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Section 36-Powder House Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Starry solomon-plume (Smilacina stellata), Section 36 Loop (bobcat)
Maple woods, Section 36 Loop (bobcat)
Oregon flag (Iris tenax), Section 36 Loop (bobcat)
View to the Soap Creek valley, Powder House Trail (bobcat)
George W. Brown Sports Arena near Cronemiller Lake (bobcat)
The loop traced in red (from the McDonald State Forest brochure map) (bobcat)
  • Start point: Forestry Club Cabin TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Cap House
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 4.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 880 feet
  • High Point: 1,285 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No



Oregon State University's McDonald State Forest is to the City of Corvallis as Forest Park is to Portland. Both the southern section of the forest and the northern section (Peavy Arboretum area) contain many short trails and forest roads which can be cobbled together to form worthwhile outings. This is a research forest, so you will see plantings and study areas in addition to some pockets of majestic old-growth Douglas-firs. The rain shadow (relatively speaking - this is the east side of the Coast Range) ecosystem here is conducive to a mixed woodland where grand fir and Pacific madrone are significant components. The loop described here is also a great spring hike as forest wildflowers bloom in sunny clearings and can be combined with the Peavy Arboretum Loop Hike for a decent excursion. The Peavy Arboretum area trails are hiker-only trails.

Walk past an orange gate and up gravel Road 500. Pass Road 510 going up to the left and keep rising in Douglas-fir/big-leaf maple woods. The road crosses a small stream and reaches the Forestry Club Cabin. This is the actual trailhead for the loop. Turn in on the trail, cross a footbridge over the stream and come to a junction. Here, go left and then pass the junction for a short tie trail which leads down to the Forest Discovery Trail. Be careful about the vegetation you choose to be intimate with - poison oak abounds throughout this hike. The path here is graveled, as it is intermittently throughout. In spring irises (Oregon flag) bloom in sunny spots. Drop and then rise, and then drop again in maple, Douglas-fir, sword fern and hazel forest. Come to a junction with a trail heading down to the left for the 514 Road. Rise again to the junction with the CFIRP (College of Forestry Integrated Research Project) Trail, which heads down to the left (and joins the Forest Discovery Trail). Hike past a series of 1928 ponderosa plantings, the first being pines from the Lassen National Forest. The seedlings here came from 10 different locations in the western United States, the purpose of the study being to see which grew best in this environment. After the study area, note some large spreading old growth Douglas-firs, which flourished here when these slopes were the maintained meadow burns of the local Kalapuyans. The first of these gnarly giants has an impressive right arm. At a trail junction, keep left and pass more big Douglas-firs. The trail switchbacks twice in dense Douglas-fir forest and keeps heading up in open, older woods. Wind to the top of a hill on a gravel trail, and then drop to the Section 36-Powder House Trail South Junction.

Here, go left on the 0.9 mile Powder House Trail and descend to a road (Road 500). Cross the road and keep descending to Road 580. Cross this road, and then Road 582 and enter a clearcut fringed with small oak trees. The trail now rises through the clearcut. There are views past remnant Douglas-firs to the Soap Creek Valley below. Wind up past a grove of Pacific madrones and head back into shady woods. The trail drops down to Road 560 and crosses it at a small shed, the Cap House, built by the CCC in 1937 to store blasting caps. Descend in younger, mossy woods and switchback twice to cross a creek amongst old Douglas-firs and yews. Reach a junction, make a left and head down.

You're back on the Section 36 Loop Trail again. Cross a footbridge over a creek under big Douglas-firs. The trail continues to descend under shady maples and Douglas-firs. Then the path levels and loops down to the left in lovely green forest with more large Douglas-firs with some grand firs. The trail splits: going left leads to a railing with an overlook on the OSU “sports arena” for the logging team. This rejoins the main trail. Down at Cronemiller Lake, go left to the road to pass the sports arena and a picnic area on the other side of the lake. Newts and bluegill float lazily in the pond: the dam here was constructed by the CCC as a reservoir for the original forestry nursery at Peavy Arboretum. Return to the trail, which heads along the shady shore of Cronemiller Lake. Cross a road junction (Roads 500 and 540) to resume the wide trail down to the Forestry Club Cabin under shady big-leaf maples (Check out the "big wheel" at the cabin), and then head back down Road 500 to parking.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • Information kiosk
  • Picnic tables
  • The McDonald State Forest is a research area: stay on the trails
  • Forest roads in active use on week days


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Megan McMorris
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Corvallis Trails by Margie C. Powell
  • A Guide to Trails in the Corvallis Area by Phillip R. Hays

More Links

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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.

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