Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

Old Salmon River Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

TKO put tools to trail here.png
On the Lower Salmon River (Tom Kloster)
Posing at a massive Douglas-fir on the Old Salmon River Trail (bobcat)
The Salmon River running clear near the trail (bobcat)
Hall's isopyrum (Enemion hallii), Old Salmon River Trail (bobcat)
Ancient forest along the Lower Salmon River (Tom Kloster)



During the height of the post-World War II logging heyday, the Salmon River Road was built along the lower river, bypassing several miles of the old trail that once provided sole access to the upper canyon of the Salmon River. Somehow, the old section of trail paralleling the new road survived the logging era, along with some of the best old growth forests within easy reach of Portland. The trail has since been rediscovered, and once again maintained by the Forest Service for hikers looking for an easy, streamside ramble. This easy trail is usually open all year, and is ideal for beginning hikers, kids and hikers with somewhat limited mobility. The grades are always easy, stairways climb the few hills and rustic bridges cross the string of tiny streams along the way. The Salmon River is a constant companion, and the traffic on the Salmon River Road is light enough that you'll forget that it parallels the trail.

Because of the proximity to the road, there are five separate access points that serve as trailheads (see the map below). Any of these can be a starting point for your hike, and on busy weekends might be good alternatives if the first parking area is crowded. Since the hike is an up-and-back, you can start anywhere, and simply retrace your steps to complete your hike. It also makes for an excellent shuttle hike if you've got a couple cars. For the purpose of describing the access points and trail, the five parking areas are designated here as areas A-E, although you will not find those designations on the ground or in Forest Service information. If you use the alternative trailheads, simply take a good look at the spot where the trailhead spur connects to the main trail, so that you don't miss it on your return!

Starting at the main, signed Old Salmon River Trailhead, designated as "Trailhead A" on the map below, the trail quickly descends into deep forest, makes a switchback at an interpretive sign, and soon traverses above a quiet stretch of the Salmon River, crossing a string of log bridges over tiny, mostly seasonal streams. At 0.4 miles, pass the unmarked junction with the spur to "Trailhead B" and an especially attractive pool in the river that makes for good summertime swimming. The trail soon reaches a stairway, and passes the first grove of enormous old-growth cedar and Douglas fir. The size of the trees is astonishing. At 0.8 miles, pass the spur to "Trailhead C" and continue along the river, crossing more footbridges and ancient stands of cedars. The trail pulls further away from the road for the next half mile, following pretty stretches of river and "Trailhead D" at 1.2 miles. A narrow channel of the river separates you from a forested island, and you can admire a couple of huge Douglas-firs right next to the trail. Then the trail curves back and meets the road at the 1.4 mile mark and "Trailhead E" at a steeply sloping rock face. This is a good turnaround point if you're hiking with small children and want an easy 2.4 mile round-trip.

If you decide to continue farther, walk along the edge of the paved road for 220 yards where it borders the river. Alder and maple line the opposite river bank. Look for the trail to duck back into the trees beyond this narrow section. Make a traverse along a steep bank, cross two footbridges, and then negotiate a rocky draw. Pass under some huge Douglas-firs, and soon see a large campsite. A spur leads right to a bedrock bench on the river shaded by a contorted big-leaf maple. Hike under more large Douglas-firs and cedars, and look across to a creek entering the Salmon from the west. Now, there are many spurs leading left into the Green Canyon Campground and right to the river. The campground is a fine place to camp on hot summer weekends, and provides access to both the Old Salmon River Hike and the more demanding hike up Green Canyon Way. There are also toilets and water here. Look across the river to see conifers festooned with great looping chains of Methuselah's beard.

Past the campground, the trail reaches the road again. Walk along the road for about 200 yards, and then head back into the forest between the road and the river. The trail soon curves up to the main trailhead for the popular Salmon River Trail, marked as the Salmon River West Trailhead, at the 2.5 mile mark. This is the turnaround point for the hike, or the end of the hike if you're doing a one-way shuttle. There's a beautiful beach in the shade of big cedars just downstream from the Salmon River West Trailhead and also a large bridge over the Salmon River at the main trailhead that kids will want to visit.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Old Salmon River Trail #742A (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Government Camp, OR #461
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Bull of the Woods Wilderness, Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood Wilderness
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area

Regulations, Facilities, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required
  • Port-a-potties at some trailheads; information kiosk, interpretive signs

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guide books that cover this hike

  • Oregon & Washington: 50 Hikes With Kids by Wendy Gorton
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Best Hikes with Children: Western & Central Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • Oregon's Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide by Chandra LeGue
  • Day Hiking Mount Hood: A Year-Round Guide by Eli Boschetto
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 100 Hikes: Northwest Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips and Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Best Hikes Near Portland, Oregon by Fred Barstad
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Oregon Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Hiking Mount Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
  • Oregon: The Creaky Knees Guide by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Hikes & Walks on Mt. Hood by Sonia Buist & Emily Keller
  • Hiking Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hike America: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Best Old-growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon Cascades by John & Diane Cissel
  • A Hiking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links

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.