Gales Creek Trail
is among the best cross-country trails in Tillamook State Forest. This long, challenging ride can provide a real sense of accomplishment, especially without the soul-crushing steepness of the final three miles of Gales Creek Trail
. The long, steady, somewhat grueling climb to the summit at the Bell Creek Road Trailhead rewards you with a long, fun descent back to the car: a classic out-and-back.
Starting from the southern trailhead at Gales Creek Campground, the trail follows its namesake for a number of miles up the valley. After only about three-quarters of a mile, the trail crosses a bridge and immediately T's at a junction with the Storey Burn Trail
Turn right to continue up Gales Creek Trail
. As it climbs, the trail is often within sight or earshot of the creek as the singletrack winds along the ravines and gulleys that drain into Gales Creek. It makes for a lot of short, punchy climbs and brief flat stretches, always causing the legs to burn. It can feel rewarding nonetheless. Although not very technical for the most part, the ever-changing direction of the trail will keep you on your toes.
At about five and a half miles, a short but super fun reroute of the trail brings some obvious MTB-inspired flow to the trail and is a blissful section. If only it was longer. The last half mile is the steepest climb of the ride, but seeing the small parking lot for the Bell Camp Road Trailhead lets you know you're at the summit. Rest and grab a snack. Unfortunately, there aren't really any stellar views to catch up here. Exploring slightly to the north can yield some views through the trees, but it is nothing to write home about.
When you're ready, turn around and ride everything you just rode back to the Gales Creek Campground. The upper rerouted section will feel so sweet, but all too short on the way back down. A lot of the upper sections of the trail back will have some surprising flow, considering it was built as a hiking and equestrian trail. Several washouts over the years have prompted a lot of trail rebuilding, with mountain bikers getting more and more attention every time it's done. The closer to Gales Creek Campground, the less the trail will feel like this, as the ravines and gulleys rob the trail of more and more flow. But it's still fun!
The bridge that marks the junction with Storey Burn Trail
signals the start of the only substantial climbing on the way back. Thankfully, it's not too long, although it is steep. In no time, the parking lot will appear. Congrats.
The trail is well signed and easy to follow.