The leaves had just started to fall along the gentle dirt road along the Wilson River on a recent October day, the sweet scent of late summer mingling with the musk of autumn after a a new layer of rain fell on the coastal range.
A classic hike through the Tillamook State Forest, this popular 3.5 mile segment of the Wilson River Trail passes the Jones Creek Campground and Day Use Area, Tillamook Forest Center, Falls Wilson and several riverside recreation areas just off the trail – all making an especially good hike for early fall.
Unlike the less traveled segments of the Wilson River Trail, which lead to distant views of the Coast Ranges and calm forests, this section of the long distance hiking and mountain biking trail is very busy, perhaps. be because of its flatter terrain, its many amenities. and easy accessibility.
The hike takes place between the trailheads of the Jones Creek and Footbridge trails, both located on the side of Oregon 6, the highway that crosses the Coast Range between Hillsboro and Tillamook. The Tillamook Forestry Center is generally a good place to start, although the center and parking lot remain closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will remain so at least until next spring, officials said. Tillamook State Forest.
With plenty of access points and riparian areas, this section of the Wilson River Trail also suffers from a few confusing areas where hikers encounter a series of unmarked side trails. To add to the confusion, a major long term rerouting at Jones Creek Campground can add over an extra mile to the hike, as well as outdated “trail closure” signs in a small, slightly dangerous section. . of the trail (forestry officials said there are currently no trail closures).
A good rule of thumb for hikers is to watch out for all signs that say “Wilson River Trail” or just “trail” and stick to the trails that continue to cut through the woods along the river. Do it and you’ll be treated to a great 7 mile adventure, perfect for a cool fall day.
Those who want a faster adventure can shorten the hike by stopping after one of the two main attractions: Tillamook Forest Center or Wilson Falls.
When open, the Tillamook Forestry Center makes this hike one of the best outings in the area, offering not only hikes, but a full interpretive center and museum as well. The center is normally open from March to November, but has been closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Forestry officials said the forestry center remains closed to the public as it also functions as a state office, but they hope to reopen it by March 2022.
Wilson Falls is far from the most impressive waterfall in the North Coast Range (of which there are many) – even during the rainy season the waterfall at the edge of the trail can be a bit disappointing. Still, it’s a nice attraction and a good ending point for those who want a shorter outing.
Whatever distance you decide to walk, this stretch of the Wilson River Trail makes a great day trip or a pit stop on the Oregon Coast Path. After your hike, return to the Jones Creek day-use area where you will find several picnic tables in a beautiful riverside setting surrounded by fall colors.
Distance: 7.25 miles
Approvals: Washrooms and campground (open May-September) at Jones Creek
This hike is rated “moderate” for some steep hills and distance.
While you can start this hike from the Jones Creek or Footbridge Trailhead, these directions will begin at Jones Creek, located on the north side of Oregon 6 about 29 miles west of US 26. Look for signs that say Jones Creek Campground and turn right onto Jones Creek Road. The Jones Creek day use area parking lot will be on the left just past a small bridge.
Normally this hike would start at the day use area, past the shaded picnic areas and along the edge of the campground to a bridge over Jones Creek itself. However, a major rerouting is currently in place, requiring hikers to travel to the north side of the campground at the intersection of Jones Creek and North Fork Wilson River Roads, to take a trail around the closure.
The easiest way to do this is to simply walk the 0.2 miles to Jones Creek Road from the day use area to the campsite entrance, where you will find the new trail to the side. left of the road. Those at the trail closure itself can back up and walk through the campground to find the trail at the entrance.
From this new trailhead, the Wilson River Trail winds over Jones Creek before returning to the Wilson River on the other side of the closure, where it soon reaches the Tillamook Forestry Center. The interpretive center may be closed, but the bridge over the Wilson River is still open, offering great views upstream and downstream.
Continue west along the trail, where you will begin to see several side trails down to the river. At an unmarked three-lane junction, take the middle path to stay on the Wilson River Trail, which quickly joins and runs along Jones Creek Road. Here you will start to see signs for Wilson Falls, which you can follow to stay on the trail.
The trail makes a short detour from the forest, crosses a clearing under the power lines and crosses a small bridge before plunging back into the trees. Look for the small wooden signs to return to the Wilson River Trail.
Back by the river, a small eroded section of the trail is marked with large orange signs indicating “TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF THE TRAIL”. Forest officials said the trail is actually open – just watch your steps as you cross.
From there the Wilson River Trail begins to climb steeper towards Wilson Falls. At the top of the hill, look for the modest waterfall flowing off a steep cliff on the right side of the trail.
The trail then descends and crosses a pair of short bridges until it reaches a signed three-way junction with the trail that leads to the Footbridge trailhead. The footbridge named after the trail is a nice place to rest, although it will add about half a mile to your trip. Otherwise you can turn around and take the path back to Jones Creek.