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Old Salmon River Trail
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Old Salmon River TrailWhat’s to Love:  We had heard good things about this hike from a close friend.  Those sentiments were corroborated by Bonnie Henderson in her book “Best Hikes with Children in Western and Central Oregon.”  After experiencing the Old Salmon River Trail, I must agree with these two sources – this is the perfect hike with children and a wonderful spot in general.

Old Salmon River TrailThe Old Salmon River Trail is a 2.6 mile stretch of relatively-flat trail with plenty of opportunities for side excursions to the river.  On the entire hike, you’re always within sight of this sparkling-clean river – standing on the shore, you can see perfectly all the way to the bottom. Throughout your hike, there are numerous mini-beaches for your family to visit.

Old Salmon River TrailSeeing a river in such good condition is inspiring and makes me feel more optimistic about the environment.  It seems I’m constantly talking to my kids about how many rivers are becoming polluted due to irresponsible companies and/or people.  While you’re hiking along the Salmon River, take a moment to share all your positive observations with your kids.  Here is a short clip of our outing.


Caveats:  This is a busy trail, and you’ll certainly be getting company on your “private” beach.  Make sure you have a Forest Recreation Pass, which you can buy ($5) from the Zig Zag Ranger Station.  They are also available at various locations throughout Sandy and other small towns on the way to Mt. Hood.  Here is more information about the passes and how to get one.

Be careful with wading kids!  The current is faster than it looks and the main trail does meet the the access road at times.  Remember, this is not a loop hike!  However far you hike-in, you’ll have to hike out the same distance.  

WebsiteLocal Hikes’ Website

Distance from Portland:  It’s about 42 miles from Portland to the turnoff on Salmon River Road.  It’s another 2.7 miles up Salmon River Road.  Here are directions:

From Portland, take Highway 26 toward Mount Hood for 42 miles. At Zigzag turn right at a sign for the Salmon River Road and follow this paved route 2.7 miles. Two hundred yards beyond a National Forest boundary sign, park at a pullout on the right for the Old Salmon River Trail.

Recommended Ages:  Because of all the access points, this hike has potential for the entire family, even teens will enjoy the short jaunt through the woods.

Parental Stress Factor:  A low stress hike!  This is the perfect hike for a newborn in a carrier or toddlers.

Physical Difficulty:  It’s rated as easy, and I think that’s accurate.  Despite the easy access, the trail is not handicap accessible.

Family Fun Factor:  If you  bring a lunch, some fishing poles and an adventurous spirit, your family fun factor will be quite high.  If your kids do not enjoy hiking, this still is a good option due to the fact it’s easy and you can pick your turn around point.

Pet Friendly:  Your dog will certainly love the trail.  Keep dogs on a leash!  This is a busy trail with small children hiking by themselves.

Weather Considerations:  Since it’s such a short hike with river access, you’ll probably want to take this hike on a hot summer day or in early autumn.  

Old Salmon River TrailInsider Info:  There are upper and lower trailheads.  Most likely, you’ll want to park at the lower trailhead and hike-in a comfortable distance, then turn around and come back the same way.

There are established campgrounds on this trail system as well as dispersed camping throughout the forest.  You’ll want to check-in with the Zig Zag Ranger station about camping in the area.  They’ve been having problems with trash and people not understanding camping ethics (see family tips below).

If your kids like fishing, bring along your gear!  We saw a father and daughter walking up and down the river fly fishing.  That was really nice to watch.  I asked if they caught anything, and the dad replied, “Yes!”  To me, this area appears to be the perfect place to teach fly fishing and/or fishing in general.  I like how you could walk up and down the trail finding just the right spot – great access.

Old Salmon River TrailFamily Tips:  There is absolutely no chance of getting lost and the trail is very safe with no big drop-offs.  Just be careful when you’re headed down to the water.  You’ll want to bring a child carrier for when your kid/s get tired.  This is a perfect trail for a Bob-type jogging stroller.  Of course, a baby backpack would also work well.

Definitely want to bring a lunch and/or snacks.  Enjoying a picnic next to a peaceful river is one of my favorite things to do, especially with the whole family.

While the river is sparkling clean, there have been problems with campers (and hikers) leaving trash and trashing the area.  We saw a notice posted that stated the Forest Service may close the area to dispersed camping.  Therefore, as your kids poke around the rocks and logs, make sure you’re close by in case they stumble on something undesirable.

Please, be a good example for your kids when hiking!  If you don’t understand or know the rules, stop in and talk to a ranger.  Here are some things I try to teach my kids:

  • Don’t cut trails or switchbacks
  • Try to walk through mud instead of widening the trail
  • Don’t play on the steep hillsides along trails (erosion)
  • Keep your voice down and respect the peace others may be trying to experience
  • Don’t throw things – someone might be around the corner
  • Move aside for uphill hikers
  • Don’t approach dogs that are off-leash
  • Hiking is a lifelong activity for you to enjoy
  • Don’t litter or throw food – pack it in, pack it out
  • For parents:  Don’t smoke, don’t litter, clean-up after your family, keep your dog on a leash, and pick-up your dog’s poop.  Finally, is it really necessary to talk on your cell phone?  I don’t own a cell phone, and I encourage you to put it away when hiking with your family.

Technorati Tags: kids, hiking, family, friendly, short, salmon, river, trail

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  1. would you say that a double bob jogger would fit on this trail, or not so much? thanks!

    • I've seen double Bob strollers, but I'm having a hard time imagining the size. My guess is that it wouldn't be too much of a problem. There are definitely spots that narrow due to tree roots and rocks in the trail. As long as you have someone along who could help lift the stroller through these very brief sections, you should be fine.

  2. Vince,

    I believe this part of the Salmon River Trail allows bikes. It's not very long but considering it's flat and with very few obstacles, it looks like a great place to introduce the kids to some off-road biking.

    • Yep…I think you're right about that. We didn't see anyone biking. Because the trail is short (relatively speaking), flat, and often occupied by numerous hikers, most hardcore mountain bikers probably stay away. Thus, you're probably right that it might be a good option for kids' biking.

  3. I know the comments are old but in case anyone new comes to the page, we did this hike today and maybe the trail has changed over the years but it was very difficult with the Bob stroller. I wouldn't recommend it. Use a carrier instead.

    • Thanks for the head's up about the stroller. We were always pretty aggressive with our BOB Stroller. We even brought it most of the way up Angel's Rest! However, I appreciate your more sensible observation. Vince

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