Photo courtesy of Lance Beck
Drift Creek Wilderness area is situated in the heart of the Siuslaw National Forest. The area features access for hiking, backpacking, fishing and camping. Three trails provide access to Drift Creek, a tributary of the Alsea River, which carves through the remote coastal canyon. All three trails are challenging and difficult to connect with each other, and each offers a slightly different experience.
The Horse Creek North Trail offers access to the north side of Drift Creek. The trail enters the Drift Creek Wilderness after only 0.6 miles, and you immediately encounter large Douglas fir, hemlock, Sitka spruce, and western redcedar.
Upon entering the wilderness area the trail actually climbs nearly 300 feet and tops out just shy of 1,800 feet. Once the ridge is gained, it is all downhill over the next 3 miles. The trail finally levels off as you reach a nice open area adjacent to Drift Creek. Several developed campsites are available. If you are looking for more privacy, there are additional and more primitive campsites to the north or south on the same side of the creek.
The trail is accessible in all seasons, but be sure to check river conditions before heading out. The water level is typically fairly high from late fall through spring, and access to the creek can be very limited. Keep an eye out for rough-skinned newts and banana slugs. The creek is also a spawning ground for Chinook and coho salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout.
For a longer trip, consider linking the Harris Ranch Trail or the Horse Creek South Trail. This will require multiple vehicles and route finding, but either route can make for a great addition to the adventure.
Note that logging operations are active in the area, so be alert for logging trucks on the roads.