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South Breitenbush Gorge Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

This page is marked as a Closed Hike. Some or all of this hike has been closed by a governing body and hikers may be liable for fines or even arrest. At least part of this route may be dangerous and hard to follow, or it may cross areas with sensitive plant life or wildlife habitat. Trailkeepers of Oregon does not endorse or recommend hiking this route. When restrictions are lifted, this notice will be removed.
South Fork Breitenbush River (bobcat)
Footbridge over the North Fork Breitenbush River (bobcat)
Pinedrops (Pterospora andromedea), South Breitenbush Gorge Trail (bobcat)
Big Douglas-fir, South Breitenbush Gorge Trail (bobcat)
The South Breitenbush Gorge National Recreation Trail marked in red (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Breitenbush Guard Station TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Roaring Creek
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 740 feet
  • High Point: 2,650 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Mid-spring into late fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No



NOTICE: Trails in this area were affected by the 2020 Lionsgate Fire. Please check current closures in the Willamette National Forest before planning an outing.

The South Breitenbush Gorge Trail #3366 is a National Recreation Trail that runs through shady old-growth along the South Fork Breitenbush River. The cool gorge itself, reached by a steep, narrow scramble trail, is a secluded spot where only the roar of the constricted river permeates the atmosphere. To do this as an in and out, you can begin the hike near the site of the old Breitenbush Guard Station, just above the Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center. A car shuttle or hike-bike option (traverse hike) is also possible by leaving a second vehicle at the Roaring Creek Trailhead.

The parking area is the site of the old Breitenbush Guard Station, which burned to the ground in the year 2000. Walk down the road about 100 yards and come to a closed gate marking the boundary with the private inholding of the Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center. Go left here on the trail. A boardwalk angles through a cool bottomland, and then the trail makes two short switchbacks up. Then drop, switchbacking once, to a funky set of footbridges over the alder-shaded North Fork Breitenbush River. (These bridges, maintained by the retreat, replace other iterations destroyed by the river.) The trail passes by a grove of old cedar trees and the wide South Fork Breitenbush River courses along to the right. Hike up in a foothill forest of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western red-cedar to a junction with a tie trail leading out 90 yards to the South Breitenbush Gorge Trailhead on FR 4685.

Soon the trail drops in a woodland of old-growth Douglas-firs. Cross an old road bed and reach the South Breitenbush Gorge-Emerald Forest Trail Junction: the Emerald Forest Trail heads down to cross the river on a footbridge and then switchbacks up to Devils Ridge. Keep straight in the old growth, passing some boggy springs near the trail and getting a view of the Devils Ridge from a sunny clearing created by numerous fallen giants. The trail drops and a spur leads steeply down to the right to a view of the 300-foot-long South Breitenbush Gorge. You can continue steeply down, hooking left under some blowdown to a dark, narrow cleft where the river rushes among mossy boulders in deep woods. Back at the main trail, continue below a spring and make another detour to the right to another viewpoint over the river. Right after this, the trail reaches Roaring Creek, a good turnaround point and a haven for dippers darting about in the cool spray. (The footbridge here was dismantled in 2017, but you can still cross the creek by rock hopping.)

If you are doing this as a shuttle, you can hike past the creek and take a tie trail up to the Roaring Creek Trailhead. To extend the hike, it's another three and a half miles up the South Fork Breitenbush to the South Breitenbush Trailhead.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Do not venture on to private property


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Hiking Trails (Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center)
  • Green Trails Maps: Breitenbush, OR #525
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Detroit Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Willamette National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Willamette Cascades
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Adventure Maps: Mount Jefferson, Bull of the Woods & Opal Creek Wilderness Trail Map

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region by Matt Reeder
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Oregon's Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide by Chandra LeGue
  • Hiking Oregon's Central Cascades by Bruce Grubbs
  • Hiking Oregon's Three Sisters Country by Bruce Grubbs
  • Oregon: The Creaky Knees Guide by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Best Old-growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon Cascades by John & Diane Cissel
  • 50 Old-Growth Hikes in the Willamette National Forest by John & Diane Cissel (map)
  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger
  • 100 Hikes in Central Oregon Cascades by William L. Sullivan
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • 60 Hiking Trails: Central Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Megan McMorris
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

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.