Since mid-February we’ve had several rounds of snow, lots of rain, and a stretch of cool (cold) temperatures. We are more than ready for Spring to arrive. A well-timed break in the weather pattern gave us an opportunity to get back to hiking with a trip to Benton County’s Fitton Green Natural Area. While the Fitton Green Natural Area is managed by Benton County a network of trails also allows access to land managed by the Crestmont Land Trust, Greenbelt Land Trust, and the City of Corvallis (Bald Hill Natural Area).
We had visited Bald Hill in 2016 (post) so for this visit we chose to start at the Wren Trailhead (Cardwell Hill West TH) and visit the Crestmont Land Trust and Fitton Green trails.
The signboard at the trailhead had a good map which revealed two trails that were not present on the map I’d downloaded from the County’s website, the North and Bridge Trails.
Of the two the North Trail most interested us as it would allow us to avoid repeating a section of the Cardwell Hill Trail. The Bridge Trail would have been an option had we been looking for a shorter loop. After settling on our route we set off on the Cardwell Hill Trail.
From the trail we had a brief view of Marys River.
We followed the gravel roadbed turned trail for half a mile, crossing into the Crestmont Land Trust area, to the well signed junction with the North Trail.
The forecast was for patchy morning fog with a chance of light showers between Noon and 3pm and partly sunny skies. They got the patchy morning fog part right.
The first of three abandoned cars we’d pass on the day. This one was in a field on a hillside before entering the Crestmont Land Trust.
Interpretive signs greeted us as we entered the Crestmont Land Trust.
The North Trail junction.
We turned uphill on the North Trail at the junction where we encountered the first of several “Shovel Stations”.
The shovels can be used to remove cow pies from the trails during periods of cattle grazing in the land trust. Thankfully there was no grazing happening currently so there was no need to carry the shovel to the next station, but we thought it was a neat idea. The North Trail gained approximately 200′ in the first third of a mile where we came to a viewpoint with a fairly new looking gazebo and a unique set of table and chairs that had been carved from stumps.
The gazebo housed a small table with benches. A particularly nice touch was the lack of back on the bench that wasn’t facing the view which allows you to sit facing the view.
The view from the gazebo.
The stump table and chairs.
Not sure what the most recent gathering was but there was an interesting variety of items around the table.
After admiring the gazebo and odd table setting we continued on the North Trail which began a half mile descent back to the Cardwell Hill Trail.
Another bench along the trail.
The Cardwell Hill Trail in the valley below the North Trail.
Dropping down to the Cardwell Hill Trail.
We turned back onto the Cardwell Hill Trail which quickly entered the Fitton Green Natural Area. We ignored two spurs of the Fitton Green North-South Trail on the right and followed this trail up and over its high point a total of 1.5 miles to the Cardwell Hill East Trailhead.
The first spur didn’t have any signage
The second spur had a marker naming it the Fitton Green North-South Trail.
Dimple Hill in the McDonald Forest (post).
The other two abandoned cars, these were outside of the natural area.
Arriving at the east trailhead.
We turned around at the trailhead and regained the 250+ feet that we’d dropped from the trail’s highpoint. The out and back to east trailhead wasn’t necessary but it was some good hill training for the hiking season to come. We then descended 300′ to the Fitton Green North-South Trail where we veered left.
One of the more impressive trees along this section of the Cardwell Hill Trail
The Fitton Green North-South Trail.
Tragedy nearly struck on this trail when a slow-moving slug barely avoided a foot.
Watch your step.
We followed this trail a total of 1.1 miles where we turned right onto the Allen Throop Loop Trail. Along the way we passed Amy’s Trail at the 0.4-mile mark, a private road at the 0.9-mile mark, and the western end of the Allen Throop Loop at the 1-mile mark.
The clouds were beginning to break up as we climbed up this trail.
The western end of the Throop Loop.
The eastern end of the Allen Throop Loop. Continuing on the Fitton Green North-South Trail would have brought us to the Panorama Drive Trailhead.
We turned onto the Allen Throop Loop Trail which brought us to an oak savannah hillside.
There seems to have been a spelling error (Alan vs Allen) on the trail marker.
Plaque at a viewpoint along the Allen Throop Loop. Note that it is Allen not Alan on the plaque.
Despite the clouds breaking up we didn’t have a view of Marys Peak, the highest peak in the Oregon Coast Range (post).
The trail overlooks the cities of Corvallis (to the left/east) and Philomath (straight/south).
