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Coastal Range Hiking Oregon

Crown Zellerbach (CZ) Trail – East Fork Nehalem River Section 03/05/2022

So far in 2022 the first Saturday of every month has come with a dry and at least partially sunny forecast which meant for the third month in a row we took our hike on the first weekend. We tend to take for granted the opportunities we have to get out and enjoy nature but this outing was different. For more than a week we’ve watched as the Ukrainian people have been forced to fight for their freedom and country. We continue to pray for their safety and an end to Russian aggression.

For our March hike we decided to check out the Crown Z Linear Trail, also known as the CZ Trail or Crown Zellerbach Trail. The 24.8 mile long CZ Trail runs between the cities of Vernonia and Scappoose following former (and sometimes active) logging roads open to hikers, bicycles and horses. Multiple trailheads make it possible to hike shorter segments as either out-and-backs or between trailheads using a second car. For our first visit we used the Oregon Hikers field guide which breaks the trail up into five sections. We picked section four, the East Fork Nehalem River Section, which runs between the Nehalem Divide and Wilark Trailheads.

We began at the Nehalem Divide Trailhead which provided the shorter drive of the two and also allowed us to begin the day with a downhill.
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A 100′ path leads downhill from the trailhead to the CZ Trail which passes under the Scapoose-Vernonia Highway (if you’re heading toward Vernonia).
IMG_8227Heading down the connector trail.

IMG_8228Trial sign at the jct with the CZ Trail.

IMG_8230CZ Trail passing under the highway.

We followed the road downhill for approximately 3/4 of a mile to an interpretive wildlife sign where a path behind led downhill to the East Fork Nehalem River. The river isn’t much as it isn’t far from the headwaters, but a short distance up river is a pair of small waterfalls with the western end of the Nehalem Divide Railroad Tunnel.
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IMG_8244Light from the eastern portal is visible at the other end but the tunnel is not safe to enter without at least a hard hat.

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After checking out the old tunnel we returned to the CZ Trail and resumed our hike toward the Wilark Trailhead.
CZ Trail

East Fork Nehalem RiverThe East Fork Nehalem River next to the trail.

We detoured again briefly to check out a small seasonal fall just off the trail.
Season fall along the CZ Trail

CZ TrailIt was a little muddy in places.

Interpretive sign along the CZ TrailAnother of several interpretive signs along the trail.

Indian plumNot much in the way of flowers yet but there were a few indian plum starting to blossom.

A little under four miles from the Nehalem Divide Trailhead we arrived at the Floeter Trailhead.
CZ Trail arriving at the Floeter Trailhead

Interpretive sign along the CZ Trail

Beyond this trailhead the CZ Trail immediately crossed an unnamed creek on a bridge.
Footbridge near the Floeter Trailhead

Unnamed creek

After crossing the bridge we detoured here yet again passing over the highway to a small trail sign for Scaponia Park.
Scaponia Park across the Vernonia-Scappoose Highway

Trail to Scaponia Park

This short path dropped us into the 7 acre park which has 12 campsites and a short network of trails. We turned right on the park entrance road then crossed the East Fork Nehalem River on a footbridge to do a short 0.4 mile loop utilizing a second footbridge to return to the road near the campground.
Scaponia Park

East Fork Nehalem River in Scaponia Park

One of two footbridges in Scaponia Park

Trail in Scaponia Park

Second footbridge in Scaponia Park

East Fork Nehalem RiverEast Fork Nehalem River

After our little loop we returned to the CZ Trail and continued west.
Sign for the CZ Trail in Scaponia ParkPointer for the CZ Trail in Scaponia Park

CZ Trail

For the next three quarters of a mile the trail parralled the highway.
Log home across the highway

American kestralAmerican kestral

The trail veered away from the highway again after the highway crossed the river putting it between the road and the trail.
East Fork Nehalem River

Just over two miles from the Floeter Trailhead we arrived at the former site of Camp 8, a logging camp established in the 1920’s.
CZ Trail nearing Camp 8

Interpretive sign along the CZ Trail

Interpretive sign along the CZ Trail

Robin at Camp 8Robin in the meadow that once was Camp 8.

Beyond the Camp 8 site the trail crossed the East Fork Nehalem River then climbed to the highway passing mile marker 19 along the way.
CZ Trail crossing the East Fork Nehalem River

East Fork Nehalem River

CZ Trail mile 19The orange mile marker 19 ahead.

This short section was full of birds.
JuncosJuncos

Varied thrushAnother not great picture of a varied thrush.

SparrowSparrow

Vernonia-Scappoose Highway at the Wilark Trailhead

We turned around at the highway and headed back.
CZ Trail at the Wilark Trailhead

The clouds finally began to break up after we passed Camp 8 and soon we found ourselves under a bright blue sky.
Blue sky begining to emerge

Grey jayA grey jay enjoying the emerging sunlight.

CZ Trail

CZ TrailBlue sky near the Floeter Trailhead.

Surprisingly until the final tenth of a mile we hadn’t seen a single other trail user when a lone mountain biker zoomed past us heading downhill. Including our three detours our hike came in at 12.7 miles with a little over 650′ of elevation gain. A good early season workout with some nice scenery and interesting history.

At some point down the road we will return to do another section of the trail but for now this was a fun introduction to CZ Trail. Happy Trails and Slava Ukraini.

Flickr: CZ Trail – East Fork Nehalem River Section