Salmon River near beginning of hike

Not too far from the base of Mount Hood, just about 40 minutes from Portland, lies a lush rainforest that proves to be one of the area’s most endearing hikes.

Located near the town of Welches, the Salmon River hike is a wonderful mix of scenery, lush forest and mixed habitats that keeps hikers “ooh-ing” and “ah-ing” the entire time on the trail.

We headed out one day to enjoy this hike (one of our favorites), which can be as long or as short as you’d like. The trail starts out near roads’ end and follows the serene Salmon River. (Be careful about where you park; what appears to be a parking lot is also right below a cliff. Your car could have some unwelcome rock visitors sitting on the roof when you return!)

Photo: Mossy forest

Mossy forest

That being said, the trail winds along the river itself, with some easily attainable ups and downs, studded with tantalizing peeks down into crystal-clear emerald green pools. Every time I hike along this stretch, the thought always tugs at me that this looks like a lovely place to splash into, especially on the next 100-degree summer day!

The path itself does eventually climb upwards, and soon, you find yourself looking up an entire drainage system of connected canyons and cliffs, with old growth trees reaching heavenward with their giant limbs. The canopy above is so thick that at times, little light penetrates the forest, and ground-ward, many tree trunks are swaddled thick with green moss. There’s one fairly flat trail section that I always positively delight in, with what looks like shamrocks on either side of the path and moss everywhere. It seems as though one has entered some kind of green fairyland and a leprechaun should be poking its head out from one of the toadstools!

Several spectacular vistas lie ahead from this verdant forest. Several points along the way, the trees open up to a scrub forest, complete with breathtaking panoramas and views from trailside disappear down to the river far below. Sure-footedness is something that is definitely required on this trek.

You’ll want to bring a camera, a daypack and some lunch items- there are several lovely places to stop and enjoy the scenery. (But no developed picnic areas- this is roughing it!)

For those more hardy souls heading out on an overnight backpacking trip, several miles into the trail, there are some established camping areas farther down that are virtually riverside and come complete with fire rings and flat, clear tent spaces.

We turned around after several miles, which essentially is doubling the mileage we’ve already trekked. The afternoon light plays different on the trees and water, which makes the trip unique on the return trip.

Special note: since this hike is so close to the main highway corridor near Mount Hood, I saw several people on the trail in tennis shoes. One woman who was impeccably clad in brand-new white sneakers, and was timidly trying to negotiate her way across a small streamlet and subsequent mud puddle. Stepping around, I squelched past her, with nice toasty warm and dry feet in my hiking boots, glad I had prepared a little more for this trek!

For more information on hiking in Oregon, please visit our Outdoor Recreation section.

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