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Northrup Creek Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to Saddle Mountain, Cow Ridge, Northrup Creek Loop (bobcat)
Big stump, Cow Creek, Northrup Creek Loop (bobcat)
Lobster fungus (Hypomyces lactifluorum), Cow Ridge, Northrup Creek Loop (bobcat)
Honey fungus (Armillaria mellea), Cow Ridge, Northrup Creek Loop (bobcat)
Northrup Creek, Northrup Creek Loop (bobcat)
General route of the Northrup Creek Loop (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Northrup Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Northrup Creek Ford
  • Trail log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 8.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1725 feet
  • High Point: 1,220 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Northrup Creek trail system was inaugurated in 2005 and links new trails fashioned by the doughty volunteers of Oregon Equestrian Trails with current and former logging roads. While some of the system passes through clearcuts, there are two sections which make this a worthy hiking loop even though it was designed primarily for horses. One is a slope of lush, mature Douglas-fir/hemlock forest that navigates the east ridge of Cow Creek; the other is a two-mile section along Northrup Creek between the Foster Mainline Road and the trailhead. Here, you’ll encounter large mossy maples, groves of Sitka spruce, and the Northrup Creek Cedar. The description for the entire loop takes you clockwise from the Northrup Creek Trailhead; however, a ford at Northrup Creek, which can sometimes be treacherously deep, is required after 4 ½ miles. You can also do the two-mile hike down Northrup Creek to the Foster Mainline and then return. In addition, there’s the 0.9 mile hiker-only Northrup Creek Big Tree Loop Hike to explore if you have the time.

Note that the Northrup Creek Road is gated below the campgrounds from December 1st to May 15th. To access the trail system during those months, you will need to begin at the Northrup Creek Winter Trailhead. If you do this, begin hiking clockwise to reach the Northrup Creek Ford: if the ford is too deep, you can return and hike an in and out the other way; also possible is a hike to the Northrup Creek Big Tree Trailhead, and then hike back along the Big Tree Trail and then the road.

Find the trailhead kiosk at the back of the large gravel parking area. Go right and follow the trail as it circles around the edge of the parking area with Northrup Creek meandering under a canopy of alders to your left. Reach the entrance road, and walk left over the road bridge to resume the trail as it skirts the group picnic area near the Northrup Creek Big Tree Trailhead to reach Northrup Creek Road at a junction. Walk to your right to pick up the trail on the other side of the road and enter a dense, dark Douglas-fir plantation.

Keep left at a junction with a trail issuing from the horse camp, head up an old road bed, and then veer right on a horse/foot trail. Switchback twice and drop to cross a shallow alder-shaded draw. Make a traverse and take a winding course before rising up a sword fern-carpeted slope to what may have been a skid line. Enter a clearcut and continue walking up the open slope with an occasional Douglas-fir left standing. From now on, you’ll be seeing a lot of deer and elk sign as these animals also make use of the trails. Reach a logging road and go right to the junction with graveled Bovine Mainline Road. Take a right here and walk down about 40 yards to another spur road (All of these junctions are marked by horseshoe symbols). Go left on the spur about 120 yards; at the next junction, make a right and drop down the slope, still in the clearcut, on a grassy track. After 120 yards, you’ll see the trail peeling off to the left. Pass young hemlocks sprouting trailside before you make two switchbacks down. The trail enters alder/Douglas-fir forest on a tread that becomes muddy in the wet season and crosses a footbridge. Note the burn snags in the woods here. Pass through a thicket of salmonberry, and cross a wide horse bridge in a mixed forest of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, western red-cedar, red alder, and big-leaf maple. The wide track begins to descend the valley of Cow Creek and soon drops to cross the Cow Creek Bridge.

On the other side of this substantial bridge, you’re greeted by a massive, salal-topped stump, a reminder of the huge conifers that once loomed over these bottomlands. The road track continues on the level and passes the Mile 2 marker under mature Douglas-firs. Then, the trail swings right off the road bed and rises through a lovely woodland carpeted with oxalis and sword fern in an understory of vine maple and clumps of devil’s club. The trail loops right and then left: in the fall, mushrooms infected with the lobster fungus are erupting on the forest floor in this area. Join an abandoned logging road, and gradually ascend above an eastern tributary of Cow Creek. Cross a bridge over a gully and continue hiking along a wide track. At a former culvert, the trail turns left and follows an abandoned road in an area of burn snags and large stumps. Descend to an alder grove, and walk up along the edge of a clearcut to come within ten yards of a logging road before ducking back into the woods to parallel the road before reaching it again at its junction with Cow Ridge Road. Go left on the level road (Don’t go sharp left uphill) through the junction to resume the trail on an old road bed. Drop to reach Cow Ridge Road again, cross it, and pass through a boulder barrier to descend into a large clearcut area with a few standing Douglas-firs. Below you is the valley of Northrup Creek, and you can see the profile of Saddle Mountain on the western horizon; Crawford Ridge runs in a southwesterly direction across Northrup Creek and east of that is the Nehalem River valley. Descend through the clearcut and enter brushy plantations along its edge. The trial plunges rather steeply here until it comes to the valley floor, where it crosses Northrup Creek Road at the Northrup Creek Winter Trailhead.

The trail resumes in a maple/alder bottomland and follows Northrup Creek downstream to a ford. This is a real ford even at low water and the rocks on the stream bed are slippery, so always bring watershoes and a pole or staff to keep your balance. The water is a little shallower a couple of yards downstream, but most of the year the water is knee-deep and sometimes thigh-deep (See Tips for Crossing Streams). After completing the Northrup Creek Ford, pass the edge of a meadow under alders and then see the post for Mile 5 in a grove of big-leaf maples. The trail heads up the slope of Crawford Ridge, sometimes steeply, under well-spaced Douglas-firs in a carpet of sword fern and thimbleberry. Traverse the hillside and then drop to a logging landing. Hike along this road for 0.6 miles and rise past a gravel dump to a road junction. Keep right here and continue for about 0.3 miles to the junction with the Foster Mainline Road. Make a right turn here, and then, after 40 yards, a left on another logging road. After 75 yards, you’ll see the trail leading left into dense Douglas-fir woods.

Wind down in this dark plantation and switchback at a huge fire-scarred stump. Switchback two more times and cross two footbridges over running creeks in an alder bottomland. Drop into another dense plantation and hike along Northrup Creek, passing a large, hollow maple and a grove of good-sized Sitka spruce. Reach a massive mossy maple behemoth and descend to cross a small creek. Turn away from the creek at a large hemlock: note the impressive 12 – 16-foot cedar stumps in these woods. Drop to meandering Northrup Creek again and see a tall grand fir across the creek (See the Northrup Creek Big Tree Loop Hike). Wind up and then drop under arching maple bowers to cross a creek and arrive at the Northrup Creek Cedar, another big tree – this one perforated with rows of sapsucker holes.

The trail rises up another slope, traversing below and then over a forested ridge in an understory of vine maple. Wind down into a forest of red alder and Douglas-fir, cross a gravel road, and then meander around to the back of the large parking area at the Northrup Creek Trailhead.


Fees, Facilities, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • Restrooms, picnic tables, campgrounds, interpretive trails

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 50 Hikes in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests by the Sierra Club, Oregon Chapter
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain

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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