The green therapy of Wildwood Recreation Site, Welches, Oregon

Text & photos © Catherine Nichols

“Where’s a good place to hike around here?” I asked the local waitress.

“Just up the street about a mile at Wildwood Recreation Site,” she replied with a huge smile.

How can you tell you’re in a great place where the majority of the people are happy? Because the waitstaff, the cashiers, and all other support personnel are genuinely happy to be of service, despite dealing with tourists day in and day out. No question is too dumb and the enthusiasm for the same questions over and over again never wanes.

The wild and scenic Salmon River

Hiking and wandering is the best way to experience the park

Welches, Oregon is a small town of about 1,835 located outside of Mount Hood, an area dedicated to all things outdoors in all seasons. On one of my family’s first treks out to hike in this unbelievably beautiful and green town in northern Oregon, we followed the waitress’s suggestion. Leaving our lovely rental on the Salmon River we headed to Wildwood Recreation Site.

This rocks!

This rocks!

At the entrance to the site, we were greeted by a friendly ranger who chatted with us and offered great advice about where we should start. She handed us a map and outlined our day.

After grabbing some water bottles for the hike, we set off on a trail that started with a piece of art—silver salmon created by Norris Peterson, a wildlife artist. The piece was beautiful and set the tone for the walk.

Possibly the most photographed salmon in existence

Possibly the most photographed salmon in existence

Because Wildwood is fairly close to the main highway through Welches I was a little concerned that we’d be able to hear all the road noise, but that wasn’t the case. It was quiet, serene, and peaceful.

What I didn’t realize is that the trails we were going to be on were all paved, which makes this hike suitable for kids, seniors, or anyone of all abilities. There are picnic tables along the trail so you can have a meal under the canopy of the most beautiful hemlocks, Douglas firs, and red cedars.

Picturesque views of the Salmon River

The picturesque Salmon River

The smell of these wonderful evergreens is intoxicating. I inhaled at every possible moment, trying not to look like I was hyperventilating. Don’t tell, but I occasionally picked off a few pieces of the trees, cupped the shredded pieces in my hand, and had my own personal aromatherapy session.

During our walk we saw some wildlife, and we especially enjoyed spotting a banana slug. The trails are well marked. Although there is a difficult trail to hike at the Wildwood Rec Site, we did not take it. We stayed on the paved paths.

A fun find!

Banana slug. A fun find!

Walking along the trails, we were gently guided to go this way and that. Sometimes we were in the deep forest and, at other times, we were walking over rocks on the Salmon River. One trail took us over a bridge and onto a boardwalk with different arms showcasing various landscapes such as a swamp, a small stream, a highly wooded area, and one with both wet grasses and trees where we found ducks.

Look at the light coming through the foliage!

Gorgeous light filtering through the trees

A word of warning about northern Oregon: We arrived in Welches in early August and even though we had planned well according to the weather app we consulted, the weather changed drastically. We spent our entire vacation chilled to the bone. In fact, at some point, we made the 26-mile trek to a Meijer store in order to buy winter coats.

At daily highs of only 59 degrees or so, we were woefully unprepared; our suitcases filled with the smallest of tank tops, flip-flops, and shorts. I had one lightweight hoodie that I wore a lot. I wore it all day long, removed it to put on my summer pajamas, and then put it on again and slept in it. At the checkout stand at Meijer, the lady in front of us allowed us to use her “Friends & Family” coupon. Yes, a total stranger helped us save 20% on coats we may never use again (thank you, friendly lady stranger!).

Flowers and ferns

Flowers and ferns

Escaping California to visit the green trees of Oregon is something my family and I look forward to and plan to do more often. This was our second trip to the Salmon River area. Although things have changed and the area has become more crowded, it was still a welcome relief from our overcrowded hometown, and the devastating drought we are currently in.

In Welches and the surrounding area, there are plenty of trails and oodles of things to do, such as fishing, biking, hiking, swimming, bird watching, star gazing (I had a crystal clear view of a Perseid), and the best activity of all: sitting by the Salmon River doing nothing but watching the ducks and geese land.

If you need a break from the world, I recommend unplugging your laptop, putting your iPad away, shutting off your iPhone, and heading to the mountains, the beautiful and friendly mountains of Oregon.


Cathie Nichols, staff member at Milliver's Travels

Catherine Nichols

Originally from the East Coast, Catherine Nichols has spent the last 29 years in San Diego, and stays in the area because of its extraordinary beauty and a lovely lack of humidity. Accused by her three children of looking at too many rocks while visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and the deserts of Nevada, she continues to marvel at the ever-changing southwest landscape. With trips to Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Portland, and Europe planned, Catherine plans to reawaken her desire to see the world, and leave no stone unturned. Catherine writes in her blog at iBloggoneit.com and tweets as @bloggoneit.


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