Salmonberry Railroad

The Salmonberry River from the third bridge

  • Easy (to washout)
  • 4.2 miles round trip
  • 20 feet elevation gain

  • Moderate (to water tank)
  • 9.6 miles round trip
  • 100 feet elevation gain

Steel rails hang in the air above the Salmonberry River. Floods have damaged this railroad line northeast of Tillamook beyond repair, but the route may live again as Oregon’s next spectacular rails-to-trails conversion project. Already hikers can follow the line 4.8 miles upriver, over abandoned trestles and steel bridges, to a water tank where locomotives once stocked up before tackling the Coast Range grade.

Built in 1906-1911 by the Pacific Railway & Navigation Company, the line had initials (PN&R) that soon inspired the nickname “Punk, Nasty, & Rotten” because of the area’s rainy climate. The Port of Tillamook bought the 88-mile route in 1990 for $2.9 million. But a December 2007 storm dumped 20 inches of rain on the area in two days. The Salmonberry River washed out bridges and track. No one could afford the estimated $57 million repair bill. What to do?

A nonprofit group began leasing the intact track between Tillamook and the Salmonberry River for a tourist steam train. Local interest groups proposed converting the rest of the route to a trail connecting Portland with the Coast. Currently much of the route is dangerous, accessible only to diehard adventurers. But hikers can taste an easy, still unfinished sample at the lower end of the Salmonberry River canyon.

Start where the railroad crosses . . .

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range.