Wilson River Trail
|A sign of great running to come.|
OK, Trail Fans, time to extricate yourselves from the shoe-sucking muck of Wildwood Trail and head a little further west, to the Wilson River Trail (WRT), a mere 45 minutes west of downtown Portland. This 20-mile gem in the Tillamook State Forest (TSF) roughly parallels the Wilson River and nearby state Highway 6. Road noise is not an issue, however, as much of the trail snakes in and out of remote drainages, rolling along between 1000' and 1500' elevation. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the stable footing and overall quality of this very runnable trail, but its up-and-down nature offers plenty of aerobic challenge. The trail may be run as an out-and-back, starting at numerous trailheads along its length, or as a point-to-point, with a second car shuttle. An easy starting point is Elk Creek Campground, at the WRT's eastern end. Runners who make it to the Lester Creek drainage (about six miles in) will be rewarded with some great views and unexpectedly drier conditions, with steep, rocky slopes populated by madrone and manzanita. From here the trail descends to a crossing of the North Fork Wilson River (about nine miles from Elk Creek), where the bridge over this beautiful tributary makes a nice rest stop before heading back to your starting point.
The WRT continues another 10-or-so miles to its western terminus at Keenig Creek. The entire trail features numerous access points, which make for a great deal of variety in selecting which segments to run. One of these is near the Tillamook Forest Interprepretive Center, where visitors will find exhibits describing the history of the forest.
Steep side trails lead to Kings Mountain, whose summit (3,000') offers expansive views of the surrounding forest, Coast Range, and Cascade peaks. Many additional hiking/running trail options exist nearby. Some recommended resources for exploring them, as well as the WRT, include two great maps: "Mt. Hood & NW Oregon Trail Map," produced by Adventure Maps, Inc., www.adventuremaps.net; and "Tillamook State Forest Map & Guide," www.tillamookforestcenter.org/shop.html. On the web, a nice trail guide for WRT plus other TSF recreation opportunities can be found at www.oregon.gov/ODF/tillamookstateforest/nonmotorizedtrails.shtml.
(First published in Footnotes, April 2011.)