Little North Santiam

April 17, 2008

A two-hour drive starts north on I-5, then east on the Santiam Highway, then north near Mehama into the Elkhorn Valley to the trailhead. Paved roads all the way, except the last ¼ mile across the river to the trailhead. The beautiful North Santiam River, my favorite river hike in the West Cascades, is the reason for making this drive. When the river is running high in the Spring it is the ideal time to be there. Opal Creek runs into the Little North Santiam a few miles further north, but I prefer this hike to the better known, and much more crowded, Opal Creek one.

Numerous waterfalls were in full force as we traveled through a “thick canopy” old growth forest of Douglas Fir, Hemlock and Cedar. Very little sunlight penetrates the canopy. Thus, thick moss covers the trees, rocks and floor of the forest. Trilliums seemed to burst into life during our hike. The double falls cascading off of snow-covered Henline Mountain are especially beautiful. The river offers rapids, narrow canyons and beautiful green water pools. Would appear to be a very experienced kayaker’s paradise, although I’ve never seen one on the river.

Our group was fortunate to experience a cool, but mostly sunny, day for the hike. The hike requires one to climb up and over a ridge which bisects the middle of the trail. Otherwise it would be a flat hike with very little challenge at all. It is an “in and out” hike with a nice picnic area at the trail’s far end. Hiking time is about five hours. Elapsed time for the trip is around ten hours.

Hikers were: Joan Abel, Jennifer Canfield, Paul Flashenberg, Dick Hildreth, Pat Hutchins, Ernst Schwintzer, Sue Meyers, Lamonte Smith, Kathy Wilkowski and Dan Christensen, leader.

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