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Milo McIver Riverbend Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Clackamas River from the Memorial Viewpoint, Milo McIver State Park (bobcat)
View to Mt. Hood from the Viewpoint Trail (bobcat)
On the Viewpoint Trail, Milo McIver State Park (bobcat)
Still channel on the Clackamas River, Riverbend Trail (bobcat)
Cedar grove, Maple Ridge Trail (bobcat)
The Riverbend Loop at Milo McIver State Park (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo



Milo K. McIver was a member of the Oregon State Highway Commission from 1950-1962, and Chairman of the Commission for the last four years of his term. During his tenure as Chair, McIver developed Oregon's freeway system to be recognized as the best in the nation at that time. The park named in his honor is not on a freeway, however, but lies nestled along a couple of wide, sweeping bends in the Clackamas River near the town of Estacada. This is a full-service park, with campgrounds, boat launches, a disk golf course, horse trails, picnic areas, and even a fish hatchery. The trail system is interconnected, but most visitors choose one of two loops: the one described here on the west side of the park and the Milo McIver Riverside Loop Hike on the east side. The Riverbend Loop takes you down from a view of the Cascade Range, across the Vortex Meadow - site of a state-sponsored rock concert in 1970 - to the Clackamas River and then back up a leafy, forested slope to the viewpoint on a high bluff 300 feet above the river.

For a shorter loop of 3.4 miles with less elevation gain, begin your hike at the Riverbend Trailhead, and skip the Vortex Loop and the Viewpoint Trail leading up to the McIver Memorial Viewpoint Trailhead.

From the parking area, walk down past the gazebo to the new (2017) viewing area. The Clackamas River winds below, with Mount Adams to the left and Mount Hood front and center. Near the plaque honoring Milo McIver, the graveled Viewpoint Trail, constructed in 2016-17 by volunteer groups, including Trailkeepers of Oregon, leads into the mixed forest of the high bluff (This trail replaces one on the other side of the viewing area that got washed out almost every year). The trail drops down the slope under Douglas-fir, red-cedar, and big-leaf maple in a lush understory dominated by hazel, vine maple, and sword fern. Cross a substantial footbridge and traverse down. An old barbecue grate allows you to step over a trickling creek. Arrive at the bottom of the bluff, and cross the Vortex Meadow, site of the America’s only state-sponsored rock concert. The trail leads into trees to a small parking area, but before you enter the trees, go right to follow a track through the meadow itself (If the ground is sodden, then it’s best to find the road leading past a gate from the parking area and follow that).

As you hike through the meadow, with some stately oaks on the fringes, imagine the smell of pot hanging in the air and naked or half-naked bodies grooving to the tunes. In fact, this meadow has seen other action as well: the remains of an old airstrip can be found in the middle, and an episode of Grimm was filmed here in 2017. Pass an old collection of picnic tables and a rotting shelter before rounding the corner of a fence (Most vestiges of a trail will have disappeared by now). You’ll come to the junction of a road with some trails. The mowed path leading right connects to the Rivermill Trail in the Riverside section of the park (See the Milo McIver Riverside Loop Hike). You need to take the trail straight ahead that enters a young Douglas-fir forest. Ignore the first trail splitting off to the left, but go left on the second one; otherwise, you’ll find yourself in the Kingfisher Group Camp Area. Drop down a slope and hike under shady maples. Pass a wooden water tank, and cross the campground road. Then cross the paved road that leads to the Riverbend Day-use Area. Come to a junction: ten yards to the right is the Riverbend Trail.

To descend to the Clackamas, go right on the Riverbend Trail. The trail recrosses the park entrance road and drops down a slope in shady mixed forest to reach the level of the river. Walk parallel to the Clackamas. Before you reach a bend, you'll see the Riverbend Trailhead to your left. Rounding the bend, continue along the verges of the expansive disk golf course. There’s a still water channel of the Clackamas here that displays good reflections. On the other side of an alder-forested island is the main channel. Walk all the way down to the boat ramp parking area. A couple of fishermen are in the river here. Walk back towards the woods, and find the signed Maple Ridge Trail heading into the mossy forest.

The slope forest here is dominated by western red-cedar, western hemlock, Douglas-fir, red alder, black cottonwood, and big-leaf maple. The trail follows an old road bed in a dense understory. Pass the junction with the Cedar Knoll Trail, which comes in from the left. The tread, which is soft and soggy in the wet season, rises to a spot which overlooks the Wood Duck Pond. The path then heads up a set of steps and makes a traverse in mossy woods: note the large cedar stumps with springboard notches. Soon you'll pass a short spur, labeled "2008 Landslide Viewpoint," that leads to a view up to the sheer bluff above. These cliffs, composed of soft sedimentary layers, are constantly slipping away as attested to by the large mounds of now vegetated debris in the forest through which you are hiking. The clifftop is now getting dangerously close to Springwater Road again. The road was already moved back once, in 1982, when the Viewpoint Restaurant - rebuilt across the highway - was destroyed by a fire and then, a day later (!), slipped down the slope in a landslide. Pass through the dense thicket of alders which colonized this slide, and hike a recent trail reroute that takes you along the crest of an ancient landslide mound. In the summer, the next section of woodland is a sea of nettles, which often overhang the trail. Come to the upper junction with the Cedar Knoll Trail. Continue undulating along on the Maple Ridge Trail until the path drops down a staircased section to the upper junction with the Riverbend Trail. Go right and soon come to another junction, this time with the Nature Trail.

Keep right on the Riverbend Trail and drop to a level area below the high bluff. When you're almost at the lower parking areas, find the Riverbend Trail leading right and up the slope. A junction sign proclaims the Vortex Loop, Go right ten yards and then right again. Hike up the lip of the bluff under cedars and maples, and cross the paved road again to the Vortex parking area. From here, go right on the Viewpoint Trail to head back up to the trailhead.


Restrictions, facilities, etc.

  • $5 day-use fee
  • Dogs on leash
  • Share some trails with mountain bikes
  • Campgrounds, restrooms, picnic areas, boat launches, disk golf course

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

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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.