Distance: 4 or 7 miles
Difficulty: Dirty Boots to Weekend Warrior
Directions: From Portland, take Highway 26 east for 42 miles to Salmon River Road (just before a Subway). Turn right and travel 5 miles to a pullout on the left, just before a bridge. The trailhead begins at the end of the parking lot closest to the span. Follow the trail upriver to your heart’s content.
The Salmon River is one of the most scenic waterways in the area, and that's saying something given that there are dozens—if not hundreds—of rivers, creeks and streams flowing around Mount Hood. It meanders gracefully through untouched forests, plunges off cliffs creating hidden waterfalls, and swirls into deep, inviting pools. The Salmon River Trail parallels its namesake for roughly 12 of its almost 70 miles. Within that stretch, you'll find some of the most wondrous old-growth forest near Portland. On top of that, the trailheads are easy to access, and the path itself gains elevation in very small, palatable chunks before leaving the river and launching into the wilderness.
The central portion of the path boasts several day-use areas and campgrounds that provide a healthy number of hiking and backpacking opportunities. Two great out-and-back options are a short 4-mile jaunt entirely along the river and a 7-miler up to a canyon view.