Alsea River Back Country Byway

April 11, 2014 (Updated April 14, 2014)

It’s the trails less traveled that I like to explore, and at the southern end of the Willamette Valley there is a dandy marked by spring wildflowers, gorgeous forested scenery and a spectacular waterfall whose prime time is passing along the Alsea River Backcountry Byway.

At long last, winter has given way to a sun-filled spring. How can you miss on a day like this, when the gray-shaded drizzle that blankets the land or the buckets of drenching wet that fall from above are gone and give way to a clear view to wildlife along a less traveled byway.


Right now, the geese pass by in waves, moving north to their Alaska nesting grounds from William Finley Refuge near Corvallis. Often seen high overhead, the flocks are also closer to ground here where they fill the refuge’s pastures, dining on lush green grass. Let this be just the start of a day-long adventure that leads you toward new territory near the small burg of Alpine, Oregon.

Be prepared to spend some time and savor a trail that threads through the heart of the coast range mountains to reach the South Fork Alsea River. It is a roadway so significant that the Bureau of Land Management designated 11 miles of it a National Back Country BywayThe river is often by your side and you will slow down to enjoy it for the narrow winding asphalt gives you little choice. On a gorgeous sunlit day, the small feeder creeks run full across lush moss as wildflowers like trillium and fairy slipper orchids reach their full bloom.

Soon, it’s time to trade in the truck for two legs at the Alsea Falls Recreation Area, which offers nearly 8 miles of hiking trails. One of the special qualities of the Alsea Falls Recreation Area that I appreciate are the hiking trails galore – including one that skirts the South Fork of the Alsea River –were you can fully appreciate what makes this place is so special. Alsea Falls does so in a 125-foot stretch, roaring across ancient basalt rock in a foamy moment that is worth a pause before you move along.

You’re apt to find me along this river on a day when sunbeams light up the scene and wildflowers wave you along as the river rolls on to its magical, ageless song; the Alsea River Backcountry Byway is not to be missed.

A couple things to remember: while the BLM opens the Alsea Falls Recreation Area picnic area and campgrounds in mid-May, the hiking trails are open anytime. The South Fork Alsea River Backcountry Byway is open year round.

About The

Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.