We finally saw some much needed wet weather arrive which started to push out the smoke that had caused the air quality in NW Oregon to be some of the worst in the world for a few days. I was more than happy to alter my plans if it meant the beginning of the end of the nearby fires. With anywhere from a 40 to 90 percent chance of precipitation (and the possibility of an isolated thunderstorm or two) the most promising forecast was for the McDonald-Dunn Research Forests north of Corvallis. Heather and I had visited the McDonald Forest four time already, the most recent in 2021 when we attempted to connect the previous three hikes via a big loop from the Sulphur Springs Trailhead (post). Due to some closures for active logging operations we were only able to connect two of the three hikes, McCulloch Peak (post) and Chip Ross Park to Dimple Hill (post). My plan for this outing was to connect the other hike, Peavy Arboretum (post), as well as checking out a few trails in the forest that we hadn’t been on previously.
After checking online to make sure there were no current closures that might affect me I decided to start my day at the Peavy Arboretum’s Woodland Trailhead
I had left my route for the day fairly open as I wasn’t sure how wet I might get. I knew that I wanted to start by hiking the 0.4 mile interpretive Woodland Loop Trail which began at the far end of the Woodland Trailhead and then I’d planned on making my way to the Lewisburg Saddle Trailhead where I would follow Road 600 (Patterson Road) SW at least three quarters of a mile to a junction with the Ridge Trail where we had turned onto that trail on our 2021 hike (coming from the other direction). I didn’t get many photos on the interpretive loop since the Sun hadn’t quite risen yet and it was fairly dark under the trees.
The Woodland Loop at the end of the parking lot.
Starting to get a little lighter near the end of the loop.
After warming up on the sort loop I walked a short distance along the entrance road toward the entrance then crossed the road at a post for the Red Cedar Run Trail.
What followed was a 19.2 mile (19.6 including the Woodland Loop Trail) reverse lollipop loop utilizing parts of 29 different trails and roads in the forest, not all of them on purpose. This is a good time to mention that having maps is extremely helpful when exploring this forest, but due to the active management by the Oregon State University Forest Department new trails are occasionally constructed while others may be closed or rerouted (the same for roads). Some trails are also closed seasonally or, as we saw on our previous visit, due to active logging operations. Finally the map/brochure available online from the Forest website, at least as of this writing, does not show all of the existing roads/trails. This was an issue that I ran into late in my hike today. Other online resources such as Trailforks show some of the missing roads/trails but may also omit others. (Trailforks is a mountain biking site so some of the hiker only trails such as the Woodland Loop are not included on their map.) My recommendation is to have as many maps handy as possible and a sense of adventure if you’re going to start exploring the area. I had my Garmin and the Forest map but really wish I had had the Trailforks map with me as well.
Back to my hike though. My route went like this (TF indicates that the trail was shown on the Trailforks map but not on the Forest map.):
Woodland Trail, Red Cedar Run Trail, Peavy Arboretum Road, Maritime Meander Trail, Forest Discovery Trail, CFIRP Trail, Section 36 Loop, Road 550, Road 500 (Nettleton Road), Dave’s Trail, Road 5010, Vineyard Mountain Trail, Road 600, Road 650, Upper Dan’s Trail, Road 650, Road 600, High Horse Trail (TF), Upper Bombs Away (TF), Road 640, Road 600, Ridge Trail, Road 600, Road 580 (Davies Road), New Growth Trail, Old Growth Trail, Road 580, Dave’s Trail, Banzai Trail (TF)*, Road 543, Road 540, Section 36 Loop, Road 540, Calloway to Cronemiller Trail, Calloway Creek Trail, Intensive Management Trail, Pond Trail.
*Instead of the Banzai Trail I had intended on taking the Powder House Trail but this section of the Banzai Trail wasn’t on the Forest Map and I went left when I should have gone right at an unsigned junction.
If that sounds a little confusing it was. As you may have guessed the weather turned out much better than forecasted with only one shower that lasted less than a minute near the end of my hike. I suspected I might be in for a nicer day as I made my way up the Red Cedar and then Maritime Meander Trails.
Cedars along the Red Cedar Run Trail.
A brief stint on Peavy Arboretum Road between the Red Cedar Run and Maritime Meander (on the left ahead) Trails.
I took a quiet detour to Randall Pond before hopping onto the Maritime Meander Trail.
Sunrise from the Maritime Meander Trail.
Forest Discovery Trail junction with the Maritime Meander Trail.
I stayed left at trail junctions along the Forest Discovery Trail, crossing Road 510 along the way, then turned left onto the CFIRP.
