Middle Fork Willamette Trail: Sand Prairie to Pine Creek

One of the many small stream crossing along the lower Middle Fork Willamette Trail
 Most Oregonians are at least somewhat familiar with the Willamette River. It runs through the largest cities in the state and was once a major thoroughfare for goods. If you live downriver from Eugene the river you know is probably fairly wide and nasty looking. This isn't the case at all with the Middle Fork Willamette River. The Middle Fork Willamette trail  meanders for nearly 35 miles from Timpanogas Lake to Sand Prairie Campground. Often forgotten by hikers, bikers and equestrians it offers solitude without being far from Oakridge.
Middle Fork Willamette Trailhead just downriver from Sand Prairie Campground
My friend and I had planned on starting our hike at the northern terminus of the trail at Sand Prairie Campground, but it was sadly gated off and we didn't want to block the gate and possibly get a ticket. Knowing that there were many access points we continued south along FR 21 about half a mile and spotted a side road with a trailhead sign. The parking area had a few campsites set up in it and there were a few large puddles, but nothing that stopped us in a fairly low clearance car. As always along western Oregon trails in autumn water often fills any low areas. Which isn't really a problem, unless you mind getting your feet wet.

Creek were the trail should be along the Middle Fork Willamette Trail

Shoes of choice: Vibram FiveFingers Classic
The trail follows the Middle Fork Willamette, but not directly on the banks at all times. Often you will find yourself walking through areas that have been selectively logged and not really replanted. There are towering Douglas-firs (Psudotsuga menziesii) throughout these selectively logged areas. This creates an almost meadow like feel to parts of the hike. Also along the trail you will find a few relatively small sugar pines (Pinus lambertiana) and ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa), which aren't often found in this area.


Selectively harvested area along the Middle Fork Willamette Trail
 
Douglas-fir towering above the forest
Despite the fact that this trail runs near FR 21 which is fairly busy, road noise wasn't an issue more than once along our eight mile out and back hike. There were many small spur roads that crossed the trail normally these roads lead to campsites. Not surprisingly no one was camped along the trail. There was quiet a few good access points to the river and if it was summer we would have likely spent a lot of time swimming and exploring the river.

Middle Fork Willamette River

Campsite along the Middle Fork Willamette Trail
Normally I find myself looking for hikes with incredible vistas, but this hike with it's beautiful river definitely impressed me. There was also an impressive display of fungi along this hike.
Fungi on an old growth Douglas-fir



Fungi along the Middle Fork Willamette Trail
Whether you hike or bike this is a great trail any time of the year!

Directions from Oakridge: Follow Highway 58 east for 2 miles turn right onto Kitson Springs Road, Follow for .5 mile turn right onto FR 21, Follow FR 21 for approximately 12 miles turn right at the well marked entrance.

Trailhead Elevation:
Approximately 1, 600 feet

Hike Distance:
8 miles according to my Garmin Oregon 550 GPS 

Hike Type: Out and back 

Elevation Gain: Approximately 150 feet

Usage:
Light 

Difficulty: 1 out of 5

Fees: None

Lower Middle Fork Willamette Trail at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Oregon

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