Ponder nature's healing hand on two hikes through Oregon's Tillamook forest

Pete Stone

Driving on U.S. 26 and State 6 on the way to the Oregoncoast, you'll pass through what's known as the old Tillamook Burn.The name commemorates the forest fires that raged through thissection of the Coast Range between 1933 and 1951, obliterating some355,000 acres of old-growth rain forest. But today, instead of acharred wasteland, you'll see an endless expanse of second-growthforest brimming with wildlife, birds, and blossoms.

This miraculous regeneration is due, in large part, to communityreplanting efforts that began in the 1950s―72 millionseedlings have been planted by hand. The Tillamook Burn's recoveryand regrowth has been so complete that, in 1973, the area wasdesignated as the Tillamook State Forest.

Take to the trails

Though it would take weeks to explore all of the forest'strails, you can get a taste of Tillamook's riches on two easyhikes.

The 2-mile round-trip hike to University Falls takes you closeto the 1,596-foot summit of State 6. After walking through grovesof alder, you'll come to the waterfall, whose silvery spray dripsfrom bright green mosses and fills the surrounding forest with itssound.

To reach the trailhead for University Falls from State 6, turnsouth onto Beaver Dam Rd., a gravel road just past milepost 33;look for the road beside a large open area with a gravel stockpile.Drive 3/4 mile, then turn right onto University Falls Rd. Followingthe trailhead signs, continue 3 miles to the University Fallsparking area.

For a longer hike, take the Wilson River Trail, which traversesa wild stretch of the Wilson. In April, the runoff-gorged riverraces westward toward Tillamook Bay. A 7-mile round-trip segment ofthe trail winds through groves of alder, Douglas fir, and hemlock;this month, look for three-petaled white trilliums among the swordferns and Oregon grapes.

Along the trail, six wooden footbridges span foaming tributariesof the Wilson River (beware: three of the bridges have a woodenrailing on one side only). Wilson Falls, a photogenic cataract thatplunges down to the river from a high cliff, marks the 2-mile pointof this hike. The trail ends at the 3.5-mile marker; from here,retrace your route back to the parking area.

The Wilson River Trail begins at the signposted Jones CreekCampground. To reach it, exit State 6 at milepost 22.7 and gonorth. The trailhead is prominently marked from the day-use parkingarea.

TILLAMOOK TRIP

WHERE: Tillamook State Forest begins about 25 miles west ofPortland.

FYI: Before hiking in the forest, pick up the new Tillamook State Forest Map & Guide from the OregonDepartment of Forestry.

CONTACT: Oregon Department of Forestry, Forest Grove (801 Gales Creek Rd.; 503/357-2191) or Tillamook (5005 E. Third St.; 503/842-2545).

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