This 12 ½ mile loop, all on roads that were uninhabited by any vehicle (although I assume there is some dirt bike/4WD traffic on weekends), took me meandering around the headwaters bowl of the North Fork Kilchis River, stopping at two major objectives: Triangulation Point and 100-foot Kilchis Falls.
I parked where a rubbly track known as “Middle Road’’ takes off precipitously from the Kilchis River Forest Road. Higher up, there are stretches of this road that are quite benign, but the lower section, with some protruding outcroppings of bedrock, displayed some casualties. There were few views through the alders, but I did get a glimpse of Sawtooth Ridge and then the two peaks of Triangulation Point, about 2,500 feet above my starting point. At a saddle, I passed a memorial to two brothers, both born in the 1940s, who died within 12 days of each other in 2018.
From a junction I took a road marked FB3 in the middle of a downpour and then hiked up another narrow brushy road to reach the saddle between North and South Triangulation Points. The track up the higher north peak is blocked by a closed gate with a warning sign about harmful radio waves from the array up there. I hiked up to the summit of the south point, which offered 360 degree views under the dark low clouds and steep slopes of blooming iris, paintbrush, penstemon, arnica, and lupine. The ocean seemed not so far away to the west. To the north I could make out the gnarly summits of Neahkahnie Mountain, Angora Peak, Onion Peak, and Sugarloaf Mountain. Just to the south, Cedar Butte rose above the new clearcuts below the sources of the North Fork Kilchis. On this cloudy day, I could only imagine Mt. Hood on the skyline to the east (my PeakFinder app told me I should also be able to make out the tippy-tops of Jefferson and the Three Sisters).
The longer side of the loop took me steeply down a rubbly track to join Cedar Butte Road which more or less follows the ridge between the North Fork Kilchis to the west and the North Fork West Fork Wilson River and Cedar Creek to the east. This was another rugged ridge, but wildflowers were blooming among the rocks as I got my second rain shower of the day. Eventually I ended up at the saddle just northeast of Cedar Butte above the new clearcuts.
From here it was approximately 4 ½ miles down to the car on the Kilchis River Forest Road, descending first through the clearcuts, which were not being worked that day. A lone log loader was parked by the road, which has been improved to accommodate the logging operation. Separate stacks of alder and Douglas-fir awaited transportation. This would be the first cut in this area since the Tillamook Burn (I counted 65 rings on one fir), but now the entire headwaters bowl has been clearcut except for thin lines of trees left down the watercourses. It was two miles of sharp switchbacks down and out of the clearcut to stop at Kilchis Falls, which splashes 100 feet down a cliff face, its spring flow rather anemic compared perhaps to the winter months (and there may be nothing at all in the summer).
The road became more gradually inclined as it continued above the North Fork, at first looking like just another alder-shaded Coast Range stream but then assuming the prettier aspect of the lower Kilchis, with potholed defiles and clear rock-lined pools. To complete a driving loop (I had come in from Tillamook), I drove back up the way I’d walked and then past Cedar Butte down to Highway 6, actually a shorter, but much windier, narrower, and more elevated route.
Note: Google Maps does not show the Kilchis River Forest Road as even existing between Middle Road and Kilchis Falls although it does have all the other nastier roads I walked.
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