If a website called “Muddy Camper” gives the North Santiam State Forest Recreation Area in Oregon three stars, it must have something to show for itself. After all, who doesn't love mud? I rest my case. However, while the North Santiam State Forest Recreation Area is billed as "one of the best-kept secrets in the northern Oregon Cascades,” it is not the old-stand timber area it once was.
There are some old-stand areas left, but you have to look for them and hike to see most of them. Much of what remained after timber companies went through the place (from 1880 to 1930) was taken out by wildfires, the state says. That means, thanks to forest reclamation legislation, the land is now publicly owned, although most of the area is new growth trees about sixty to eighty years of age.
What still remains, however, is a magnificent state forest, thanks to the 1939 Forest Acquisition Act that encouraged counties to hand over large tracts of forest to the state. The North Santiam Recreation Area was preserved through that legislation. Even better news for woof: The state manages 13 campsites in the park, and all of them are open to pets. The picnic shelter area is also open to pets.
That leaves the forest areas, which includes a 50,000-acre tract of back-country trails, scenic stands of pine trees, hidden waterfalls and “clear lakes surrounded by rhododendron,” according to a state pamphlet, and some scenic overlooks of the foothills variety. The hiking is said to be gentle with the highest point of the park at about 1,700 feet above sea level.
That's a reasonably easy climb, but one that requires some exertion to get to the top. But it's nothing so vigorous as climbing the Cascades themselves, the tallest of which is Mt. Rainer near Seattle, which makes it to 14,411 feet above sea level. Within 50,000 acres, there are too many trails to name here, but favorites include the Rocky Top Trail and the Natural Rock Arch Trail.
It should be noted that the tract also includes what is called the Crooked Finger Off-Highway Vehicle Area – which means loud, fast, furious off-road vehicles have the right of way. Dogs off leash might want to stay out of that type of territory.