Exploring the entire Wilson River Trail is a big undertaking. Over 20 miles long (with extensions planned for the future), the Coast Range Hiking Trail is typically used as an opportunity for long distance hikes through the Tillamook State Forest.
That’s not to say that there isn’t an opportunity for shorter adventures on the trail, either.
Those looking for a quicker excursion should look no further than the Jones Creek to Diamond Mill hike, a four-mile round-trip adventure that takes you to and along the scenic North Fork Wilson River – one quieter sections of the Wilson River Trail.
Most visitors to Jones Creek may be drawn to the scenic riverside picnic area, seasonal campground, or the flatter section of the Wilson River Trail that leads west to the center. forestier de Tillamook (which is currently closed to the public).
For this adventure, hikers will want to turn away from the main attractions of Jones Creek and take the trail east, located just across the entrance road from the main parking lot, where a small, understated trail provides access to the forest.
This segment of the Wilson River Trail is three kilometers uphill, past equestrian trails and areas designated for off-road vehicles (such as ATVs and off-road motorcycles), leading to obstructed views of the Coast Range before follow the North Fork Wilson River past Lester Creek Falls to a beautiful wooden footbridge that marks the end of the hike.
Although it is a beautiful place any time of the year, the hike along the North Fork Wilson River is especially beautiful in the early part of fall when the many maples and other trees in Deciduous leaves change color for the season and the river begins to rise with the rainy season.
The end point of the hike is a beautiful, quiet place to rest, with a picnic table next to the wooden bridge and a short trail that descends to the river.
Those who want to put more miles under their feet have plenty of room to do so: from the Diamond Mill Bridge, the Wilson River Trail runs a further 12.5 miles past Kings Mountain, Elk Mountain, and Elk Creek, ending at a viewpoint which is (for now) the easternmost end point of the long distance trail.
For hikers who just want a taste of what the Wilson River Trail has to offer, the hike between Jones Creek and Diamond Mill is a great appetizer and a perfect early fall adventure.
Distance: 3.8 miles
Approvals: Toilets at each end; picnic area and campground (closed October to April) at Jones Creek
This hike is rated “moderate” for some steep hills.
The hike begins at the parking lot at the Jones Creek Day Use Area, located on the side of Oregon 6 about 29 miles west of the interstate intersection with US 26. Exit the Oregon 6 on Jones Creek Road, following signs for Jones Creek Campground. , then look for the car park on the left just after a small bridge.
To begin the hike, look for the trailhead just across Jones Creek Road from the parking lot. From there the trail will go up into the woods. Follow the signs for the Wilson River Trail, ignoring those leading to the horse trail head or any other trail.
The trail crosses the North Fork Wilson River Road twice during the hike, where you might see logging trucks or vehicles carrying ATVs. This is by no means a busy road, but be careful crossing through and look for the little trail markers on the other side.
As the trail flattens out near the summit, it passes through a partially obstructed view of the rolling mountains of the Coast Range. Keep going and you will hear the North Fork Wilson River flowing just below.
You will soon come to a marked junction with a side trail that leads to Diamond Mill. Ignore this sign and instead go right following all signs for the Wilson River Trail or just for ‘trail’.
Right after the first sign for Diamond Mill, you should be able to hear Lester Creek Falls from across the river. There isn’t a good view of the waterfall from the main trail, but a small side trail leads to a more open viewpoint. Just watch your steps as the trail is steep and eroded and can get slippery when wet.
Shortly after the waterfall the trail will open onto a wooden walkway over the river. A picnic table next to the bridge is a nice place to rest, and a short path descends to the river just below. There is a pit toilet in the Diamond Mill parking lot on the left.
Unless you plan to hike further up the Wilson River Trail (either going to Kings Mountain or the many lookout points in between) this is the perfect place to turn around and come back where you came from.