Old-Growth and a Green River: Little North Santiam River Trail

 Little North Santiam River
Recently my quest to find great lower elevation trails took some friends and I to the Opal Creek area.  We decided to check out the Little North Santiam River Trail. Upon arriving at the trailhead there were already two cars and a third pulled in, my friends were questioning my judgement about the trail. Thankfully we ended up only seeing four other people including an awesome older couple who were scouting the trail for a Sierra Club outing. The trail itself has some deceptively steep sections and is relatively rocky.

Sunshine along the Little North Santiam
Caitlin crossing a small side stream along the Little North Santiam Trail

The trail starts out in a very unimpressive monoculture of Douglas-fir, but quickly transitions into a fairly open older forest. Plantations like this next to old-growth is always a stark reminder of how much of our native forest that we have lost. There is a small waterfall that you will pass early on and as you climb there is a large waterfall, but the view is mostly obstructed by forest. 

Large waterfall along the Little North Fork Trail
Massive Douglas-fir along the Little North Santiam Trail
While ascending you will notice that the vegetation changes slightly and there is even a small amount of manzanita and Pacific madrone. This change is likely related to the fact that the soil is much rockier high above the river. But soon you will descend back to the banks of the Little North Santiam River to an awesome campsite.

Manzanita along Little North Fork Trail

View downriver along the Little North Fork Trail

View upriver along the Little North Santiam Trail

Large campsite along Little North Santiam Trail near Three Pools
After taking an extended lunch we decided to head back to the trailhead. Soon I'll be back to hike the section from Shady Cove to Three Pools. Sadly I forgot to delete my previous tracks, so there won't be GPS tracks for this hike. Overall if you're looking for crystal clear water and beautiful old-growth forest check out this trail. If you're heading home through Salem be sure to stop at Vagabond Brewing, they've got awesome beer. 

Directions from Salem: Follow Highway 22 for 23 miles, turn left onto North Fork Road, follow for 15 miles, then turn right onto FR 201(Elkhorn Drive) follow past a few homes, trailhead is on the left. 

Hike Distance: 9.5 miles round trip

Hike Type: Out and back

Elevation Gain: 300 Feet

Trailhead Elevation: 1300 Feet

Highest Point: About 2.5 miles into the hike

Usage: Moderate

Difficulty: 3 out of 5 because of a few slick stream crossings

Fees: Northwest Forest Pass is required on lower trailhead. Free from Shady Cove

Old-growth along Little Santiam River Trail

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