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Oak Creek Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Heading down the Extendo Trail (bobcat)
Oak Creek, Homestead Trail (bobcat)
Pacific madrone, Road 6020 (bobcat)
Old Douglas-fir, Extendo Trail (bobcat)
The double loop from the Oak Creek Biology Lab (not a GPS track; not all forest roads shown on the topo) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
Poison Oak



Oregon State University's McDonald State Forest is a checkerboard of research plantings, timber plantations, and areas of the mixed natural forest native to the east side Coast Range foothills, some of it replacing the seasonal meadow burning practices of the native Kalapuyans. Signs will warn of the invasive nature of false-brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), a Eurasian/North African grass that, unlike native species, flourishes under a forest canopy. This hike cobbles together three foot/bike trails with forest roads that are little used on weekends. In addition to false-brome, another invasive, Armenian blackberry, is common here, but the native woodland along Oak Creek and the slopes above it includes the full range of conifers and deciduous trees you'd expect in this province: some old growth Douglas-firs, western red-cedar, grand fir, Pacific yew, tall straggling Pacific madrones, red alder, big-leaf maple, and Oregon white oak. Note that the trails are hiker-only from November 1st to April 15th; thus, while this is a good low-elevation winter hike, you can also catch the early spring and forest wildflowers before the trail restrictions are lifted in mid-April.

The short graveled Homestead Trail, half a mile long, begins from the parking area near the Oak Creek Biology Lab, where some of the original buildings were erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1940s. Walk downhill under Douglas-firs and cross Oak Creek on a footbridge. Moss-covered maples and blackberry thickets dominate. The trail bends right and heads up Oak Creek below a hillside of Douglas-fir and grand fir carpeted with sword fern and invasive false-brome grass. Oak Creek runs to the right through blackberry thickets, salmonberry, Indian plum, and moss-draped big-leaf maples and alders with a few cedars and oaks. At a junction, keep right on the wider vehicle track. At the next junction, stay right and head down, recross Oak Creek and then rise gently again. Pass through an open area planted with incense cedars and lodgepole pines. At a couple of points along the trail, you can see the gauges and monitoring devices of researchers. Coming to the junction with Road 6020, go left.

Road 6020 heads up with alder-shaded Oak Creek down to the right. Pass the Extendo Trail-Road 6020 Junction 75 yards later and keep to the road, passing through Douglas-fir and grand fir woods with a few drooping Pacific yew. Higher above Oak Creek, spot the bright orange trunk of large madrones on the opposite hillside. At a junction, keep on the main track (right) and loop over a fork of the creek vegetated with mossy alders, yews, and maples. At a landslide area, the road becomes a trail briefly and then descends to cross a creek and comes to the beginning of the Uproute Trail. This gravel trail enters a grove of young Douglas-firs and then makes several short switchbacks up. The Uproute is closed to bikes from October 31st to April 15th although some users obviously don’t heed the signs. Under more mature Douglas-fir and grand fir, the Uproute Trail heads along to a ridgetop with some large old growth Douglas-firs. Cross another fork of Oak Creek and come to the Uproute-Extendo Trail Junction. An unauthorized use trail leads up to the left, but to complete the loop, go right on the Extendo Trail.

Drop down the ridge, passing more big Douglas-firs, a couple six feet across. There are also grand fir, vine maples, sword fern and the usual carpet of false-brome. The trail wanders up to and down from the ridge crest, dropping into a gully with a few Pacific madrones, and then back up to the ridge. At a junction, go right and head down, switchbacking under Douglas-firs, grand firs, oaks, and maples. Descend to a grassy oak flat and cross a footbridge over Oak Creek to arrive at the Extendo Trail-Road 6020 Junction. Go left here, passing the junction with Road 6021 in 75 yards, crossing over Oak Creek, and in another 60 yards reaching the junction with Road 600. Make a right on 600. Keep straight at the junction with Road 670 and pass a weir and small fish ladder on Oak Creek. Near the parking area, pass around an orange gate and then a boot and bike wash, placed here to encourage you to divest your soles and tires of false-brome seeds.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Information kiosk at trailhead
  • Port-a-potty
  • Dogs on leash
  • Boot cleaning stall
  • Trails closed to bikes and horses November 1st to April 15th
  • Active research area: stay on the trails


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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.