Popular with mountain bikers, the Gales Creek Trail travels gently up and down the hillsides beside Gales Creek through a coastal rainforest consisting of Douglas fir, red alders, and a thick understory of ferns and oxalis.
The Gales Creek Trail runs for 12.7 miles from the Summit Trailhead (accessed 2.5 miles farther west on Highway 6) to Reehers Camp Trailhead (accessed via Highway 26). This there-and-back hike begins at the Gales Creek Trailhead near the campground entrance and heads north for 3.5 miles before turning around and heading back the same way.
Several landslides and washouts in 2007 forced a rerouting of 3 miles of the central portion of this trail. Trail access was closed for five years to rebuild the trail until it was reopened in 2012.
An important part of Oregon’s history, this area is where the devastating series of Tillamook Burn forest fires began in 1933. The first fire was started in the Gales Creek Canyon during logging operations when a steel cable dragging a fallen tree rubbed against the dry bark of a snag. The snag burst into flame, and the resulting wildfire burned 311,000 acres before it was extinguished by seasonal rains three weeks later. Three additional large forest fires occurred over the next two decades, burning a total of 355,000 acres. A massive reforestation project began in the 1950s and continued to 1972, and many Portland schoolchildren took part in replacing the forest with new saplings.
Long since recovered, the young forest is lush with many shades of green, even in the driest parts of the year. The hillsides are covered with ferns, and devil’s club lines the trail. A junction with the Storey Burn Trail is 0.8 miles from the Gales Creek Trailhead, allowing for a loop hike with the Low Divide Trail that is also accessed from the parking area. The trail passes over several smaller creeks with wooden bridges, and while it is never steep, it does travel in an up and down motion continuously alongside the creek. Hike as far in as you like, then turn around and return the same way.