What can you say about Oregon’s coastal mountains? They aren’t the tallest mountains, nor the most rocky or rugged. However, there’s a certain feeling you get when hiking these great, rolling forests, and that feeling is great peace. The Pacific influence is deep here, and cradles the ecosystem in moisture. Trees grow so fast in the Tillamook State Forest, if you listen carefully enough, you may just here them grow. Okay, maybe not. But it sure feels like it, and that’s what makes this ecosystem special.
Far in Oregon’s Northwest corner, among these mountains, you’ll find the 364,00 acre Tillamook State Forest. To reach the Tillamook, travel 64 miles west of Portland on Highway 6. The route is quite scenic, with many twists and turns along the Wilson River, so plan for longer than normal drive times.
Although much of the forest is relatively young due to rampant deforestation and current logging projects, it’s still very scenic. The Tillamook Burn, a massive wildfire in 1933 also contributes to the forest’s young makeup.
If you’re looking for temperate rain forest, you’ll find it here. The forest receives more than 100 inches of rain a year, making it one of the wettest areas in the United States.
If you’re looking for jagged, snow-capped peaks, you won;t find them here. Rogers Peak, at 3,710 feet, is the highest point in the Tillamook State Forest, and the highest point in all of the Northern Oregon Coast Range. The “stars” in the Tillamook are the forests, river, biodiversity, and proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The forest….does not quite feel like other forests I’ve frequented. A pastoral, peaceful feeling lingers, and the moderate weather adds to this effect.
Hikers and campers will encounter magnificent stands of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, Douglas-fir, western red cedar. Numerous sword fern add to the picture. Patches of huckleberry and salmonberry dot the understory.
Click on the photos for higher-resolution versions.
The Tillamook is no slouch when it comes to wildlife, either. The ecosystem is home to 235 species of birds, 29 species of mammals, and 26 species of amphibians and reptiles. Visitors may encounter (on various scales of probability) black bears, Roosevelt elk, otters, Northern spotted owl, mountain lions, American Marten, bald eagle, the small black-tailed deer (I came across a few of these secretive deer) , bobcat, and raptors. Hundreds of rivers slash through the Tillamook State Forest, often home to trout, steelhead, and salmon.
Gales Creek Campground
Gales Creek Campground is one of the nicer state forest campgrounds we’ve come across. Located 16 miles west of Forest Grove on highway 6, take a right at the campground sign and descend one mile down to Gales Creek and the camping loop. Vegetation is extremely lush and thick here, almost feeling spidery.
Gales Creek Campground is laid out perpendicular to Gales Creek, with narrow loops and decent site privacy. We recommend the sites that border the stat forest directly, as these will increase privacy and reduce the chill from camping right on Gales Creek.
Overall, Gales Creek Campground is quite clean, with vault toilets, benches, fire rings, and a picnic area. Many of the trees are covered in moss, and the sun rarely penetrates the deep woods. If you are looking for a dry, sunny location, this is not the place. If you are looking for a magical woodland nook, you will like Gales Creek Campground quite a bit.
The only true negative we encountered at Gales Creek was logging traffic. A main access road heads right through the campground, meaning you will have to listen to any vehicles that passes through. It didn’t happen all that often though, so we don’t expect it to be a major problem. Gales Creek Campground also offers a couple trail-heads, which we took and enjoyed.
We definitely recommend Gales Creek Campground for a night or two in the Tillamook. Most visitors will head to the Pacific coast, and the numerous state parks and ocean-side villages. However, one can find solitude and peace if they pull up short in the Tillamook.
Cape Lookout Campground Facts:
Video Tour available: No.
Open: Mid-May to October
Laundry: No (16 miles east to Forest Grove)
Dump Station: No
Store: No (16 miles east to Forest Grove)
Quiet Hours: 10 am to 8 am
Fee: $10 per night (A&B Loops) $5 for walk-in tent site, $2 for extra vehicle (only one extra per night permitted)
Vehicle length limit: 31 foot RV or 27 foot trailer
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Toilets: Yes | Tables: Yes | Fire rings: Yes
Elevation: 932 feet
Fishing: Gales Creek
Generator: Yes (8 am to 8 pm reasonable usage)
Gas: No (16 miles east to Forest Grove)
Repairs: No(16 miles east to Forest Grove)
Gales Creek Campground Rating:
In-campground aesthetics: 8
Unnatural Noise: 7
Site Privacy: 8
Parkcamper Rating: 7.8/10
A view into Gales Creek Campground.
The canopy above Gales Creek Campground, Tillamook State Forest.
Gales Creek, from the campground bridge. Very nice country.
A look down the access road.
Another nice site in Gales Creek Campground.