Best Day Hikes in Oregon’s North Coast Range

Oregon’s Coast Range is often overlooked by hikers, but the trails here are some of my favorites. I love the massive ferns that fill the forest understory, and the moss and lichens add to the rich green scenery.

hike - Wilson River Trail - Keenig Creek to Jones Creek

BEST SEASONS TO HIKE

The best time to hike here is in the winter and spring, when the trails aren’t overgrown with shrubbery, water levels are higher in rivers and streams, and bright green moss fills the forest. The drive to most of these trailheads is fairly short from Portland and makes a great location for hiking during the shorter days of winter.

HIKE DIFFICULTY RATINGS

  • Easy: Up to 6 miles round trip, and up to 1,000 ft. gain
  • Moderate: Up to 8 miles round trip, with 1,000-2,000 ft. gain
  • Strenuous: Up to 10 miles round trip, with 2,000-3,000 ft. gain
  • Very Strenuous: Up to 12 miles round trip, with 3,000-4,000 ft. gain

Featured Hikes

Drift Creek Falls

Oregon Coast Range – Drift Creek Falls hike

distance: 3 miles (out and back)
elevation gain: 800 ft.
difficulty: easy
best season: spring, winter (for higher water flow)
trip report:
Drift Creek Falls hike

This hike in the Oregon Coast Range features a long suspension bridge over a narrow canyon with a waterfall. And if that wasn’t enough, the forest is filled with cedars and Sitka Spruce trees dripping with lichens.

Elk Creek Trail

Oregon Coast Range – Elk Creek Trail

distance: 8 miles (out and back)
elevation gain: 2,100 ft
difficulty: strenuous
best season: fall, spring
trip report: Elk Creek Trail

The Elk Creek Trail is a quiet, forested route on an old logging road that parallels Elk Creek before ascending a ridge of Elk Mountain.

Gales Creek Trail

Oregon Coast Range: Gales Creek hike

distance: 7 miles (out and back)
elevation gain: 765 ft.
difficulty: moderate
best season: spring, winter
trip report: Gales Creek hike

Popular with mountain bikers, this trail follows Gales Creek through a coastal rainforest of Douglas fir and red alders, with a thick understory of ferns and oxalis. A great option for a quick hike, Gales Creek is less than an hour from Portland and you can hike as far as you have time for and then turn around.

Kings Mountain

Oregon Coast Range – Kings Mountain hike

distance: 5 miles (out and back)
elevation gain: 2,545 ft.
difficulty: very strenuous
best season: spring, winter (depending on snow levels)
trip report: Kings Mountain

This is a strenuous hike – the trail to the summit of Kings Mountain is steep with 2,500 ft of elevation gain in 2.5 miles. At the top are expansive views of Oregon’s Coast Range. Don’t forget to sign the summit register provided by the Mazamas!

Saddle Mountain

Saddle Mountain hike

distance: 5.2 miles (out and back)
elevation gain: 1,900 ft.
difficulty: moderate
best season: early June for wildflowers
trip report: Saddle Mountain hike

Saddle Mountain, located 12 miles east of the Oregon coast, offers panoramic views from the summit stretching from Mount Rainier to Mount Hood to the Columbia River and the Oregon coastline. In June, open meadows are filled with wildflowers, several of which are endemic to this area.

Wilson River Trail

Located in the Oregon Coast Range, the Wilson River Trail runs for about 24 miles with multiple access points from Highway 6. The Keenig Creek trailhead marks the west end of the trail, while the Idiot Creek trailhead currently marks the east end. The Tillamook State Forest is planning to extend the Wilson River Trail to tie in with the trails to the east near Gales Creek, although this will take time to complete.

There are many options for covering the sections of this trail as out and back hikes or as shuttle hikes, with most trailheads located right off the highway. The Idiot Creek trailhead is a longer drive on a rough forest road so I prefer to do that section as an out and back hike.

Wilson River Trail – Keenig to Jones section

hike - Wilson River Trail - Keenig Creek to Jones Creek

distance: 10.5 miles (shuttle hike)
elevation gain: 1,650 ft.
difficulty: strenuous
best season: spring, winter
trip report: Wilson River Trail – Keenig to Jones section

For the shuttle hike, leave one car at the Jones Creek trailhead, then drive to the Keenig Creek trailhead to begin the hike. In early spring, bright green moss covers the trees and rocks, and there are multiple small streams cascading down the trail along the ridge.

Wilson River Trail – Jones Creek to Kings Mountain section

Wilson River Trail hike: Jones Creek to Kings Mountain trailhead

distance: 7.2 miles (shuttle hike)
elevation gain: 1,800 ft.
difficulty: moderate
best season: spring, winter
trip report: Wilson River Trail – Jones Creek to Kings Mountain

This shuttle hike on the Wilson River Trail begins at the Jones Creek trailhead and ends at the Kings Mountain trailhead. Along the way, travel through dense forest filled with moss and ferns. Highlights including Lester Creek Falls and views of the Coast Range mountains. For a shorter out and back hike to Lester Creek Pinnacles, check out this trip report.

Wilson River Trail – Jones Creek to Footbridge section

distance: 7.2 miles (out and back)
elevation gain: 600 ft.
difficulty: moderate
best season: all year
trip report: Wilson River Trail – Jones Creek to Footbridge

This section of the Wilson River Trail between the Jones Creek and the Footbridge trailheads stays closer to the Wilson River than other sections of this trail, with several riverside access points along the way.

Wilson River Trail – Elk Creek to Idiot Creek Road section

Wilson River Trail: Elk Creek to Idiot Creek Road hike

distance: 7.4 miles (out and back)
elevation gain: 1,370 ft.
difficulty: moderate
best season: spring, winter
trip report: Wilson River Trail – Elk Creek to Idiot Creek Road

This section of the Wilson River Trail in Oregon’s Coast Range goes from the Elk Creek trailhead to the Idiot Creek trailhead on an easy tread through coastal forest filled with ferns. A short side trail about 3.5 miles in leads to big views of the Coast Range. A temporary bridge over Elk Creek is in place during the summer, which ironically is the only time it’s not needed to cross the creek.