Coastal Range Hiking Oregon

Harris Ranch Trail (Drift Creek Wilderness) – 8/3/19

Our annual family reunion at the Oregon Coast always provides us an opportunity to work up an appetite by starting the morning off with a shorter hike on the way there. This year we chose to revisit the Drift Creek Wilderness.

This would be our second visit to the area with the first having been in 2010 (post), the year we really started hiking. At that point we hadn’t developed the appreciation for old growth forests that we have now so we were interested to see what our opinions of this hike would be compared to that first visit.

We began our hike at the Harris Ranch Trailhead which was located .3 miles down the rather brushy FR 346.



It was a foggy morning which we expected to keep things a bit on the cooler side but instead it was a warm, humid morning as we set off on a decommissioned road.


The first three quarters of a mile followed an old roadbed which gradually descended before ending just before the start of the Drift Creek Wilderness.


Once the trail entered the wilderness it began a steeper 2.3 mile descent along a ridge down to Drift Creek. The trail was in good shape with signs of some recent clearing of brush near the top and only one muddy section (which is saying soemthing for a trail near the coast).

IMG_5413Fern clippings in the trail showing some trimming had been done.

IMG_5419Whoever had done the brushing hadn’t made it down the whole trail.


IMG_5433There were a few monkey flowers scattered about.

IMG_5445Obligatory coastal trail muddy section.

Several clumps of Monotropa uniflora aka Ghost Plant or Indian Pipe were present along the upper portion of the trail as well. We’d only seen this plant one or two other times so it was exciting to see so much of it.






Near Drift Creek the trail reaches the site of the pre-world war II homestead pasture of Harris Ranch. A few campsites now occupy the area.




Drift Creek was much more inviting from this side. There wasn’t a steep embankment to descend and a shelf of exposed bedrock made exploring easy.




We watched several crawdads moving around in the water while we rested by the creek.




The crawdads we saw in the water were greatly outnumbered by the remains strewn about the rocks though. Something had been dinning on them, perhaps the kingfisher that flew past twice while we rested.

By the time we headed back up the fog had burned off which added a little extra heat to the 1300′ muggy climb back to the trailhead.







Approximately a tenth of a mile from the trailhead there was an interesting tree above the road. It appeared that the tree had begun to fall but its root system stayed in tact so a couple of the original trees branches began to grow as their own trees. At first we thought it was a nursery log, but the two vertical “trees” don’t seem to have their own root systems.


When we got back to the car we picked a handful of ripe thimbleberries to take to the reunion since they are one of my Dads favorites.

With the creek exploration the hike was just over 6.5 miles and it had been much more enjoyable for us than our first visit now that we understood better what a special place the designated wilderness areas are. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Harris Ranch Trail

Clackamas Hiking Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Shellrock, Serene, and the Rock Lakes

We headed out on the first day of Autumn for our first post Summer hike and boy did Fall arrive in full force. We headed to the Roaring River Wilderness to check out several lakes on a loop hike. There was a possible view of Mt. Hood and several Washington snow peaks, but it was obvious from the forecast that any views were unlikely. The Roaring River Wilderness is part of the Mt. Hood National Forest and one we had yet to visit. We began our hike at the Shellrock Lake trail head under cloudy skies and a light mist.

After donning our rain gear for the first time in months we decided to do a “warm up” hike to Hideaway Lake in the opposite direction of our planned hike. The trail to Hideaway Lake started on the opposite side of the road from the Shellrock Lake trail. A short .5 miles path brought us to the lake which we then circled on a 1 mile loop. After completing the loop we returned to the parking area and set off toward Shellrock Lake.

The Shellrock Lake trail quickly entered the Roaring River Wilderness and just a short while later we arrived at Shellrock Lake. Fog drifted over the water at this peaceful lake which had plenty of campsites but no campers.

Shellrock Lake
Shellrock Lake

We passed by the lake and began climbing at a sign for the Frazier Turnaround. This portion of the trail was fairly steep and rocky and also full of rough skinned newts. After 1.3 miles of climbing we arrived at Frazier Turnaround where we could have parked if we’d been willing to try the terrible access road.

From Frazier Turnaround the loop portion of our hike started. We followed a sign pointing to Serene and the Rock Lakes. Our first destination was Middle Rock Lake. We took the quarter mile path to the lake where we spotted numerous crawdads and a frog.

Crawdads in Middle Rock Lake
Crawdads in Middle Rock Lake
Frog in Middle Rock Lake
Frog in Middle Rock Lake

The trail continued along Middle Rock Lake and was supposed to take us to Upper Rock Lake. We ran into a little bit of an issue as we attempted to follow this portion of the trail when it appeared to veer away from the lake. We followed this faint path uphill where it was becoming increasingly overgrown until it finally disappeared at several fallen trees. Thinking the trees had blocked the path we worked our way around them and picked up what appeared to be the continuation of the faint path which quickly ended below a rock slide with no lake in sight. It was time to break out the Garmin (again) which revealed that we were too far to the right of Upper Rock Lake so we set off cross country through the wet brush. We passed a pair of scenic lily pad ponds before finally reaching Upper Rock Lake and finding a good trail leading to it’s shore.

Pond near Upper Rock Lake
Pond near Upper Rock Lake
Upper Rock Lake
Upper Rock Lake

We followed the good trail down and discovered the source of our confusion. A tree had fallen along the shore of Middle Rock Lake which had hidden the trail and obscured the view of the single pink flagging that indicated the correct path. We had turned right at the uprooted base of this tree on the only visible path to us at the time.

We had one more of the Rock Lakes to visit, Lower Rock Lake, which was on the other side of the loop trail so we returned the way we came and went down to visit this last one. There wasn’t much to see there, just a nice little forest lake so we quickly returned to the Serene Lake trail and continued our loop. The trail had dropped down to the Rock Lakes but now we were climbing up through a nice forest. After several switchbacks the trail leveled out and arrived at Serene Lake. This was the deepest lake of the day and was surrounded by rocky slopes and forest. Clouds drifted up over the hillsides surrounding the lake while we had a snack on it’s shore.

Serene Lake
Serene Lake

We left Serene Lake and headed for our last point of interest, Cache Meadow. The trail continued to climb as we continued on until finally leveling off on a plateau above Serene Lake. Here would have been the mountain views with Serene Lake below but the weather had not cooperated and only Serene Lake was barely visible below.

Serene Lake from the viewpoint
Serene Lake from the viewpoint

The rain began to pick up as we approached Cache Meadow. The meadow was larger than I had expected and the remains of a vast display of flowers covered the ground. Now only a few aster held some lingering petals. A small unnamed lake filled one end of the meadow but we didn’t explore much due to the increasing rain.

Cache Meadow
Cache Meadow

The next four plus miles was through the rain as we completed the loop back to Frazier Turnaround and then descended back to Shellrock Lake. The rain did let up as we left the wilderness area long enough for us to change into dry clothing before driving home. The only thing missing was a cup of hot chocolate 🙂 Happy Trails

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