Bald Hill with Corvallis beyond from the Throop Loop.
East toward the Coast Range.
We were too early for any wildflowers, especially this year with the lingering cold weather but we did spot some lupine leaves along the trail before we came to a bench at a junction with the Mulkey Ridge Trail.
This is the trail that connects Bald Hill with Fitton Green.
The trail made a slight climb from the bench arriving back at the Fitton Green North-South Trail less than a quarter mile later.
The junction from the Throop Loop Trail.
We turned left and retraced our steps on the Fitton Green North-South Trail to its junction with Amy’s Trail where we turned left (West) dropping into a denser forest.
Map at the start of Amy’s Trail.
Gate at the Fitton Green-Crestmont Land Trust border.
Creek along Amy’s Trail. With all the wet weather there was a fair amount of water in all the streams/creeks in the area.
After a third of a mile on Amy’s Trail we came to a junction with Creek Road.
We turned left crossing over the little unnamed creek to a T-junction near a picnic table. To the right was the Creek Trail while the Upper Forest Trail went left.
On the hillside above the picnic table is the Creek Trail.
Our plan was to make as wide a loop as possible through this area so we went left following the Upper Forest Trail uphill.
Switchbacks along the Upper Forest Trail.
After a fairly stiff climb the Upper Forest Trail descended more gradually arriving at High Road 0.4-miles from the Picnic Table.
Arriving at High Road.
According to the maps High Road continued to the left a short distance then became the Lookout Extension before dead ending in the forest. Something to check out on another trip. Today we turned right following this roadbed 100 yards before once again turning left, this time onto the Mid Forest Trail at a 4-way junction.
The Mid Forest Trail is hidden behind the tree on the left. To the right is the Creek Trail while High Road continues straight ahead.
Another 0.4-mile descent brought us to a junction in an oak savannah with the Lower Forest Trail and Middle Road.
Lots of green moss along this trail.
A little snow on the ridge in the distance.
Rabbit that Heather spotted.
The junction was at the far end of this open space.
Stayed left at the junction on what was now the Lower Forest Trail which descended another quarter mile to Lower Meadow Road.
This was by far the most confusing junction we’d encountered all day. It was one of only a couple that was unsigned and none of the maps that we’d seen or had brought with us showed the road continuing to the left. Since we’d planned on staying left at all junctions except for at High Road we initially turned left here thinking it was the River Trail, but it just didn’t feel right so we turned to the Garmin which did show the road continuation. It didn’t look anything like the River Trail route so we promptly turned around and returned to the 4-way junction and took a left downhill through the meadow.
The River Trail brought us to Marys River then turned north along the river for a 0.2-miles.
Gate along the River Trail just before Marys River.
Male common merganser floating Marys River. I only had a brief second to try and get a picture as he floated by thus the poor focus.
A short spur trail led down to the river bank.
We had spent all morning watching for wildflowers knowing that everything was running late this year but holding out hope that we’d spot an early bloomer. One of the first to bloom each year in the forests around the valley is snow queen and finally along the river here we spotted a few of the small purple flowers.
The River Trail veered away from Marys River and back into the meadow before ending at Lower Meadow Road. We turned right on the road which crossed an unnamed creek before meeting the Cardwell Hill Trail.
Not flowers but mushrooms are always fun to spot.
Lower Meadow Road crossing the creek and ending at the Cardwell Hill Trail.
We turned left onto the Cardwell Hill Trail. We had missed this 0.4-mile section which followed Marys River earlier when we’d turned up the North Trail.
The short Trestle Extension led to a view of a railroad trestle over Marys River.
The signboards at the North Trail junction from the Cardwell Hill Trail.
Robin near the North Trail junction.
We retraced our steps from the North Trail junction under the partly sunny skies that had been promised.
No more fog.
Today’s hike came in as 9.3 miles on the Garmin with approximately 1200′ of cumulative elevation gain.
While it hadn’t felt at all like Spring when we’d set off that morning by the end of the hike, and after seeing the snow queen blossoms, we could convince ourselves that it might not be too far off. The forecast had been spot on with the patchy fog giving way to partly sunny skies, and we did have two very light showers pass over while we were looping through the Crestmont Land Trust.
This was a nice hike and an area that we will definitely be back to. There are trails that we didn’t take this time to come back and explore and the possibility of longer or shorter loops make it an attractive option when we were looking for something open year-round and not too far home. Happy Trails!