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Nellie Corser Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Part of the Nellie Corser Cascades on the East Fork of Duncan Creek (bobcat)
Douglas-firs on the "driveway" to the former homestead, Nellie Corser Unit (bobcat)
At the ford of the East Fork Duncan Creek, Nellie Corser Unit (bobcat)
The short loop around the Nellie Corser Unit (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Nellie Corser TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Nellie Corser Cascades
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 275 feet
  • High Point: 1,215 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Spring through fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Nellie Corser Unit of the very scattered 15-unit Mount Saint Helens Wildlife Area protects a 59-acre patch of old growth forest at the location of a homestead on the East Fork of Duncan Creek. The East Fork itself displays numerous picturesque and photogenic waterfalls and cascades, the more impressive in size being higher up the creek (See the Duncan Creek Hike). The lower part of the creek is easily accessed from Duncan Creek Road and is a popular splash/picnic spot for locals in the summer. This is not the best time to appreciate the cascades, however, and in the wet months, you can appreciate more solitude and spectacular water flow as the creek plunges through mossy defiles.

Not much is known about Nellie P. Corser (1879-1968) herself. Born Nellie Poppleton, she married Irving Corser, but outlived him by 18 years. The Corsers had a rural home on the property, but both are buried in River View Cemetery in Portland. Note that if you don’t have a Discover Pass, you can also begin the short loop at the Duncan Creek Trailhead and walk up the road 0.2 miles to the Nellie Corser Trailhead.

Hike past the concrete barrier at the Nellie Corser Trailhead. You may see tacked to a tree here a letter from Sherman, a friendly canine who lives nearby. Sherman likes to hike with visitors, and the letter explains his habits and preferences. Indeed, Sherman may show up as you depart! Francisco, a rooster who is one of Sherman’s accomplices, may also make an appearance. The road track you are following was really the “driveway” to the Corser homestead. Immediately, you will find yourself under towering old-growth Douglas-firs and mossy big-leaf maples, with vine maple, Oregon grape, and sword fern in the lush understory. Cross a small creek just past an old gate, and wind up the slope. You can see through the trees the scar of a recent (2017) clearcut.

Cross another creek on a single plank at a couple of large cottonwoods. You’ll arrive at the site of the Corser homestead, where you’ll pass by one of the biggest, most ancient English hollies you’ve ever encounter. Close by is a thicket of another invasive, English laurel. Hike back into the conifers above the East Fork Duncan Creek. A pretty slide falls, part of the Nellie Corser Cascades, splashes below. At a junction, make a right on spur trail that reaches the East Fork at another pretty cascade. Just downstream from here, you’ll reach the remains of a water intake facility that serviced the homestead via a waterwheel in the creek. Steel steps, a mounting platform, and a bent pipe remain. In this vicinity, you can make a ford at low water to join the rough trail that heads up the East Fork on its west side past many more waterfalls (See the Duncan Creek Hike).

Return to the junction, and head down the creek above a moss-cloaked ravine. You’ll get views of more plunges and drops in the Nellie Corser Cascades. Then the East Fork splits at Duncan Creek Falls, with the west cascade funneled through a narrow defile and the east cascade tumbling down past a sloping rock face. Reach another junction in the trail. Keeping right will take you down to a 0.6 acre parcel of private land at a campsite and the confluence of Duncan Creek’s East and West Forks. A NO TRSPAS warning is painted on a boulder at the road access to this campsite. If you want to avoid this private acreage, keep left at the junction, and follow the path out to Duncan Creek Road.

You’ll arrive at the Duncan Creek Trailhead. From here, hike 0.2 miles up the gravel access road to the Nellie Corser Trailhead, passing by impressive Douglas-firs and a monster big-leaf maple.


Regulations, facilities, etc

  • Discover Pass required

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook

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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