For a fun year-round ride in the Oregon Coast Range, check out the Five-Mile Loop at Camp Wilkerson, a Columbia County Park. The ride travels through pretty forest, with Douglas-firs towering above you and vine maples in the understory. It has solid footing even in wet weather because the loop’s winter route is entirely on graveled forest roads.
Distance: 5.5 miles round trip around the peninsula
Elevation: 1,100 to 1,550 feet
You’ll start at the day-use parking area at Camp Wilkerson Horse Camp, picking up the trail that starts below the mounting ramp. The route follows lightly-traveled forest roads, and every junction is signed with a wooden sign emblazoned with a horseshoe and an arrow pointing the way.
The winter route runs entirely on gravel roads, providing secure footing even after a heavy rain and allowing you to avoid fording Oak Ranch Creek, which can be dicey during periods of high water. The summer route intersects with the single-track Liahona Trail that runs through Camp Wilkerson, providing seasonal variety as you follow it to return to your trailer.
Camp Wilkerson Horse Camp has more amenities than most. Its six campsites have 4-horse corrals, picnic tables, and fire rings, along with potable-water spigots at each site. All but one of the sites have pull-through parking, and all sites have room for 2 trailers. The camp has toilets, a manure bin, garbage cans, a covered group shelter, and hot showers within easy walking distance. Camp Wilkerson also has a large day-use parking area. Camping reservations are recommended (503-366-3984), and the camp is open year-round. (The showers, flush toilets, and the lodge are closed in winter, but portable toilets are available.)
Getting to Camp Wilkerson
From Beaverton/Hillsboro: Take US-26 west, then turn right on Hwy. 47. About 9 miles beyond Vernonia, turn right on Apiary Rd. and continue 7 miles to the park entrance on your right. From Scappoose: Take the Scappoose-Vernonia Road, drive 20 miles and turn right on Hwy. 47. Continue 4 miles and turn right on Apiary Rd. The park is 7 miles ahead on the right. From Rainier or Longview: From the Lewis & Clark bridge, travel west on Hwy. 30. At the top of Rainier Hill, turn left on Larson Rd. and then right on Old Rainier Rd. In 0.9 mile, veer left on Apiary Rd. Follow it 13.5 miles and turn left into the park.
You’ll find more information about the Five-Mile Loop and other trails at Camp Wilkerson in Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2017), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.