Dead Mountain Trail is one of the newer trails of the Oakridge area that is highlighted by a section at the top called the Devil’s Backbone, where there’s an incredible view of Oakridge, Hills Creek Reservoir, the surrounding foothills, and sometimes the Cascade Range.
Access to Devil’s Backbone is from the Salmon Creek Trail out of Salmon Creek Park, so adding the Salmon Creek Loop after the out and back up to Dead Mountain adds a few miles.
From Salmon Creek Park, it’s 13.70 miles to run to the top of Dead Mountain and back. Add 7.35 miles from the Salmon Creek loop for 21 total miles.
Find the Salmon Creek Trail at the southern end of the park. After 2 miles, turn left and cross Salmon Creek Road to the Dead Mountain Trailhead. Follow the trail past Forest Service Road 2404 as it steadily climbs among the massive Douglas Firs and Western Hemlocks. At six miles, cross the ridge and Forest Service Road 210. After another 2 miles is the gate to Dead Mountain. Go around the gate to the upper trailhead.
Follow the trail for a bit and it hits a bend in the Forest Road. Continue left past the tower. This short section is the Devil’s Backbone. This section ends with the clearing that allows for the spectacular panorama of the Oakridge area. Take the trail back or run the Forest Road, which circles back to the gate and the trail and start descending back to Salmon Creek.
To add the Salmon Creek loop, follow the path on the North end to Salmon Creek Campground. This trail is relatively flat, and many of Oakridge’s residents use it to walk their dog or take a leisurely walk. After passing the rail bridge, the trail enters the green highlights of the forest canopy. There are some sections of the trail that are Forest Road, and sometimes the Southside can be flooded. In that case, make it an easy out and back.
The creek’s water is so clear that its floor can be seen on the calmer sections as whitewater rapids appear during high water times. Streams that feed the creek provide small waterfalls on the south side of the creek. In 2011, there was a bridge that connected the two trails on each side of the creek that was completely washed out. The stairs to the creek are still left.
Continue onto the campground for the creek falls. There are lots of feeder trails around the campground, so it can get confusing. It doesn’t hurt to have the route downloaded on a phone or watch beforehand. Come back to where the bridge crosses the other side of the trail for the south side to head downstream toward Oakridge. The trailhead is about a quarter-mile past the bridge and start the only significant climb on this section. After the 2019 storm, the South trail was completely covered by downed trees. Check with the ranger station to make sure it is open.
After 3.5 miles, the trail comes to a rail crossing. The North trail is on the other side of the rail bridge. Go that way or continue on to a forest road that crosses the creek in another three-quarter of a mile. Continue left on the North trail back to Salmon Creek Park.