With 12 miles of interconnected trails from which to choose, Oxbow Regional Park provides hikers with no end of options for shorter or longer strolls. A variety of walks, from an open meadow upon a ridge, 700-year old trees in an ancient forest, or a National Wild and Scenic River and floodplain to amble along, make for an excellent day trip any time of year.
A copy of the excellent park map will help you navigate the well-signed trail junctions and named picnic shelters. Please note that pets are not allowed at Oxbow to protect wildlife and habitat. Service animals are welcome.
This hike description offers two suggestions with extensions, Ancient Forest or Alder Ridge, both starting from the Alder picnic area.
Alder Ridge is a ridge top meadow with peek-a-boo views of the Sandy River. From the overlook, extend your ridge hike on the downhill along the river. This section of the park also hosts the equestrian access and horse-friendly trails on the ridge and part of the river. From Alder, head west up the wide gravel maintenance road for a 0.5 mile heart-pumping uphill. Once at the top and four-way intersection (trail marker “H”), head straight for wide-open views of the meadow (and fenced park maintenance area) and maybe catch a view of deer. Return to the intersection and head either way to complete the ridge loop. A multitude of ferns, glimpses of the river, and a relatively level 1.5-mile loop reward you for the short climb up.
On your way back down the road, extend this hike by several miles to take the scenic and long way back to Alder through an “oxbow” of the Sandy River where berry plants abound. About two-thirds of the way downhill, take the right spur (“G”) to head down to the group camp (“O”), exploring the base of the ridge you were just upon as you head to the river. At the next intersection (“N”), head towards the river access (“J”) or take the short way to more open views of the Sandy River (“K” and “M”). From here, the trails likely become more populated and a little farther from the river as they pass near and through the campgrounds and boat launch. At the boat launch, the trail picks up closer to the river again as you pass Dragonfly and Coho shelters on the way back to Alder. Note: At Dragonfly, there is an option to head right, down an inviting fenced path closer to the river. Past here though, the trail become a very narrow footpath and there is a short steep climb up to rejoin the trail. Should you simply continue straight instead of the path on the right towards the river, the trail will head through a small open field for more stable footing.
Back at Alder, have a snack and prepare to explore the moss-laden trees of the Ancient Forest. On the river side of this loop, enjoy watching the flyfishers casting their rods in search of the perfect catch. To start, head towards the group picnic shelter and vault toilets to pick up the trail towards Happy Creek (“C”). Enjoy the gentle ups and downs of the trail with the views of the Sandy River below as you hike along the high bank. Be respectful of the fenced boundaries as the river naturally erodes the steep cliffbanks. At Happy Creek, it is possible to cross the park road and pick-up the trail at an access point about 50 feet along the road to return to Alder or add an out-and-back extension to the Hosner picnic area and the Welcome Center (“A”) at the park entrance. In the Anicent Forest (“D” and “E”), there are options for shorter loops as you weave through the trees and admire the old-growth.
WTA Pro Tip: Take a bonus hike! Just after the Welcome Center at the entrance of the park, visit the Floodplain picnic area. The 0.5-mile out and back leads to river access along the namesake floodplain, with young evergreens sprouting along the way. From the parking area, take the trail behind the picnic table, rather than across from the toilet, for an easier stream crossing in the first few minutes.