This 10 mile hike along an abandoned railroad travels through numerous tunnels, bridges, and lush riparian forests as it makes its way through the rugged and remote Salmonberry River Canyon in Oregon’s Tillamook State Forest.
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you probably know I have a thing for abandoned railroads, like the Hoover Dam train tunnel hike near Lake Mead…
The hike that travels along Oregon’s abandoned Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad is just as epic as the other two but with one big difference…
…it’s a lot more wild.
The Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad, a successor to Southern Pacific, was 86 miles long and once ran through the lush green forests of the Coast Range on a route from Tillamook to western Washington County.
That all changed in 2007 after a massive two-day storm pounded the Oregon Coast Range with hurricane-force winds and relentless rain.
The storm eroded embankments, damaged tunnels, and left large sections of track hanging in midair.
Unwilling to spend the estimated $57.3 million it would’ve taken to get the trains running again, the Port of Tillamook Bay opted to not repair the damaged sections of track but continues to own more than 101 miles of railroad right-of-way, including main line, spurs, and sidings.
I’ve been wanting to do this hike for years and finally had my chance during a recent week long road trip through Oregon.
As we set off on our wet hike, it soon became apparent that something wasn’t right..
The jungle of overgrown raspberry brambles and baby alders became so dense that it almost made it impossible to remain on the trail.
We soon realized we had headed out in the wrong direction when we began our hike back at the trailhead. Oops!
Someone wasn’t happy…
…and you wouldn’t be either if you were wearing shorts while walking through this mess.
After exploring the area around Reliance Trestle, we decided to make our way back to the trailhead and start over.
By the time we made it back to where we started, we had already hiked 3 miles. As we headed off in the other direction, I started to recognize things I had seen while doing my research for the hike.
Including this old railroad switch…
…and Cochran, which was once a mill and railroad station along the line. The old mill pond (Cochran Pond) still houses some remains from the operation on the shore across from the tracks.
While not entirely free of atrocities like this…
…Oregonians do seem to take better care of their surroundings than we (Californians) do.
There is a fiber optic cable easement along the length of the abandoned railroad corridor. Within this easement, a duct bank was installed in 1999, containing three individual cables, each supporting high-capacity international undersea systems.
The cables were damaged at several points by the 2007 storm and are currently inoperable.
There’s a sinkhole under the tracks as you reach the 801 marker.
Floating Rail Magic
Soon the first tunnel of the hike comes into view.
Make sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp, it gets pretty dark in there.
When the railroad was still active, hikers used to have to sign a register/waiver at this permit box at the end of the first tunnel.
Small waterfalls, like this, can be found throughout the hike.
The tracks soon pass over three short trestles as it makes its way closer to the biggest trestle of all.
F UR F!
An old rusted tagged up water tank sits beside the tracks.
The steel-girdered Big Baldwin Trestle is 165’ high and 520’ in length, the largest trestle on the line.
The wooden trestle is more than 100 years old and has aged fairly well considering the extreme conditions it’s been faced with during that time.
One false step here…
…could land you 16 stories to the creek below.
A little ways past Big Baldwin Trestle on the right, is a grassy area with a memorial plaque to the seven railroad workers who lost their lives in the 1930s when the Little Baldwin Trestle collapsed. RIP.
As of 2013, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and other groups are working to make the abandoned railway a biking/hiking route for the entire length of the line. The Salmonberry Corridor Rail-Trail is a promising project under development that will span 86 miles from the outskirts of Portland to the Pacific Ocean. The trail is intended to be used by bicyclists, walkers, and equestrians and is expected to be mostly gravel with some paved sections through city centers. A concept plan for the trail is in place and a coalition to lead the effort—the Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency—officially established itself in the fall of 2015.