This secret hike in Oregon's Tillamook State Forest will take you deep into uncharted territory to explore the remains of the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad tracks.
The History of Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad
The Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad (POTB) runs through the Tillamook State Forest on a 101-mile long track stretching from Hillsboro and Tillamook.
The tracks were originally built by Pacific Railway and Navigation Company between 1906 and 1911. After a storm damaged the tracks in 1990, POTB bought the tracks and invested in repairs.
A number of storms continued to riddle the tracks with issues before the Great Coastal Gale, a set of three strong pacific storms in December 2007, gave the final blow. Boulders the size of cars were reported to have clogged the tunnels and washed out the bridges from the flooding of Salmonberry river.
After the damage estimates revealed the economics of fixing the railroad to be insufficient, the tracks were abandoned and left for nature to reclaim.
There are a few official hiking trails that followed the routes of the tracks and used the trestles as bridges in the post-2007 time when the railroad was abandoned. These hikes have since been marked as closed but are what remain to access the sites of the Wolf Creek Trestle and Salmonberry Trail.
How to Get to the Trailhead
It takes just over an hour to reach the trailhead for Wolf Creek Trestle from Portland, Oregon. The route ends with several miles of forest service roads that go deep into the Tillamook State Forest.
Only 2WD is needed to access the trailhead but there is only one specific route you can access from.
The most accessible route is pictured below, taking Route 26 to NW Timber Road and then getting on NW Cochran Rd which will turn to gravel before you arrive to the trailhead.
Taking any of the forest service and logging roads that come off of Route 26 is not advisable and I can confirm your car will not be able to get to the trailhead from any of the forest service and logging roads that are off of Route 6. (Shout-out to Google Maps for sending me off a mountain trying this suggested route.)
Once you're close to approaching the Wolf Creek Trestle Hike location on your GPS you may see some funny signs people put up directing people to 'Crazy Train'. I can only imagine these signs were referring to the abandoned railroad hike.
Near these signs there are plenty of pull over or pull in parking spots that you can park and then stroll a hundred yards over to the trailhead. This area see vert few in terms of crowds so parking will never be an issue.
Hiking Route #1
The first route is a short 1.5 mile hike out to one of the old railroad bridges. This I've referred to as the Salmonberry Trail. To start this route, look at the ground to tie your shoe, or turn to your friend as you walk directly pass the signs at the trailhead saying you probably shouldn't be here or something along those lines.
This first trail is completely safe and it is up to your personal discretion whether or not you want to risk walking on the old railroad bridge when you get to it.
The trail follows a dirt path for a hundred yards before jumping over to the abandoned tracks with a narrow path between the trees and ferns that have started to reclaim their territory.
After a half-mile of this walk along the picturesque railroad boards you'll wind the bend and arrive at the bridge. It's nearly impossible to continue on the tracks further at this point because of downed trees and thick vegetation.
The second hiking route is a 6-mile round trip so instead of forcing your way through the Oregon jungle as if you're Indiana Jones, just head back to the trailhead and continue straight.
Hiking Route #2
This second route is located as well on the Salmonberry Trail that you were just on. When hiking back, walk past the signs that you passed coming in, across the gravel road, and follow the trail next to the railroad tracks.
This path goes three miles out to some incredible features of the railroad including bridges, tunnels, and the grand Wolf Creek Trestle.
Taking the trail back you'll spend a mix of time walking along the tracks and to the side of the tracks depending on how the overgrowth is. The trail is well defined so there is no need to worry about losing the trail or getting lost.
There are also no intersections and the trail follows the tracks the entire time.
About two miles in you'll reach an old railroad tunnel - no headlamp is required but I enjoyed having one to explore with. Check out my recommendations in my 9 Day Hiking Essentials post.
The tunnel looks like the monster worm from SpongeBob or something similar lives in there but I can confirm it's safe - well safe in the sense that nothing was living in there.
The tunnel bends through the mountain making the middle section pretty much black but it's a short tunnel of about 150 yards and no obstructions on the tracks so you'll be to the otherside in no time.
When you reach the end of the tunnel you'll see it's partially blocked by a landslide on the outside and you can easily walk around the edge of the pile and continue your hike onwards.
This next section is complete with about three miniature rail bridges and lots of mud. The mud isn't crazy but I was also visiting in the draught month of September so keep in mind this fact before you wear your new Jordan's into the woods...if anyone actually does that to begin with.
Soon you'll be at the grand finale of the hike, the Wolf Creek Trestle which is a massive railroad trestle constructed of iron and wood that towers over 200 feet above the creek below.
I would exercise extreme caution if venturing onto this structure that hasn't been maintained in almost fifteen years and is a main reason why this hike is closed. The trestle also has an old water or fuel storage before walking on which is cool to check out.
Believe it or not, this trail is still listed on AllTrails and you can download the map to use on your hike or for exact location of trailhead to use for driving directions.
Wolf Creek Trestle via Salmonberry Trail:
Distance: 5.7 Miles
Type: Out & Back
Ascent: 702 feet
*The ascent listed by AllTrails is more than the actual ascent. This hike is almost entirely level due to the fact you are walking on old railroad tracks.
Camping in the Area
This area is located within Tillamook State Forest and being a state forest, state forest camping rules are in effect.
Specific camp rules are posted at the trailheads of state forest trails but essentially no fee nor permit are required for dispersed camping on state forest land.
Campsites must be a certain distance from roads, water sources, and trails and adhere to regulations like campfires and stay limits (14 day max of a continuous trip and I think 42 days total per year)
There were several campsites located at the trailhead and along the hike.
More information about camping on Oregon's state forest land can be found here.
Getting There and Important Information
The most important thing about this hike if you go is that you should stay under the radar as much as possible. It's not likely somebody is going deep into Tillamook Forest to check on this trail unless you give them a reason to.
This trail is closed for reasons of being unmaintained - increased caution and a higher level of discretion should be used for decision making where anything feels sketchy.
This trail is only suitable for explorers and experienced hikers who are comfortable in the backcountry. No cell service so a GPS would be smart to bring.
Hope you can find this article helpful in your explorations!
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