The Salmon River Trail - Backpacking/Camping

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With an easily accessible trailhead and a beautiful riverside trail through lush old-growth forests, it's no wonder that the Salmon River Trail is a popular option for Portlanders.

Written by

Abby Joffe


15.2 miles

7.6 miles one way.

Destination Distance From Downtown

38.8 miles


3 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

1 days

A couple to a few days.


Spring, Summer, and Fall

Late spring through fall

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits


Northwest Forest Pass required, or $5 day pass May 15 - October 1st.



The Salmon River is one of the most beautiful waterways in the area, and that’s saying something. It meanders gracefully through untouched forests, plunges off hidden waterfalls, and swirls into deep inviting pools. Sitting comfortably in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, the Salmon River Trail parallels the Salmon River for roughly 8 miles. Within that 8-mile stretch lives some of the most wondrous and scenic old-growth forest in the Portland area. On top of that, the trailhead is easy to access and the path itself gains elevation in very small, palatable chunks until you leave the river and launch into the wilderness.

What Makes It Great

The remarkable old-growth forest is the headliner of this trip, and aside from a couple of wide-open canyon views, you'll be hiking under an attractive canopy the whole time. The central portion of the Salmon River Trail boasts several nice campsites that tend to be taken early. Once the trail leaves the river and ascends, most day hikers turn back. This is where there are several more noteworthy campsites, some with creek access along the way. For a delicious food and drink, try Barlow Trail Roadhouse in Rhododendron. It is elevated home-style cooking with in an authentic log cabin.

As you follow the beautiful Salmon River, you will be walking through some of the most beautiful old growth rainforest you have ever seen. It is some of the most accessible from Portland. After the first two miles, you will come across the Salmon River canyon as you hear the roar of waterfalls below you. In the Spring, the first mile of trail is lined with white trillium and fawn lily.

Start at the Salmon River Trailhead and climb steeply before the trail splits from the river. Continue on the trail, past the unmarked trails to the right, which usually indicate a good fishing spot. After only 1.5 miles, you will reach the first campsite. After just another half mile, you will reach the Rolling Riffle Campground, marked with a sign, which is the last official campsite before the climb to the viewpoint. These fill up quickly, especially on the weekend, so get there early if you want a spot. From the campsite, the trail goes over a bridge and you begin climbing. At a fork in the trail, go right, which takes you to an amazing view of the canyon with a waterfall right below, which is a good place to turn around if you are just on a day hike. If you are looking to camp, there is a path that leads across a slope before climbing through two switchbacks to the main trail. You continue upstream for the campsite at Goat Creek, which is a perfect camping destination.

Who is Going to Love It

This 8-mile trek is a great length for an overnight trip. For those who are new to backpacking, the steep hike to the viewpoint may be a push with a backpack. For intermediate and experienced backpackers, this is an excellent trip with an amazing view to a beautiful campsite.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

To get to the Salmon River Trailhead from Portland, take I-84 E to exit 16 for 238th Drive toward Wood Village. Turn right on NE 238thDrive, continue on NE 242nd Drive, then take a slight left onto NE Burnside Road. Continue straight onto US-26 E and take a right on E Salmon River Road. After a slight left on E Welches Road, drive 3 miles and the trailhead will be on your left.

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The Salmon River Trail

Portland, OR,
45.277997, -121.9397

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