Exploring New Trails in Breitenbush

breitenbush, running trail

written and photographed by Kevin Max


Dora the Explorer would love this trail run (or hike) that starts at a trailhead at Breitenbush’s parking lot high on the Santiam Pass and in the Willamette National Forest. Vamanos, Boots!

breitenbush, trail running

Take Spotted Owl Trail along a high alpine verdant trail half a mile until you come to the intersection with Cliff Trail. Choose to stay on the Spotted Owl Trail, because bad things could happen on the Cliff Trail that make it harder to run on steep terrain. Listen to the advice of the little swallows in the forest and take the Emerald Forest Trail. Good choice! Emerald Forest Trail is virtue, Devil’s Trail is vice. Continue on Emerald Forest Trail for one mile. You come to a footbridge with a troll on the other side of S. Breitenbush River. The troll will ask you if you want to run 4.5 miles back toward Breitenbush Resort or 6.4 miles to Roaring Creek. Goooood! The right answer is 6.4 miles to Roaring Creek.

I know it’s getting a little narrow here, but we must push on! Soon you’ll come to a rock in the path that says “Gorge” on it upside down and with an arrow to the right. Hmm. This doesn’t look like a trail. It looks like trees fallen like toothpicks. That’s it, Boots! Let’s pick our way through those trees like adventurers. Be careful, Western cedar is as slippery as a baboon’s behind. Wow! We’ve now arrived at this secluded Breitenbush canyon. Isn’t it cool?

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Good, now that we’ve seen Breitenbush canyon, let’s go back up to the ridge trail and go a little farther for more adventures. We still need to get to Roaring Rapids. Look at all of the Red Belted Conk mushrooms growing in the side of trees. What trees are those? Look, it’s a Douglas Fir, the state tree of Oregon, and a Black Cottonwood, too. Look at this Black Cottonwood. Isn’t it tall? Wow does this Western cedar smell good, too! Does this make you hungry for salmon, Boots? Me too! 

A little farther on we come to another footbridge. This one is bigger and nicer than the other one. Wow! Look down. It’s Roaring Rapids! It’s like a dream only greener and more peaceful. Let’s pause for a selfie, Boots! We did it!

breitenbush, trail running

Now it’s time to get back to the fort. Let’s retrace our footsteps for 1.2 miles until we get to the intersection of Breitenbush Gorge Trail. From there, let’s not drop back down to cross the river but stay on the Breitenbush Gorge Trail for 1.1 miles until we get to a series of more footbridges. Don’t you love footbridges? I do, too!

breitenbush, trail running

Now we are getting closer to Breitenbush, Boots. I can almost smell the vegetarian lasagna being served at the lodge.

Yay! You did it! You’ve now run 6.4 miles of some of the most beautiful terrain in the world.

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