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Rabbit Hole Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Vine maple arch on the Rabbit Hole Trail, Silver Falls State Park (bobcat)
Avenue of hemlocks, Howard Creek Loop (bobcat)
Smith Creek winding through a swamp, Howard Creek Trail (bobcat)
Big Douglas-firs on the Newt Loop (bobcat)
The loop described here (bobcat) Courtesy: Gaia Topo

Contents

Description

In recent years, the Salem Area Trails Alliance, a mountain biker group, and the professional trail building company, Dirt Mechanics, have collaborated to construct a set of trails in the Silver Falls State Park “backcountry” near the southern border of the park. The trails are also open to hikers, and this loop takes you on a beginner biker trail through a skills section to the heavily switchbacked Rabbit Hole Trail, which connects you to the Smith Creek and Howard Creek trails. You’re under the forest canopy the entire time, some of it impressive old growth, so this route is a good rainy day choice, shorter than the Smith Creek Loop Hike. You have less chance of running into bikers in the wet season.

Cross Lookout Mountain Road, and switchback down in a Douglas-fir/hemlock woodland with an understory of sword fern and vine maple. At the junction with the Newt Loop (and signed for the Catamount Trail), turn right to pass through a horse gate and reach a kiosk with a map of the biker trails in the area.

Bear right here to follow the south section of the Newt Loop, a flat beginner’s trail. Large snags attest to a burn over a century ago. You’ll pass a six-foot diameter nurse log and then meet a big old-growth Douglas-fir. The trail enters a thinned, younger forest with bracken in the understory, crosses an old fire road, and reaches the junction with the Catamount Trail, where you’ll stay left. The Newt Loop stays under the canopy to skirt a clearing and recross the fire road and pass above more large Douglas-firs.

When you reach the Rolling Drop Skills Station, turn right and keep right all the junctions to pass a rock drop and then the Rock Up & Over Skills Station. When you come to the fire road, turn left to descend to a gravel plaza, where you can pick up the top end of the Rabbit Hole Trail.

The Rabbit Hole Trail has thirteen numbered switchbacks – keep your ears open and alert for bikers that may be coming behind you. The slope is dominated by maples and alders, resulting in much leaf litter in the fall. Near the bottom, at turn #3, you’ll pass an impressive Douglas-fir and descend along a small creek. When you pass through a horse gate to reach the Smith Creek Trail, take the fire road (second trail on the right) to angle down to cross a paved road and reach the junction with the Howard Creek Trail near the Smith Creek Trailhead, which also serves as parking for the Silver Falls Conference Center.

Turning left on the gravel Howard Creek Trail, you’ll be hiking between Smith Creek on the right and the road to the conference center on the left. With salmonberry thickets on the right, you pass under tall Douglas-fir, hemlock, and grand fir. After passing through a maple/elderberry thicket, you’ll see a sedge bog shaded by alders. Look for great blue herons standing sentinel here. At a small grove of massive Douglas-firs, the trail reaches the paved road, which you’ll hike along for about 60 yards. Then, the trail resumes above a skunk-cabbage swamp and burrows through more salmonberry. Soon, you’ll find yourself next to Howard Creek, just below its confluence with Smith Creek, and you’ll come to the Howard Creek-214 Trail Junction at a footbridge.

Don’t cross the footbridge, but bear left across the paved road to finish the hike on the 214 Trail, which runs 2.8 miles back to the trailhead. The trail follows an old road bed around the base of a slope, with Howard Creek running to the right. You’ll pass the junction with the campground's Nature Trail at a No Horses sign. Then the trail becomes steeper as it rises through the dense salal understory. The path switchbacks to the crest of a ridge and the Smith Creek-214 Trail Junction.

Keeping to the 214 Trail, you’ll continue along the wooded ridge and then swing right to traverse a slope on a level grade. After passing between two big Douglas-firs, the road bed crosses a brook where an overgrown fire road leads right. The 214 becomes more of a trail here, and rises to pass a huge mossy log sprouting red huckleberry bushes to arrive at the 214-Newt Loop Trail Junction. Bear right for the short stint back to the trailhead.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $5 day-use fee or $30 State Parks annual pass (pay at another station in the park)
  • Dogs on leash
  • Restrooms, information at 214 Trailhead
  • Share trails with mountain bikers

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Guidebooks that cover this hike

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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.