Gales Creek – Tillamook State Forest

Sunday’s weather looked so iffy that I abandoned my plans to go hiking in the Indian Heaven Wilderness, and instead headed west to the Tillamook State Forest to hike part of the Gales Creek Trail. This trail is 5.6 miles long between the Gales Creek Campground and Bell Camp Road. If you do the whole thing, it makes for a pretty long day hike, so I just went a few miles up, starting at the campground. (All pictures here.)

The trail travels parallel to Gales Creek, but most of the time the creek is a good ways down the hill below. There are a few spots where you can get down there for a better view of the creek.

Gales Creek

This trail intersects with the Storey Burn Trail. Sullivan mentions a 15-foot waterfall up this trail, so I hiked up there about 20-30 minutes to take a look. It was a little disappointing, though. Barely worthy of the term “waterfall.” Perhaps this is more impressive in the spring.

A "waterfall"

The forest is incredibly lush and green around here. I guess it must get a lot of rain!

Streak of brown

Of course, this area was affected by the famous wildfires here. As a result, there aren’t too many conifers around. It’s mostly alders and big leaf maples, from what I could see. There are quite a lot of ferns, and huge ones too. Quite impressive. There are areas where there a lot of vine maple too, so this could be a really colorful hike in about a month, maybe sooner. I was starting to see just the beginnings of fall color on Sunday, in addition to this vine maple at the Gales Creek Campground that is way ahead of the game.

Color at the creek

It rained several times and drizzled off and on, but the trees kept me mostly dry. This is a pleasant, non-strenuous, family-friendly hike. No grand vistas or anything, but the creek is pleasant. I imagine there’s some wildflowers here in spring and summer too.

Since I was in the neighborhood, I drove up to see University Falls, which I’ve never seen before. This time of year the flow is pretty low, but it’s still pretty. I’d like to come here in the spring. I bet it’s impressive then! (Where bright colors if you go here this time of year; I heard constant gunfire in the area around the trailhead!)

University Falls