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Rail Trail Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Boardwalk section of the Rail Trail (bobcat)
Bullfrog, Rail Trail (bobcat)
View over Kingfisher Marsh from the boardwalk (bobcat)
Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), Forest Trail (bobcat)
Nootka rose (Rosa nutkana), Bashaw Creek, Pintail Boardwalk (bobcat)
The loop hike in Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Rail TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Pintail and Egret Marshes Trailhead
  • Hike Type: Loop and spur
  • Distance: 3.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 10 feet
  • High Point: 195 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year for boardwalk; other trails closed 10/1 - 4/1
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No



The Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge south of Salem was created to provide winter habitat for waterfowl, especially dusky Canada geese. The landscape consists of open fields, wetlands, and riparian woodland. During this time, only two short boardwalks are open for walking and wildlife observation. After April 1st, however, trails along dikes and through dense woodland give public access. It is recommended that you hike the boardwalk and then, between April and October, double back along the dike trail to do the boardwalk again before completing the loop. An optional spur on a shorter boardwalk overlooking open marshes is also described.

The Rail Trail leads past a colorful sign into woods of cottonwood, big-leaf maple, ash and willow. A grassy expanse appears on the left. The trail turns right into an ash/cottonwood swale. The boardwalk begins after the junction with the dike trail, which is closed October through April. The boardwalk can be quite slippery after a rain. A gazebo-shaped blind appears on the right overlooking the marshes and Wood Duck Pond. The boardwalk continues across the swampy area. Look for predatory bullfrogs coming up for air - this area is ground zero for the invasive amphibians. The whole area is resonant with their deep croaking. Muskrats also ply these waters and great blue herons are a common feature. Where the boardwalk reaches the dike, go left if the area is open for hiking (after April 1st).

The dike trail is a mown path that continues eastward for a mile to rejoin the beginning of the boardwalk. There are ponds on the left and a large field on the right. Listen for red-winged blackbirds, marsh wrens, rails, and song sparrows. The ponds, including Dunlin Pond, are bordered by willows. Where the dike trail rejoins the main trail, go left and retrace your steps along the boardwalk. Back at the dike trail, go straight into the woods.

The Forest Trail drops into a swale of ash, maple and oak with thickets of ninebark, rose, blackberry and snowberry. You may have to bend low under foliage which droops to the ground. This section can be very muddy or even under water in the spring. Cross a footbridge and pass through more thickets. Use a second footbridge over a small creek and rise to the dike. Here, go left on a road track. The track curves to the right with a field on the left. Reach the gate at Wintel Road. go out on the road and turn left.

For the optional spur to Pintail and Egret Marshes, go out on the road and turn left. Walk down Wintel Road about 0.1 miles and come to the gravel parking area for the Pintail and Egret Marshes on the north side of the road. A boardwalk heads into a wooded swale along Bashaw Creek. This boardwalk is covered with a chicken wire mesh. It reaches a gazebo with a view over Pintail Marsh. Look for coots and various species of ducks. Return to Wintel Road and head back to the gated track.

Turn into the track and head left along a mowed tread next to the hedgerow that separates it from Wintel Road. There’s an expansive field to the right. In a break in the hedge, there’s a parking pullout. The track reaches the entry road for the Rail Trail. Go right and walk 200 yards back to the parking area.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No pets allowed
  • Boardwalks open all year; other trails closed October 1st to March 31st


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Corvallis Trails by Margie C. Powell
  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger
  • Oregon Hiking by 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.