Hiking the Salmonberry River Trail | Oregon

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

The 167-foot Big Baldwin Trestle Bridge over Baldwin Creek about 2.5 miles into the hike.

While my friends, Hannah and Emily, were visiting me in Portland, we visited the downtown Pearl District, explored Mississippi Avenue, and decided to hike the Upper Salmonberry River Trail. It’s not even a technical “trail” per say. It’s a set of 16-miles-long abandoned railway tracks in the gorgeous Tillamook State Forest that’s characterized by lush foliage, wood trestles, and a feeling of remoteness and like you’re somewhere you’re not really supposed to be. Today, the hike has Indiana-Jones-esque dark, damp, and dank tunnels, and bridges with rotten boards hundreds of feet above the ground.

In 2007, a two-day-long storm pummeled the area with intense winds and pouring rain and eroded the ground, damaged tunnels and bridges, and thus rendered the tracks impassable. Due to increasing costs, the railroad decided not to make the necessary repairs, and the rails have been unused and utterly abandoned ever since.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

“These are scary places. You’re walking on railroad ties, so if it’s rained, it can be slippery. There’s no cell phone reception. I think it’s completely doable and safe, but just so people understand: The footing is weird. You’re going to have to walk along railroad that doesn’t have anything underneath it. This is not something that was designed for you to walk on it, and no one’s out there taking care of it, making sure it’s nice and safe for everyone.”

Paul Gerald | author of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland

Since the tracks along the Salmonberry River Trail aren’t maintained, plants and and trees are sprouting up between the ties and encroaching the tracks and, within a couple of years, it is very likely that all the growth will render this place completely inaccessible.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

We had read about the hike online and we were ready for a real honest-to-goodness adventure. How could we not take advantage of venturing out on this abandoned railroad? So, early one morning, we laced up our shoes, loaded into the car, and decided to find our way to this incredible hike.

After about an hour in the car, things got challenging and I can honestly say that we would not have been able to locate the trailhead without these directions – especially since we didn’t have any cell reception. We drove down tiny, unmarked, and winding dirt roads until this happened:

“What if another car was coming from the other direction … there isn’t any room to pass.”

“Let’s just be glad we are the only ones on this road.”

(5 minutes later…)

(Huge, gargantuan, elephantine, massive logging truck appears driving toward us.)

(Did I mention how gigantic it was?)

“It’s not stopping!”

Thankfully, it did stop. And Hannah did spectacularly driving backwards all the way until it was wide enough to let it pass, but still. Apparently this whole area could be closed at any time for logging so, go figure and be prepared for anything.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Against all odds, we found the trailhead. It was unmarked and there was one other car pulled off against the side of the road so we parked, and began our adventure.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

There’s actually a bit of a path when you’re starting out, but that path doesn’t last long so don’t be fooled by the apparently easy walking – the trail vanishes. I promise.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Best hiking buddies.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

If you aren’t trying to walk on the tracks any chance you get, then you aren’t doing it right.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

The trail disappeared into oblivion just like that and we found ourselves walking on the tracks, through mud, over rocks, and through the plants that had swallowed up the path.

(Note: We were worried about poisonous plants. Even though we can identify poison oak and poison ivy, there was so much foliage, that there was no way to avoid it. Thankfully, I can report back that, after the hike, all three of us were happily itch-free.)

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

My hiking backpack – Fjallraven Kanken in Fog

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Salmonberry River Hike 0880

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

About a mile into the hike, we came across the first tunnel.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

To whoever left this sign here, you are an awesome human being.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Walking into this tunnel was one of the most surreal moments of my life. You know the feeling when you’re at Disneyland and you go on a dark ride that transports you to a different world so much that you feel like a completely different person? This felt exactly the same way, only we had to keep reminding ourselves that it was completely real. This wasn’t some fake and formulated place to simulate the feeling of adventure. This was the real deal. This was legit.

(Note: I’d recommend bringing a flashlight or using the one on your phone. The footing can be tricky without a bit of light.)

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

There is light at the end of the tunnel!

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Not too far after coming out of the tunnel, we were able to cross some of the smaller bridges.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Larabars are the perfect hiking snack.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

The old water tanks signal that the Big Baldwin Trestle Bridge is right ahead.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

About 2.5 miles into the hike, we arrived at the Big Baldwin Bridge. This 105-year-old trestle was built in 1911 and stands at 167 feet high, and 520 feet long. Rotten boards and significant signs of aging turned a simple walk into an adventure with just the right amount of mystery and danger. I loved every second.