The trails were well signed in the Arboretum.
I had been on the Forest Discovery Trail just under a mile when I reached the CFIRP Trail.
I followed the CFIRP Trail for half a mile uphill across Road 514 and ignoring a spur trail back to Road 510 to the Section 36 Loop.
The Section 36 Loop junction.
I turned left onto this trail, the first section of trail that I had been on previously, and continued uphill 0.4 miles to Road 550. I left the Section 36 Loop here and took a left onto the road.
Section 36 Loop
A bench along the trail faces this tree.
Road 550 from the Section 36 Loop.
Most of the 0.3 mile road is closed to motorized traffic so Road 550 was fairly overgrown compared to the other roads/trails in the forest but there was still clear tread. I did question my choice though when my feet started to feel the moisture from the grass start reaching my socks.
Looking back down Road 550.
My feet started to dry when I reached the section open to motorized vehicles.
Road 550 ended on a saddle at Road 500 where I again turned left following this road just under half a mile to Dave’s Trail where, you guessed it, I turned left.
Lots of sparrows, towhees, and wrens were out this morning but most wouldn’t sit still at all.
I continued to climb gradually on Dave’s Trail crossing Road 590 near the quarter mile mark then dropping slightly to Road 5010 at a 3-way road junction after 1.3 miles.
A gated road on the left led back up the hill I had just passed under some radio towers while Road 500 was to the right. Road 5010 was ahead on the left heading up Vineyard Mountain.
On our previous hike we’d taken the Vineyard Mountain Trail uphill from this junction (having come up Road 500 instead of on Dave’s Trail) so this time I followed Road 5010. When I reached the radio towers atop the mountain I discovered that we’d completely missed the remains of the 1930’s Dean George Peavy Cabin.
The Vineyard Mountain Trail at the junction.
The foundation, fireplace and chimney are all that remain of the former OSU Dean’s cabin.
After visiting the cabin remains I continued slightly downhill on Road 5010 to a post marking the Vineyard Mountain Trail.
It was approximately 1.5 downhill miles to the Lewisburg Saddle Trailhead where there were a decent number of cars.
Some twisted trees along the Vineyard Mountain Trail.
After numerous tries I finally caught a spotted towhee.
The Vineyard Mountain Trail briefly follows an old roadbed.
The section of trail between the roadbed and the Lewisburg Saddle Trailhead is one of the trails subject to seasonal closures. This section is closed when it is wet enough that you’d leave tracks in which case you could follow the roadbed to the right to Road 500.
Close up of the seasonal closure notice. It wasn’t wet so I continued on the Vineyard Mountain Trail.
At the trailhead I crossed Sulphur Springs Road and passed an orange gate on Road 600 (Patterson Road). After gradually climbing for three quarters of a mile I arrived at a junction with Road 620 on the right. The Ridge Trail started from Road 620 near the junction so I could have turned there and followed it back to the Lewisburg Saddle I would have accomplished my goal of connecting all of our hikes here. The weather was so nice though that I decided to push on and try to reach Dimple Hill.
Looking back at the towers on Vineyard Mountain from Road 600.
Road 620 on the right.
I stayed on Road 600 for another 1.4 miles (the first 0.6 being new to me) then turned left onto Road 650 at a saddle.
A tenth of a mile up Road 650 I veered onto Upper Dan’s Trail and made way to the summit of Dimple Hill.
Mary’s Peak (post) with a cloud just blocking the summit.
The view was nice but there were enough clouds and lingering haze to the SE that I was a bit disappointed. Someday I will make it a point to get to Dimple Hill on a bluebird afternoon/evening but for now I settled for the blue sky overhead and headed back to Road 600.
If I would have had the Trailforks map handy I would have seen that I could cross Road 600 at the saddle and follow it uphill to Road 662 which would have brought me to what is shown on that map as the High Horse Trail. I then could have followed that to Upper Bombs Away but those two trails weren’t on the McDonald Forest map. I hiked back down Road 600 just over three quarters of mile to a trail crossing where I turned left on the unsigned High Horse Trail. (Not sure if that is the “official” name but it is the name on the TF map.)
The High Horse Trail. Not shown to the right coming up from below is the Upper Horse Trail.
Despite the High Horse and Upper Bombs Away Trails not being shown on my map or Garmin we had taken these on our 2021 hike so I was familiar with them.
Bikers on Road 600 below.
Moss covered tree.
Unsigned junction where the High Horse Trail continues to the left to Road 662 and Upper Bombs Away veers right.
Another connector trail on the left coming down from Road 662 to join the Upper Bombs Away Trail.
