Long weekends call for long hikes! At least, for me they do. Considering we saw NO other hikers on our 8 mile trek at Gales Creek on Memorial Day, I can only assume most people chose to eat and drink all day instead. Their loss! We loved having the forest to ourselves.
What we did: Storey Burn Trail starting from Gales Creek Campground
Length: About 8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate. Mostly flat after the first mile
What to wear:
- Long pants
- Quality hiking boots
What we packed:
- Trail Map
How long: About 5 hours
Gales Creek Campground is located about an hour from Portland.
Fun Fact: I was born in Gales Creek. In a cabin.
How to Get to Gales Creek Campground
We parked in the Day Use parking area of the Gales Creek Campground, before the bridge. There are two trailheads that lead to a LOT of different trails from this point. We took the trail to the right of the map, closest to the bridge.
Pro tip: Take a picture of the trail map! There are SO many trails here, it's easy to get confused. We did. But more on that later.
Gales Creek Trail
The first mile or two of this trail at Gales Creek is slightly uphill. On the plus side, the trail is mostly shaded by the forest, so even though it was a warm day, we weren't struggling in the heat. The trail starts out near the creek but quickly climbs up and away from the water. Eventually the hill becomes more gradual and then levels off as you go deeper into the forest.
Later on, there are several adorable footbridges crossing over small creeks, which is great for my #footbridgefetish. The creeks seemed to already have less water, but probably flow more earlier in the spring. I was hoping for more creek access on the trail, but was not disappointed -- the forest was gorgeous enough.
Enjoying the Trail on Our Own
In our 5 or so hours on the trail, we saw hardly anyone. The trail is open to mountain bikers and horses. We did see a couple of mountain bikers, it seemed to be a popular trail for them. But I wanted to see horses!
Pro Tip: Did you know that hikers AND bikers are supposed to yield to horses? Here's a handy little sign you'll find posted along the trail:
Sharing the Trails of Tillamook National Forest
There are a couple of places where the hike to at Gales Creek crosses paths with a motorbike trail. Use caution here...You can hear them coming for sure, but they can't hear you.
Speaking of noises... The first half of the trail seems to be within earshot of some kind of firing range. No bullets came crashing through the trees, luckily. But I have read of other hikers hearing shooting from this trail, and we did too. It's not TOTALLY the worst, but not being a fan of guns, I was slightly annoyed.
Planning Ahead for a Hike at Gales Creek
For the most part, we followed signs for Storey Burn Trail, taking left-hand turns at the intersections. After about 5 miles we didn't see signs for Storey Burn anymore, so we followed the picture we had taken of the map.
Eventually we came to a large gravel storage area near the highway (which we had crossed under earlier). We were on the opposite side of the highway from where we'd started.
After much debate, some aimless wandering, and a bathroom break (thank goodness), we decided our only option was to dart across Highway 6 to another trailhead. I do NOT recommend these kinds of shenanigans for your own hike. There is no crosswalk, and its dangerous. However, that trailhead (Summit Trailhead) led us back to Gales Creek Trail, and back to our starting point. I think we could have avoided this, but we'd come too far to turn around, and we knew we were close to the campground, so we kept going.
I recommend studying the trail maps carefully and plotting your hike ahead of time. Even though we got a little turned around, we actually stuck to our 8 mile goal just fine. If you don't want to hike 8 miles, there are tons of other options for shorter hikes at Gales Creek.
And the views are fantastic!
The forest is SO lush at Gales Creek that there isn't much of an option for pulling over and having a picnic. So we sat in the middle of the trail. No one was around so it was fine!
Also what is UP with these giant leaves!? It seemed like we were in Jurassic Park. So cool!
If You Love Thick Lush Forests, the Gales Creek Hike is for You!
We had some odd encounters and directional challenges, but we had a great time with some old friends. I think we'll be back -- I hear there is a waterfall in the area, and you know I can't resist a waterfall!
What is your favorite hike in the Tillamook National Forest? Leave your recommendation in the comments section!