hike: Step Creek Loop

Located in Oregon’s Coast Range, the Step Creek Loop is an easy hike that’s great for a cloudy or rainy day.

distance: 5.5 miles (roundtrip)
elevation: 600 ft. gain/loss
difficulty: easy
best season: fall, winter, spring
drive time from Portland: 1 hour
parking pass: none needed
hike description: OregonHikers – Step Creek Loop

The Hike

This loop hike begins at the North Gales Creek trailhead, located near the town of Timber just south of Highway 26 at a large parking lot just past Reehers Camp. Several trails are accessed via this trailhead, including the Step Creek Trail, the Triple C Loop, and the Gales Creek Trail, which heads south for 10 miles to the South Gales Creek Trail located off Highway 6. This trail is open to horses, hikers, and mountain bikers.

To reach the Step Creek Trail section, follow the North Gales Creek Trail for one mile. From the trailhead, the trail descends on an old road bed, then turns and travels next to the Nehalem River for a short distance before reaching Cochran Road.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

At the road, turn left and cross the river on a bridge, then return to the trail on the other side at a sign for the Gales Creek Trail. Across the road is another short loop, the Triple C Trail, but for this hike, continue on the Gales Creek Trail.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

The trail picks up on the other side of the bridge near a logging gate and a former clearcut.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hikeOregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

On this day, we saw many different types of mushrooms next to the trail.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

Tillamook State Forest trails have the best bridges… every creek crossing on this hike is via a large bridge like this one.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

I wasn’t expecting to see much fall color in the Coast Range, but the forest here is filled with lots of vine maples in the understory that turn shades of yellow and orange in the fall.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

The trail crosses over the old Tillamook Bay Railroad, now completely overgrown. This railroad used to travel through the Coast Range to Tillamook before storms in 2007 heavily damaged the route.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

Cross a small road bed and continue on the trail a short distance to the right.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

At one mile in, reach the start of the Step Creek Trail. The loop portion of this hike begins in another 0.25 miles.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

When the trail splits for the loop, we took the trail to the right.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

We were surprised to see so many mushrooms completely wrapped around the base of this old snag.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

The Coast Range forest has a quiet beauty that I find soothing on a cloudy day.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

Parts of the hike feel like a tunnel as you pass under vine maples arched over the trail.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

Red alders and sword ferns lining this straight section of trail just before the end of the loop section.

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike

Big Leaf Maple leaf (and me).

Oregon Coast Range – Step Creek Loop hike