Salmon River Trail Hike in Welches, OR

Salmon River Trail Hike in Welches, OR

At the beginning of summer I bought an Instant Dome 5 Person Tent. Though I’ve been wanting to go camping, I haven’t actually been yet (not since I was much younger, at least) but considering it was only $60 at Costco and sold for over $110 everywhere else, I couldn’t pass it up—especially considering I live in Oregon, land of one million campsites.

What can I say, I’m a sucker for a good deal.

With the tent taking up space in our closet, the boyfriend and I decided to explore some possible camping areas. We decided on the Salmon River Trail hike in Welches, a little over an hour outside of Portland in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness in Mount Hood National Forest. He’s all about dispersed camping (read: no formal campsite), and recently did a couple trips with his friends. I, on the other hand, am afraid of the dark even just at home where the only threat is an overly friendly cat, so I’m not sure how I feel about sleeping in the middle of the lone forest… but hey, why not check it out?

We started off at the Salmon River West Trailhead, which took us straight onto the trail from the parking lot, winding next to the river. The path was narrow in some parts with steep drop offs, but after the first mile it started to widen out into lush meadows covered by tons of old growth rainforest. It was here that we started to see some of the dispersed camping areas marked by the black and white stamp of old campfire ash in the dirt of the forest floor. We stopped along the way to take a few side trails down to the river to feel the water and enjoy the view. From above, the water was so clear you could seen all the way down to the bottom of the riverbed.

After that, the trail started to dart away from the river back into the forest, winding around the hillside and revealing a log bridge, a few murmuring creeks and small waterfalls along the way, many of which appeared to be quite a bit more dry than usual thanks to the summer heat. The incline of the trail increased greatly and the sound of the river disappeared as we approached the steep face of the Salmon River Gorge where the terrain changed completely for a few minutes, opening up to reveal the bare rock faces of jagged cliffs and chaparral on one side of the canyon, and what can only be described as a bazillion trees on the other.

We stopped there, ducking back into the trees to take in the view and have a much-needed snack, and then turned around and took the same trail back the way we came. On the way back, the sun had started to duck behind the trees and we saw some campers setting up their tents for the night. The campsites were large and tranquil and the sound of the river would be great to fall asleep to, so perhaps I’ll warm up to this whole dispersed camping thing a little more in the future. We’ll see!