McDonald Forest is not only a research forest for Oregon State University, it’s also a popular recreation site for local residents and students. This beautiful mid-Willamette Valley location offers horseback riding on all forest roads and several very nice trails, some of which are open year round.
The trails and gravel roads in McDonald Forest explore the hills near Corvallis, on the western edge of the Willamette Valley. The routes are shared with mountain bikes, hikers, and runners, and get heavy usage especially when school is in session.
While some trails in the Forest are open only April 15 through October 31, equestrians can ride a delightful year-round 10-mile “lollipop” loop by linking Dan’s Trail, Horse Trail, and several gravel roads.
The loop begins at Sulphur Springs Trailhead (see directions below). From the trailhead kiosk, cross the bridge over Soap Creek and continue on Road 800, then turn right on Road 810. At the end of Road 800, continue on the Alpha Trail. It will take you to Road 620, which in turn leads to Road 600 (Patterson Road).
Turn right on Patterson Road, and in 0.6 mile turn left on Upper Horse Trail. This single-track will lead you steeply downhill to Lower Horse Trail, which in turn will take you to Jackson Creek Road.
Turn right on Jackson Creek Road and ride 0.1 mile, then turn left and pick up the trail across the creek that leads to the junction with Lower Dan’s Trail. Heading left at this junction will take you to Chip Ross Park, so turn right and follow Lower Dan’s Trail. It will lead you to Upper Dan’s Trail, which runs to the summit of Dimple Hill and panoramic views of the Willamette Valley.
Upper Dan’s Trail intersects with Patterson Road, so follow it around the loop for 0.5 mile, then veer right to stay on Patterson Road and continue back to the junction with the Upper Horse Trail. Stay on Patterson Road and it will take you back to Road 620 so you can retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Ride Statistics: The Dan’s Trail/Horse Trail Loop is10 miles round trip, with elevations ranging from 450 feet at the trailhead to 1,500 feet at the top of Dimple Hill. Stock water is available at the trailhead.
Getting to Sulphur Springs Trailhead: McDonald Forest has several trailheads, but the best one for horse trailers is the Sulphur Springs Trailhead. From Corvallis, drive 4.5 miles north on Hwy. 99W and turn left on Lewisburg Avenue. Drive 1.4 miles and veer right on Sulphur Springs Road. Continue 2.8 miles, then turn around and park near the kiosk beside the bridge over Soap Creek.
Trailhead Facilities: Picnic table, stock water, and parking for several trailers at the Sulphur Springs Trailhead. No fee.
More Information: Dan’s Trail, Horse Trail, and McDonald Forest are featured in Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2013)