been carefully thinned on these hillsides, and a couple of different openings on the ridge crest leading to McCulloch Peak afford vistas to Marys Peak in the Coast Range as well as Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson.

Walk around the orange gate on the lower road (Road 700). Cross Soap Creek where it flows through a large culvert. A mixed forest of alder, maple, Douglas-fir, cedar, and yew will transition to mainly Douglas-fir as you hike to a higher elevation. You’ll see Funnelcake, an unauthorized mountain bike trail coming down from the slope above. It may be tempting to explore these unofficial trails, but they can be decommissioned at any time by forest management during thinning/logging or because they often follow environmentally unsound grades. Road 710, which joins 700 next, is an example in point: It once carried a popular trail called The Plunge, whose lower end has now been decommissioned. The road rises more steeply and reaches the signed Road 700-Road 760 Junction.

Go right here on Road 760. Keep right at the junction with Road 761. The road levels and then drops to cross Soap Creek. Across the creek, you’ll arrive at the Rocky Road Trail-Road 760 Junction. Go left on the Rocky Road Trail. While this is also an unofficial trail, it follows an obvious track on an old logging road bed. A tributary of Soap Creek burbles quietly below, and you’ll pass a sapsucker perforated cedar. Pass through a debris-strewn area that is slightly boggy, and reach Road 760 again.

Head up through a young plantation. The unofficial Iris Meadow bike trail leads right along the boundary with Starker Forests land. Continue on the road, leveling and then rising past the 2 ½ mile marker painted on a tree. Ascend more steeply to the top of the ridge and the Road 700-Blakesley Ridge Road Junction. You can go right here to the gate with Starker Forests land to get a good view to Marys Peak down the Blakesley Creek drainage on the left, Reception Peak on the logged out ridge straight ahead, and a view down Woods Creek leading to Kings Valley on the right. Continuing on Starker Forests land is an optional detour, but you need a free permit (See details below.).

If you keep to Road 700, a view left allows a vista to Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson on a clear day. Round the nose of the ridge, and pass the junction with the Secret’s Out Trail, which connects with the No Secret Trail on the optional side trip into Starker Forests. Pass junctions with Roads 7080 and 7040 before arriving at a four-way junction. Here go right on the signed Mervin L. Powley Road 790, which ascends and curves sharply to the right to reach the summit of McCulloch Peak right after passing the junction with the No Secret and Skillings Trails. A bench here honors trail crews and looks over a vista to Bald Hill, Dimple Hill, and across the Willamette Valley to the Cascade crest and the snowy summits of the Three Sisters.

Return to the four-way junction, and keep right on Road 700 for the Oak Creek Valley. Descend to stay right at the next junction. Pass a 2 ½ mile marker, and keep right and the junction with Road 7040. Pass a gravel landing, and hike above a Douglas-fir bowl, keeping straight at a four-way junction for “Oak Creek 600.” At the Road 700-Road 680 Junction, turn left for the Soap Creek Valley, and wind down above steep sword fern cloaked slopes. Pass the very steep New Groove Trail coming down from the left just before you cross an alder-shaded creek. Walk below a regenerating clearcut, and reach the Road 700-Road 760 Junction, where you’ll go right to return to your vehicle.

Optional trail extension:

This extension involves a short diversion onto Starker Forest lands before reaching the No Secret Trail, which is in the McDonald Forest. To use Starker Forest roads and trails, you need to obtain a free permit from their office in Corvallis. The No Secret Trail is a downhill run used primarily by mountain bikers, so it is better used by hikers on quiet days.

From the Road 700-Blakesley Ridge Road Junction, walk west past a gate and into a clearcut. The high point on the ridge ahead is Reception Peak. There’s an excellent view to Marys Peak down the Blakesley Creek drainage on the left, and you can see down Woods Creek to Kings Valley on the right. After 70 yards, reach a junction, and go left. Descend the slope, with Marys Peak always in view and forested McCulloch Peak up to your left. At a junction near a 2002 plantation, go left below an open grassy slope with a small copse of oaks. Pass a few young valley ponderosa pines, and cross Blakesley Creek. Reach the No Secret Trail-Contour Road Junction, and make a left up this singletrack trail.

Switchback up twice and wind up the Blakesley Creek valley with its lush understory of sword fern, Oregon grape, and salal. Cross an alder/salmonberry bowl, and loop up an open rocky knob with a few stunted oaks. Reenter the Douglas-fir forest, and go right at the junction with the Secret’s Out Trail. Cross a footbridge, pass below a spring, and traverse a slope of Douglas-fir. Switchback up twice, noting the large stumps from the original old-growth forest. Enter a denser woodland, and come to a junction on a ridge. Go left to a road, and then left again to reach the top of McCulloch Peak.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Forest closed 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
  • Working forest: There may be logging activity and vehicles during the week
  • Information kiosk with brochure/map
  • Share trails/roads with mountain bikers
  • Free Starker Forests permits can be obtained from their office at 7240 SW Philomath Boulevard, Corvallis between 7:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Maps

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Corvallis Trails by Margie C. Powell
  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan (route is from the Oak Creek Trailhead)

More Links


Page Contributors

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.