Sunday, November 26, 2017

Surprises on the Wilson River

The day after my long drive to Cedar Creek Grist Mill and Lewis River Falls, I was itching for a good fall color hike.  The prior day's trip had been a lot of driving with very little hiking.  And, although the grist mill and waterfalls were pretty, their autumn colors were past peak.

Tired of spending time in the car, I really wanted something close to home.  And I wasn't keen on driving all the way across Portland again.  Where to go?

The mighty Wilson River

It came to me in a flash - the Coast Range!  There was a huge network of trails along the Wilson River.  Only 40 miles west of home with no city driving whatsoever.  And....on this last weekend in October, I'd heard the autumn colors might be close to peak.

Lovely place for a picnic!

The Wilson River Trails weren't new to me.  I'd hiked a segment back in 2013 with my dog Bear.  Although the forests were nice, I didn't recall them being off-the-charts gorgeous.  Besides hiking, I remembered the area had lots of "other" uses (off road vehicle trails, fishing, even target shooting-but thankfully not near the hiking trails).  These multi-use recreation areas are not usually my first choice for hiking destinations, which is probably why I'd never returned. 

Fallen leaves along the shore

Today I decided to give the area a second chance.  So westward ho I went!  Based on my prior experience, I had very low expectations for the Wilson River Trails.  I was merely hoping to get in a good walk, take a few photos, and if I happened to spot some fall color, so much the better!

Colorful reflections

The morning started out cloudy.  Passing through scattered fog banks on my drive, I hoped the skies wouldn't drop any moisture.  But minutes before I arrived at my destination, the fog lifted, and bright sunshine greeted me as I pulled into the Jones Creek Trailhead.

The best view was on the bridge

A short access road crossed the Wilson River on the way to the trailhead.  From the bridge, I got my first glimpse of trees lining this river, and boy were they colorful!  I made a mental note to walk back over with my camera.

Backlit leaf

With most of the Oregon side of the Gorge closed for hiking, I expected to see lots of people on the rest of the trails.  Imagine my surprise when I pulled into the Jones Creek Trailhead at 11:00 on a Saturday morning and was only the third car!

Another gorgeous view

Immediately, I headed down to the river's bank.  Several user trails threaded through the thick forest, passing scattered picnic sites (which were surprisingly empty on this beautiful fall day).  My first view of the mighty Wilson River was a great one.  Sunshine illuminated the yellow and orange trees lining its banks, and gave the river's water a brilliant blue hue.  The light was perfect, and the autumn colors appeared to be at peak.

Lots of golden trees overhanging in the river

Needless to say, my hike was delayed a bit as I wandered along the river's bank, capturing all of this incredible beauty.  The fall colors were so bright, vivid, and plentiful, I felt as if I'd hit the photography jackpot.

Colorful forest

After at least an hour of capturing the forest around Jones Creek Trailhead, I decided if I was going to get in a hike, I'd better get moving.  So I headed west, following the well-graded path paralleling the Wilson River.  The scenery was so spectacular, it was hard not to stop and take photo every other step.

Bright leaves

About a half mile from where I'd parked, a huge suspension bridge spanned the Wilson River.  This bridge led visitors to the Tillamook Forest Center.  Oregon's coast range has a long history of logging and destructive wildfires.  This visitor center strives to educate the public about reforestation, forest management, and wildfire prevention. 

Footbridge to Tillamook Forest Center

Although I did walk up on the bridge to take in some river views from on high, I wasn't planning to explore the visitor center.  Today's goal was to hike and photograph nature.

Impressive bridge!

Beyond the bridge, my path twisted through dense second-growth woods.  Logged extensively, Oregon's coast range is far from pristine.  On far side of the river I caught occasional glimpses of State Hwy 6 and heard traffic noises.  At one point the trail paralleled a gravel road and two dirt bikes flew by. 

Bridge span view between the trees

For the most part, the Wilson River Trail  had been fairly level.  But about two miles in, it began to climb.  Traversing the side of a steep cliff, the trail led away from the river. 

