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North Gales Creek Trail Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Nehalem River in winter near the Cochran Road Bridge (bobcat)
Cedar grove on the Nehalem, Gales Creek Trail (bobcat)
Footbridge on the Gales Creek Trail (bobcat)
Tall Douglas-fir, Gales Creek Trail (bobcat)
North section of the Gales Creek Trail in yellow (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Reehers Camp TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Bell Camp Road Trailhead
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 6.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1465 feet
  • High Point: 2520 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Gales Creek Trail runs for 12.7 miles from the Summit Trailhead at Rogers Pass to the Reehers Camp Trailhead. The trail is most usually done in sections although there is , obviously, the car shuttle option or a long in and out day hike. This northern section is not in the Gales Creek drainage at all, but begins its route along the upper reaches of the Nehalem River before rising steeply to the ridge that divides this from the Gales Creek/Wilson River drainage. This is post-Tillamook Burn secondary forest, mostly Douglas-fir, with logging roads and the Tillamook Railroad track to cross. Its assets are that it can be hiked in all kinds of weather and at all seasons, except perhaps in deep snow, and it is only an hour’s drive from the city. Early or late in the day, you will have a chance to spot the deer, elk, and coyote that ply the same trails as you do.

Hike down an old road bed from the trailhead and then along the course of the Nehalem River shaded by Douglas-fir, red alder, and western red-cedar with an understory of sword fern, Oregon grape, and salmonberry. Don't try to take any of the now decommissioned user trails to the river. Soon enough, the trail rises to the Nehalem River bridge on Cochran Road. The Gales Creek-Triple C Trail Junction is across the road. Cross the bridge and pick up the Gales Creek Trail at a boulder barrier next to a gated logging road to its right. You'll now skirt a fresh clearcut and cross a footbridge over an unnamed creek. The trail rises on a slope of Douglas-fir, Oregon grape, mossy vine maples, and salal. You will see some larger Douglas-firs just before you cross the tracks of the abandoned Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad. Note how there are now 15-foot alders sprouted in the middle of the tracks! Wind up from the railroad line, dip, and then rise to the Gales Creek-Step Creek Trail Junction, where you go left.

Keep right here and take an undulating trail into dense forest, switchbacking up and then winding along a bench to cross a logging road. Head up through a thinned stand of Douglas-fir and hemlock and pass an alder bottom before traversing up a gentle slope to the Gales Creek Trail-Round Top Road Junction.

Cross Round Top Road and keep rising in Douglas-fir/western hemlock woods with an Oregon grape, sword fern, salal carpet. Pass over an old road bed and, hiking now on a steeper grade, make three switchbacks up this north-facing slope. After the third switchback, which is near a clearcut, start looking through the trees to your left for glimpses of Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Adams. The trail drops a little, rises, and then switchbacks again. Wind up on a gentler slope above a bench before crossing an abandoned logging road and traversing up a steep rise. Switchback and make a long traverse above a gushing spring shaded by vine maples. Reach a road and cross it. It’s a short distance through a salal carpet to Bell Camp Road and the Bell Camp Road Trailhead.

It’s mostly downhill from here to the Gales Creek Campground; the route is described in the Gales Creek Hike.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Share trail with mountain bikers and horses

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails by Kim McCarrel

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.

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.