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Central Coast Hiking Oregon Oregon Coast

Cascade Head Rainforest Trail – 9/28/2019

With the weather forecast for the Cascades calling for a mix of snow and rain we decided to dial up another coastal hike where a chance of showers was a bit more appealing. While hiking in a little snow can be a lot of fun the snow/rain combo is much less so. We decided it might be a good time to check out the Rainforest Trail at Cascade Head.

Earlier this year we had hiked to the meadows on Cascade Head (post) hoping for some nice views and flowers but spent most of the time in the fog with a little rain thrown in. We thought we might be in for more of the same when we did a final weather check before leaving in the morning and saw that the 40% chance of showers/mostly sunny forecast had been replaced by a 90% chance of showers decreasing to 40% later in the day. At least this time there weren’t going to be any viewpoints and rain almost seemed fitting since we would be on the Rainforest Trail.

We arrived at the Cascade Head Trail – South Trailhead a little too early and had to sit for about 20 minutes waiting for enough light to start hiking. We’d driven through a few showers through the coastal range but there was no precipitation falling as we set off on the Rainforest Trail, which is also part of the official route of the Oregon Coast Trail.
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The trail set off uphill following an old logging road that was crowded with vegetation.
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The trail was a little muddy and slick in spots but given the recent rain we’d had it wasn’t as muddy as we had expected. It also wasn’t nearly as cloudy as we’d expected with a few breaks visible to the west.
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There are no real viewpoints and no trail junctions over the first 3.5 miles, just the rain forest which transitioned to a more open forest with some mature trees toward the latter end. The most obvious marker along the way was a boardwalk over the headwaters of Calkins Creek approximately 2.7 miles from the trailhead.
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IMG_0078Ferns on a tree trunk.

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IMG_0085Lichen overhanging the trail.

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IMG_0097The boardwalk

IMG_0099Nursery stump

IMG_0111Spider finishing its morning web.

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About 3.7 miles (and 1200′) from the trailhead we arrived at Forest Road 1861.
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Up until 2008 the trail continued 2.4 miles on the far side of this road and descended to Highway 101 near Neskowin (post) but storm damage that year prompted the Forest Service to abandon that section forcing Oregon Coast Trail hikers to follow FR 1861 1.2 miles to Highway 101 and follow its shoulder into Neskowin. In March of this year volunteers from Trail Keepers of Oregon (TKO) began work to reopen the abandoned trail. We had heard that completion of the repairs should take place by 2020 so we thought we would check on the progress.

Pink flagging marked a path on the far side of the road so we began following it.
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IMG_0117There is a flag in there.

This path led us to a junction at an old sign near the road.
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A better path was coming up from the road here. (If we had turned right on FR 1861 for a short distance we’d have found it.)
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We weren’t sure how far we’d be able to go and kept our eyes out for an sign of closure but we found the trail to be in good shape. Flagging was present in many areas and the time and effort of the TKO trail crews was evident.
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IMG_0133Flagging along the trail.

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IMG_0137Elk had obviously been on the trail recently.

IMG_0138Fern covered hillside.

There was a brief break in the trees along the way which gave us a view of Cascade Head’s high point.
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There were also some impressive fungi along the section.
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A mile and a half from FR 1861 the trail began a steeper descent via some switchbacks as it approached Fall Creek. There was evidence of quite a bit of tree fall in the area.
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Near the bottom of the switchbacks we spotted a TKO crew.
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They were a bit surprised to see actual hikers since the trail hadn’t officially been reopened (they said we were more than welcome there though). They indicated that the final .7 miles of trail was still pretty rough as they had done work on that section yet. We thanked them for their hard work and let them know that the upper section that they had worked on was probably in better shape than parts of the trail that hadn’t been abandoned. We turned around and headed back up to FR 1861 and then dropped back down to our car enjoying the forest along the way.
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We never did have a shower pass over and actually wound up under a mostly sunny sky after all. The 10.4 mile hike gained approximately 2000′ total but most of that was gradual. It was an enjoyable hike even though there wasn’t much in the way of viewpoints or other “features”. It was also fun to see the trail crew doing their thing. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cascade Head Rainforest Trail

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