backpack: Salmon River Canyon in the spring
On this three day backpacking trip, the forecast called for rain, so we took a few tarps and waterproof gear and setup a basecamp at Goat Creek. It ended up raining less than expected and we were able to explore a bit of the area around us.
- distance & elevation gain to Goat Creek camp: 5.5 miles, 1,200 ft. gain
- day hike options: continue on the Salmon River Trail or hike up to Kinzel Lake or Devils Peak lookout
- best months: May-June, September-October
- location: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness; nearest town: Welches
- land management: Mount Hood National Forest: Zigzag Ranger Station
- trail conditions: Salmon River Trail #742
- hike description: OregonHikers.org
- permits: self-issued at wilderness checkpoint (about 2 miles in on the trail)
- trailhead pass: NW Forest Pass required
Day 1 – hike in
5.5 miles with 1,200 ft. gain
We started at the Salmon River West trailhead and it rained for most of our hike in, stopping for awhile before starting up again after we setup camp. The first couple of miles are pretty easy, then the trail gets steeper as it heads up to the first canyon viewpoint. After that, there are a lot of downed trees. To get from the trailhead to my tent, there were 45 trees to go over or under.
I had hiked here in January when the water levels were high in all of the creeks, making crossings a bit challenging. On this trip, some of them were dry, but there were still a few that got my feet wet attempting to cross on rocks.
Woodland wildflowers are prime in early May. In the first couple of miles, there were plenty of fawn lilies and a few checkered lilies. This year, there were more fairy slippers (Calypso Bulbosa) than I’ve ever seen before. And at higher elevations, there were a couple of patches of red paintbrush.
When we reached camp, I setup my tent just in time for it to start raining again. We brought several tarps so we could sit out of the rain and cook meals together.
3.75 miles with 445 ft. gain
It was cold on the first night, about 36 degrees so I wasn’t in any hurry to get up. However, it didn’t rain at all on our second day so we were able to explore a bit. One of my friends had to hike out a day early so we walked her back to another viewpoint area we had passed on the hike in.
After a leisurely lunch at the viewpoint, our group split up and I spent the rest of the day taking photos with my fellow photographer friend. We crawled around on the ground taking photos of flowers, then hiked past our camp another couple of miles to Kinzel Creek before going back to camp.
Back at camp, our friends managed to start a campfire using wet wood and we had one last dinner together. I’ve been testing recipes for an upcoming backpacking cookbook that I’m working on.
It was much warmer on our last night, only down to 42 degrees this time.
Day 3 – hike out to trailhead
5.5 miles with 1,200 ft. loss
In the morning, it started raining before it got light out and continued until about 9 am. We waited it out, then got up to have breakfast and pack up for the hike out.
When we returned to the canyon viewpoint, we met two young women who told us about a bear everyone saw the day before… it was on a ridge between the viewpoint and our camp area. I would have liked to have seen it, but I’m sure I slept better not knowing about it until I was leaving. : )