(TIP: Great and lightly populated river access)
I hiked the 3.4 mile North Oxbow Loop this past weekend, and it was a nice last minute escape from Portland late in the afternoon on Sunday for my girlfriend and I. We were intending on hiking the Oxbow Loop but now that I am writing this, I realized we did a completely different hike. No complaints however, it was an adventure in itself (due to construction and light signage).
Accessing the trailhead is just a 20 - 25 minute drive from Northwest on I-84. You take exit 18 which is the same exit most people take when they plan on floating the Sandy River on hot Summer days. You make the first left towards Oxbow Regional Park and follow that road, keeping straight through all the junctions, for about 4 miles before turning right onto SE Hurlbert Road and then taking another right onto Gordon Creek Road.
Continue for another half mile before you turn right onto a gravel road that has a dead-end sign almost immediately after the turn. This road is easily missed, and is just before Gordon Creek Road starts descending (right after the bend). At the end of this road you will find the trailhead (Oxbow Bluff Trailhead). We noticed that there were only three other cars parked beside us which is unheard of in the Gorge and Sandy River areas.
Please advise, sections of the North Oxbow Loop are technically closed past the access points to the river and not signed well because of construction.
From the start of the trail we descended for about ¾ of a mile until we got to river level. Here you can access the Sandy for some river action away from the masses just off the I-84 exit. We saw maybe a total of 12 to 15 people along the whole 3.4 mile loop. We followed the fire lane past the beaches and it was a nice stroll in the woods (comparable to Leif Erickson).
You will eventually reach the end of the fire lane where you will get a decent view of the Sandy River and maybe a few people floating the river. Once you soak up all the views, you will take an unsigned trail that veers left a few hundred feet before this viewpoint.
Heading left (Northeast) at the trail junction, you will be on the Gordon Creek Road trail which gains around 200-250 ft of elevation. This path will take you back up to the road that you took the right turn onto the gravel road from (Gordon Creek). Along this trail there is a decent amount of overgrowth because it is rarely used and a large amount of stinging nettle so take caution. You will spend about 0.75-1 mi on this trail before reaching the trailhead located at a pullout off of Gordon Creek Road.
You can either go the out and back route and head back the way you came, which will total to about 5.4mi round trip or you can do what we did and hike up the road, which gains another 100 ft for about 0.8 miles.
Along the hike there are a few muddy and sandy sections so if your there mainly to hangout on the river, it might be best to bring running shoes if your looking to couple this loop with water activities.
I hope you found this post helpful in this hot Summer weather,
This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
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