The boards closest to the edge are the most rotten so we stayed as close to the tracks as we could as we made our way across. With Baldwin Creek below us and a stunning view of the mountains and trees ahead, crossing this trestle bridge was, by far, my favorite part of the Salmonberry River Trail Hike.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Notes from hikers who had braved the way before…

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

We walked about another half mile after the Big Baldwin and turned around after about a three miles to make our way back for a total hike of six miles.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

As we walked back to our car and left the Salmonberry River Trail behind us, it was a strange feeling of knowing that we would probably never be back to this Best Hike of Our Lives and, if we ever did make it back, the places that we had just tread might be completely impassable next time. If you are in the Portland area, and are in the mood for a true adventure, go on this remarkable hike while you still can. It might not be around for too many more years to come.

Salmonberry River Trail Hike

For more info on the Salmonberry River Trail Hike,
check out Roots Rated and Paul Gerald

Keep Reading...

  • I love the photos, I love hiking, I love LARA bars. Perfect post to read this morning. 🙂

  • What an interesting hike! I love all of your photos.

  • Your photos of the hike are beautiful and really show how gorgeous and old and rickety the bridges are! It looks like you and your hiking buddies had a great time and I’m glad to hear that you are all itch-free!

  • SO COOL! Your photos make me want to take family pics there with my little guy!

  • Looks like a beautiful hike, the Northwest offers so much beauty to discover, I love it most of the time, except the weather!1

    Valerie

  • Jen

    This is so cool!! And so stinking beautiful.

  • It looks like it was a perfect day to hike! I love going out when it’s overcast and foggy… Adds a fun adventurous feel to the outing. And I really want to visit this trail now!! Oregon, here I come!

  • These photos are so thrilling! It makes me want to go on an adventure! You must have had a great time! 😀

  • Wow your pictures are amazing! Looks like a wonderful trip!
    XOXO,
    LA
    http://www.small-townla.com

  • I haven’t hiked this trail yet, but I’m definitely adding it to my list. It looks absolutely gorgeous!

  • Wow this is an adventure that should be on TV . Your photos are absolutely amazing

  • Wow what a magical place! Loved the photos.

  • What a great hike! There are some abandoned railways and rail bridges here, too. Love the troll sign!

  • I adore your pictures in this post! What a wonderful, fun trail to go on! Great post!

  • Your pictures are amazing! I especially love the shots with the trees and brush growing up through the abandoned tracks. This looks like a fantastic hike through a place that many use to travel. I wish I didn’t live on the other side of the country. Oregon is on my list of places to visit for sure!

  • Well that’s terrifying! 😉

    I would bust my butt for sure! But it does look really cool!

    I definitely need to try Larabars.

  • This is so cool! What a fun adventure. This absolutely needs to go on our family bucket list!

  • Y’all look so cute! And I love the pic of the rails disappearing into the woods… so mysterious!

  • BEAUTIFUL! I want to go-I love these photos and I LOVE Oregon.

  • Hi Cassandra,

    This place looks like out of a movie! Amazing photos and experience, thank you for sharing!

    Zaria

  • Tamara

    I dream of going back to Oregon soon, there is just so much more I want to do and more places to explore.

  • whoa! I had to make sure the tracks we’re abandoned so I could continue on! I am so scared of trains and train tracks! hahah! But really, this is an incredible hike and I would love to do it!

    • Haha! Yes – it was abandoned. People used to hike there before the tracks were destroyed though. They’d just move aside when trains came – I don’t think I’d be that daring! It’s a fantastically fun hike and if you ever find yourself in Oregon wanting to do a hike that’s off the beaten track, I couldn’t recommend this one highly enough. 🙂

  • This is so incredibly adventurous and awesome!! I loved all your photos! So wonderful that you got to experience this trek with your wonderful friends! Keep on hiking!

    • Thank you! And yes! Let’s always keep hiking! 🙂

  • That looks like an amazing adventure! I’ve never heard of anything like this before.

    • It certainly was unique! Thanks for stopping by, Emily!

  • Goodness, girl! You found so many adventures to go on that I never even heard of while I lived in Portland! It makes me so jealous! <3

    • If you ever go back, you should hunt this hike down. I found it completely by accident, otherwise I never would have heard of it either.

  • Haha omg this sounds so awesome (and so dangerous…?) So glad that logging truck let you back up! Also, a place with no cell reception sounds freeing! (Also scary. But mostly freeing!)

    • It is freeing for sure! It helps you to truly unplug. And yes! the little bit of danger made the hike so much more incredible. Thanks for stopping by, Julie! It’s lovely to meet you.

  • Wow, this hike sounds awesome! Your pictures are spectacular as well! Abandoned tracks have a certain feeling of wanderlust, don’t you think? Love this post!

  • What a gorgeous place for exploration (and great time with friends)! So glad you guys didn’t get run over!!