Discover hidden trails, waterfalls and vistas
We know you’ve done Silver Falls State Park and Opal Creek, but the Salem, Oregon, area also has some hidden gem hikes that are front-page worthy if you’re willing to get there.
1. Phantom Natural Bridge
The Phantom Natural Bridge is appropriately named, as you may have fun trying to find it above Detroit Lake in the Willamette National Forest. Only open during the summer and fall, this 4.6-mile, out-and-back trail has a lot to offer.
Starting at the French Creek Ridge Trailhead, enjoy wildflowers and rock formations on your way to see Phantom Natural Bridge, a 50-foot natural rock arch that frames the forest below.
2. Rich Guadagno Memorial Trail Loop
This easy, one-mile loop is a great family hike. Open year-round, the trail will take you to the top of Baskett Butte in the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge.
As you hike up through white oak groves and enjoy the surrounding views, you have a great chance of spotting a bald eagle or great horned owl. No, dogs are not allowed on this hike, but this means you’ll have a better opportunity to observe the resident deer and other wildlife.
3. Shellburg and Stassel Falls
It’s hard to write an Oregon hiking list without including at least one waterfall hike. This hike is that, times three. Hike a little more than a mile along Shellburg Road in the Santiam State Forest to see Upper and Lower Shellburg Falls, where you can walk behind Upper Falls. These waterfalls rival those at Silver Falls State Park, minus the crowds.
Hike the entire 4.1-mile loop to also see Stassel Falls. This harder-to-find waterfall pours into a 200-foot deep gorge just up the road.
4. Triangulation Peak & Boca Cave
Still closed from last year’s forest fire in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, we’re eagerly awaiting the reopening of the Triangulation Peak and Boca Cave Trail. Although you can’t currently hike the trail, this is definitely one to add to your must-do list.
Located just south of the Breitenbush area, the beginning of the 5-mile, out-and-back trail is aptly marked. A former fire lookout site awaits at the summit after traversing along the ridge. An unmaintained path will lead you just below the lookout to Boca Cave. Mount Jefferson, which seems within arm’s reach, is perfectly framed by the cave’s mouth.
5. Tumble Lake & Dome Rock
There are two routes to reach the goal on this trek. The Tumble Creek Trail takes off from Highway 22 just two miles west of Detroit, Oregon. This route can be as far as 11 miles starting at the south trailhead.
The north trailhead, which is accessible via forest roads, is just 2.8 miles to the summit of Dome Rock and 3.2 miles downhill to Tumble Lake. The trail is best navigated in the summer months, as snow can cover the trail during other times of the year.
This adventure provides panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains. You also have the chance to stand at the top of the rumored 300-foot Tumble Falls at the east end of the lake. While a view of the waterfall itself is nearly impossible, the view of Detroit Lake is spectacular from the crest.
6. Valley of the Giants
Deep in the coast range beyond Falls City, Oregon, discover 51 acres of some of the largest and oldest trees in the state. These 250-foot giant Douglas firs and hemlocks are protected by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as an Outstanding Natural Area. Some of the largest trees are between 400 and 450 years old.
The shaded hike is only 1.6 miles, but allow ample time to navigate the unmarked logging roads leading to the trailhead. Explore the remains of the old logging town, Valsetz, Oregon, on the way.
Before heading out, you must call the BLM Salem office to make sure the road leading to the trailhead is open. The road is privately owned and can be closed at any time.
Know before you go:
- Check the weather and road conditions before you go. Snow can linger through June in some areas.
- Check with the appropriate officials to make sure trails and roads are open. For hikes near Detroit, you can reach the Detroit Ranger Station at 503-854-3366.
- Parking at some of the trailheads can get crowded in the summer months, carpooling is recommended. You may need a U.S. Forest Service parking permit.
- A wilderness self-issue permit is required for some areas of Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. Permits are free and available at all wilderness trailheads.
- Cell phone and internet service is limited in the area.
- Leave No Trace techniques are encouraged in wilderness areas.