The Upper Bombs Away Trail can get a little confusing as it switchbacks downhill but the forest along the trail is some of my favorite in the McDonald Forest. There is another well established trail that basically shoots straight downhill and a couple of use trails that appeared to possibly be coming downhill from Road 600. I basically stayed left and/or downhill until I arrived at Road 640 (0.6 miles from the High Horse Trail).
Will the real trail please stand up?
Switchback near Road 640.
On our previous visit we had crossed Road 640 (it was closed between the trail and Road 600 at the time) and followed Lower Bombs Away to the Ridge Trail at Road 620. Since I’d been on that section of trail before and not Road 640 I took the road 0.3 miles back to Road 600 then turned left on Road 600 for 100 yards to Road 620.
I hopped onto the Ridge Trail and followed it up and over a knoll to Road 600 near Lewisburg Saddle.
The Alpha Trail on the left at the quarter mile mark. This is where we had turned on the 2021 hike.
Road 600 ahead.
At Lewisburg Saddle I took Road 580 for a tenth of a mile to the New Growth Trail and headed downhill.
The New Growth Trail.
A connector trail at the 0.4 mile mark led back up to Road 580 and marked the start of the Old Growth Trail.
The end of the Old Growth Trail at Road 580.
After a mile on those two trails I was back on Road 580 which I followed for almost two miles to Dave’s Trail.
One of three spur roads to the left that I passed.
I turned left onto Dave’s Trail which paralleled Road 580 for 0.6 miles where it met the road again.
It was here that things got a little messy for me. I was already at approximately 15.7 miles and my plan was to head back as directly as possible. The plan was to take the Powder House Trail on the other side of Road 580 which was the only trail shown on the McDonald Forest map (no trails were on the GPS topo map). When I crossed the road though there were were two trails. One heading slightly downhill to the left and one uphill to the right and no signs on this side of the road.
The proverbial fork in the road.
I went left (I chose poorly) and followed what I thought was the Powder House Trail a third of a mile to a sign with a pointer for the Banzai Trail.
A few clouds starting to move in.
The McDonald Forest map showed a small section old road between Roads 562 and 543 as the Banzai Trail which I was not close to according to the GPS. The Trailforks map shows the Banzai Trail starting where I had left Road 580 so my guess is that it has been somewhat recently added. I decided to forge ahead knowing that whatever I was on would eventually hit one of the forest roads that I could use to reach Cronemiller Lake and get back on course. I followed signs when available and after a mile found myself at a road with no apparent signage.
The Banzai Trail likely continued on the other side but without a pointer I wasn’t about to find out and turned right here which took me uphill for a tenth of a mile to the Road 560 and Road 562 junction.
This is the start of what is labeled the Banzai Trail on the McDonald Forest map.
Road 562 went straight downhill and steeply.
The photo doesn’t do the steepness justice but the trail lived up to its name here.
At some point the road became 543 before reaching a fork where I stayed right.
Another closed roadbed on the left. This is where I stayed right on Road 543.
In another quarter mile I found myself at a 3-way junction.
Road 540 to the left and 541 to the right.
I turned right on Road 541 which brought me to Cronemiller Lake in half a mile.
George W. Brown Sports Arena near Cronemiller Lake.
Not that kind of a lake.
I went right around the lake on the Section 36 Loop where for the first time all day a very brief shower passed overhead.
A few drops hitting the lake.
Kingfisher on the far side of the lake.
The trail hit Road 540 on the far side of the lake where I turned left and walked back along the lake on the road a short distance to the Calloway to Cronemiller Trail.
I turned right onto this trail following it downhill for 0.2 miles to a junction with the Calloway Creek Trail.
I turned right and then turned right again a short distance later onto the Intensive Management Trail.
I crossed three roads in the next 0.3 miles before arriving at a signboard map at a split in the Intensive Management Trail.
I veered right following the Intensive Management Trail for another 0.3 miles to the Peavy Arboretum Trailhead.
A 100 yard road walk brought me to the Pond Trail at Randall Pond which I briefly followed before cutting across two roads to the Woodland Trailhead where I’d started almost 7 hours earlier.
In the end the wrong turn onto the Banzai Trail had only added a mile or so to my day and it was trail that I hadn’t been on before so that was a plus. There was enough up and down to put the cumulative elevation gain right around 3000′ feet but none of the climbs were too long or steep. The weather couldn’t have been much better and the trail/road conditions were very good which made a hike like this a bit easier. The amazing thing is that there are still roads and trails that I’ve yet to explore which makes the thought of returning that much more exciting. Happy Trails!