Colorful hills

I kept seeing signs for Wilson Falls.  I vaguely remembered a small waterfall last time I'd hiked the trail, but couldn't remember exactly where it was.  After what seemed to be an eternity, I finally came upon a small rushing stream crossing the trail.  Was this all there was?  Then I thought to look up.

The forest was a delight to walk though

High above me, a delicate sheet of water fanned out over a rock cliff, tumbling into a channel that then ran across the trail below.  I didn't remember this waterfall being so lovely, but it was!

Here's a short video I shot while walking through the forest, just to give you an idea of the Oregon Coast Range's dense foliage.

Nice river view

My day's destination was the Footbridge Trailhead, 3.5 miles from where I'd parked.  Nearing this area, the trail dropped down off the ridge, crossing several small streams on sturdy bridges.  Last time I'd hiked here these crossings had been only single logs spanning the water.  I remembered this because my dog had fallen off one of those logs.  Thankfully he wasn't hurt, but it made me realize his hiking days were coming to an end.

Wilson Falls

Although now quite hungry and thirsty, I held out until I finally came upon the large riverbend that signaled the Footbridge Trailhead.  Although I hadn't seen many people on the trail, quite a few folks were hanging around the riverbank here.

Bottom of Wilson Falls

It was a gorgeous place to sit, have a snack, and enjoy this perfect autumn day.

River Bend at Footbridge Trailhead

I even shot a short video to show all you how nice it was here!

My return trip was much quicker.  By mid afternoon, the sun's angle was no longer highlighting the colorful foliage, so photo stops were few and far between.  I was thankful I'd taken the time at the very beginning of my hike to capture these stunning fall colors.

Fantastic day!

The day was a rousing success!  I covered seven miles, and my broken toe (now nearly healed) did wonderfully.  Not only did I hit the Wilson River at full autumn peak, the weather cooperated with sunshine and amazing light. 

It's always nice when a hiking destination exceeds your expectations.   On this day, the Wilson River was full of surprises.  Lucky for me, they were the good kind.


  1. Uma caminhada que deu fotografias fantásticas desta natureza maravilhosa.
    Uma boa semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
    O prazer dos livros

  2. ...a colorful trip, on a broken toes no less.

  3. Wonderful captures, Linda.
    Great post!

  4. Hello, it does look like a pretty day for a hike. The river scenes, waterfall and colorful trees are all lovely. Your photos are gorgeous. I am glad your toe has healed. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week ahead!

  5. Happy to hear that you are back on the trail and the toe is healing well! It really is a wonderful day when a trail exceeds ones expectations!

  6. Amazing fall colours. What a wonderful place to explore.

  7. That does look like a beautiful hike - such great fall colors.

  8. What a pretty place, the falls are so lovely and the fall colors are just gorgeous.

  9. Looks like a wonderful hike. Great weather and great scenery! Love the falls.

  10. You have so many great fall options even with the gorge being closed! I had to laugh at the only 40 miles though. I complain about going that far!

  11. Linda, sensational captures of incredible autumn beauty.

  12. Beautiful photos, gorgeous colours and a great place to explore.

  13. Stunning colours and a great riverside stroll, perfect!

  14. Nice trees and autumn hues. I like that forest as it's more UK in style rather than the huge pines and mossy green forests further inland. Looks like a Scottish Highland river. Don't know if that's a good thing though :o)

  15. You captured the colors gorgeously! I especially love your shot of Wilson falls and of the beautiful reflections.

  16. Wonderful blog, Linda. You got some stunning shots of the leaves, the waterfall, and the river! I loved seeing them.

  17. Beautiful Fall color! Second chances are least this one was:)

  18. You have so many nice places to go! I find myself not wanting to drive very far to trails, which is dumb, because it's always worth it.

  19. Hi! Your photos are very beautiful. I like especially your reflections photo. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Nice fall colors - ours are gone for this year

  21. Great timing for fabulous photos!


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