- Level: Easy to Rolling Riffle Camp (Beginner Level: Doable)
- Length: 4 miles
- Elevation: 200 ft. gain
- Type: out and back
- Level: Moderate to canyon viewpoint
- Length: 7.2 miles
- Elevation: 900 ft. gain
- Type: out and back
- Open: all year
- Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
- Drive time from Portland: 1h10m
- Google map: “Salmon River Trail” (bring screenshot or hard copies of directions, you may lose reception.)
- Features: Salmon River, old growth forest, camping spots, swimming holes, Mt. Hood NF, Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness, Hunchback Mountain, Green Canyon, Vanishing Falls, Frustration Falls, Final Falls
This trail is a win-win for all hikers because it is beautiful from beginning to end and the first few miles are super flat. You decide how hard you want to make it. It’s a great trail for beginners or anyone who wants a shorter flatter trail. It is also great for bringing friends or kids. It’s popular, so I like to go mid-week as I’m not a 9-5er. Old growth forest trails are my favorite. The nurse logs, monstrous snags, mushrooms, lichens and moss… So much drama! So many nature prizes! Just put your hand on one of the giant Cedars or Doug Firs and close your eyes. Vibrations! Give these ancient babes a hug. I’m serious. I do it and I have totally seen others do it.
A heads up, the trailhead is easy to get to, but this is a recreation area so there are a lot of little psych out trail parking spots before you reach the actual trailhead. You will know you are at the trailhead when you reach the pullout next to the bridge. The trailhead is on the left. Don’t get confused by the “Old Salmon River Trail” that runs along the other side of the river on the right.
The trail follows along the beautiful rolling Salmon River. Notice all of the cool camp spots. I imagine it’s a great trail to try backpacking for the first time. The first leg to Rolling Riffle Camp is mostly flat and a great turnaround point for a shorter, flatter trail. However, if you are too intoxicated by this magical forest to stop, continue on. The trail begins to climb steadily with one steeper push at the end to a gorgeous viewpoint in a canyon with a patchwork view of the forest. There is a fabulous little natural rock bench big enough for two to have a snack on before returning the way you came. The roar in the canyon comes from huge waterfalls down below that you can see if you strain your eyes.
Again, this is a backpacking trail so you can actually continue on as long as you like. Apparently, if you continue past the canyon viewpoint another 0.2 mile, there is a spur to the right that descends for another 0.3 mile over a difficult and slippery scramble down to a viewpoint of the falls, which are forebodingly named Vanishing Falls, Frustration Falls and Final Falls. Whoa. According to sources, the dangerous scramble is “not recommended,” but I think I’m going to try it next time.
From the trailhead:
Take the Salmon River Trail for two miles to Rolling Riffle Camp. Turn around here for the “easy” 4-mile trail. Otherwise, continue steadily uphill for another 1.6 miles, gaining 700 feet elevation. As the trees begin to thin, you will reach the final steeper push of the trail and enter a treeless viewpoint above Green Canyon. Return as you came.