Krause Ridge Trail offers a textbook example of a Pacific Northwest forest nearing succession climax. Whether you are a jaded forest trekker or an ecologist, this is a classical forest with big trees towering as a sunshade with a lush understory and an easy day hike.
In the theory of forest succession, pioneer plants take root in a new clearing, followed by fast-growing deciduous trees. Eventually, the faster-growing evergreens get the upper hand over the woodland of alder, willow, and maple. Finally, the conifers close the canopy and tower overall as the terminus species – an orderly process of change that takes more than a century.
If you count an abundance of ‘near old-growth’ trees on the east-bound hike, more will emerge seen deeper in the forest on the return. The trail is 6 miles, but you can stretch it to 8 miles if a spur is followed. The midpoint of the trail is a thin ridge overlooking the glaciated Cispus Valley. Unfortunately, the density of the trees on the steep north-facing slope precludes a good view below. But, for the rambler looking for a good trek, this is an easy one with modest elevation gain.
The trail here weaves through a mature forest effect that is cool, dark, and inviting to visit in spring, summer, or fall. The tread consists of 6 inches of pumice and is deeply trenched in places from motorbikes plowing the center.
The porous soil leaves little standing water, mud, or erosion. Forest crews have been here over the years cutting sections out of blowdowns that create footpath gateways. Trail features are few; no rocks or exposed lava, overlooks, or streams.
This is a forest of big Douglas fir, Western Hemlock, and Western redcedar: many are 30-40 inches in diameter suggesting these granddaddies are >150 years old. Large old-growth stumps attest that a once-great forest was logged – perhaps in the 1960s. Here and there you’ll see evidence of an old forest fire. Count on 4 hours from your car and return.