Your hiking, biking, or horse trip begins before you reach the trailhead.
While it’s natural to want to jump into the car on a whim and drive to a favorite trail, doing so is not necessarily the wisest of choices. Hiking is a lot like painting a house in that the preparation is just as important as the actual activity itself. So before you head out, follow these tips:
- Let people know where you’ll be hiking and when you expect to be back. This is important whether you are going on a day hike at a nearby park or on a multi-day hike. On a backpacking trip, plan where you’ll be camping each night as well as the section of trail you’ll be hiking each day, in case you need to be pinpointed for an evacuation. The best insurance is a written reminder with all your information left behind with someone who is not going and who is expecting you back or to check in by a certain time.
- Study your maps before you begin the trip. Have a good idea of which route you will hike. Look for possible emergency exit points as well as places where water refills are likely. Identify more than one water spot since dry spells can be unpredictable.
- Time control plan. Predetermine where you ought to be at certain points of the day using your map. Factor in your walking speed based on the number of people on the hike as well as their fitness level. Also, for every 1000 feet of elevation you gain, add about an additional hour of hiking time. Remember that when traveling as a group, you are only as fast as the slowest person in the group.
- Graph your route. Highlight the route you will be taking. Mark potential campsites, water stops, and major road intersections.
- Check the weather and pack accordingly, keeping in mind that the weather at the base of a mountain and halfway up a mountain can be vastly different. Rain gear (one of the 10 Essentials) should be brought even if no rain is predicted, as wet clothes can cause a person to become hypothermic even with temperatures in the 50’s.
Loose items are easily lost if not secured properly while horseback riding, biking or hiking. Take extra care to pack your saddle or backpack to ensure items are secure.
Don’t toss your trash – not even biodegradable items such as banana peels. It is not good for animals to eat non-native foods and who wants to look at your old banana peel while it ever-so-slowly decomposes? If you packed it in, pack it out.
Preventing trailhead parking break-ins is your responsibility. Your best protection to prevent a break-in is to not leave anything in view in your car. Try to park at a trailhead that this is visible from the road or that will have a lot of come and go foot traffic while you're on the trail.
- Appropriate footwear. For a short day hike that doesn’t involve a heavy pack or technical terrain, trail shoes are great. For longer hikes, carrying heavier loads, or more technical terrain, hiking boots offer more support.
Map and compass/GPS. A map and compass not only tell you where you are and how far you have to go, it can help you find campsites, water, and an emergency exit route in case of an accident. While GPS units are very useful, always carry a map and compass as a backup.
Extra water and a way to purify it. Without enough water, your body’s muscles and organs simply can’t perform as well. Consuming too little water will not only make you thirsty, but susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness.
Extra food. Any number of things could keep you out longer than expected: getting lost, enjoying time by a stream, an injury, or difficult terrain. Extra food will help keep up energy and morale.
Rain gear and extra clothing. Because the weatherman is not always right. Dressing in layers allows you to adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Two rules: avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin) and always carry a hat.
Safety items: fire, light, and a whistle. The warmth of a fire and a hot drink can help prevent hypothermia. Fires are also a great way to signal for help if you get lost. If lost, you’ll also want the whistle as it is more effective than using your voice to call for help (use 3 short bursts). And just in case you’re out later than planned, a flashlight/headlamp is a must-have item to see your map and where you’re walking.
First aid kit. Prepackaged first-aid kits for hikers are available at any outfitter. Double your effectiveness with knowledge: take a first-aid class with the American Red Cross or a Wilderness First Aid class.
Knife or multi-purpose tool. These enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, fix broken eyeglasses, and perform a whole host of repairs on malfunctioning gear.
Sun screen and sun glasses. Especially above treeline when there is a skin-scorching combination of sun and snow, you’ll need sunglasses to prevent snow blindness and sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
Daypack/backpack. You’ll want something you can carry comfortably and has the features designed to keep you hiking smartly. Don’t forget the rain cover; some packs come with one built-in. Keep the other Essentials in the pack and you’ll always be ready to hit the trail safely.
Find a trail
Type in the search box or filter for a particular state forest.
View the state forestsland map.
All non-motorized trails on the Santiam State Forest remain closed due to damage from the 2020 wildfires and windstorms. However, in 2022, many trails will be reopening throughout the year as conditions improve.
On the Clatsop and Tillamook state forests, all trails are open throughout the year. Periodically, trails may be closed for timber operations, fire safety, or natural hazards relating to weather events.
Please check this page before heading out on a trail, especially during the winter months, for the most recent trail status updates.
Tillamook State Forest trail report
Santiam State Forest trail report
Clatsop State Forest trail report