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Tillamook State Forest

Exploring the Tillamook State Forest

Oregon is unique in its embrace of off-road vehicle-based recreation, and for those of us backcountry adventurers that makes it a very exciting place to explore. We recently spent three days in the Tillamook State forest, a huge swath of public land (364,000 acres) in the Northwest part of Oregon. There are literally hundreds – maybe thousands – of miles of vehicle-accessible trails throughout the Tillamook, and plenty of excellent (but primitive) campsites as well. Waking up to the profoundly lush greenness we were surrounded by each day actually made me think of the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. It was spectacular to say the least (thank you Theron Humphreys for the great photo of my truck below in one of those campsite clearings). The fact that we spent three days and didn’t cross the same trail twice speaks for the vastness of the forest, and with so many offshoots to every main road the area beckons you to explore. And trust me, we did. Although you do get the sense that you aren’t far from civilization or other explorers (we did see several), there’s a great balance in the Tillamook between use and preservation. The TIllamook State Forest is what I imagine Gifford Pinchot ultimately had in mind when he reformed the management of federal forestlands; a partnership of planned conservation and mixed use. What I’m getting at is that the beauty of the land isn’t diminished by the use that occurs there: though logging is evident in many areas, we took in many truly breathtaking sights including one amazing overlook we reached just as the sun was breaking from two days of very dense, wet clouds.

It’s worth noting that there is an impressive network of maintained service roads throughout the forest, so if you’re inclined to just explore with the family and just do a little car camping you shouldn’t encounter an obstacle a standard sport utility vehicle can’t overcome if you stick to these main routes, especially during the dry summer months. If you want to get out into more remote backcountry however you will need a high-clearance 4×4. All in all it’s a place I encourage you to visit, and we’ll definitely be going back. Just be sure to inform friends and family of your intentions as there is no phone reception in the forest, at least that we encountered. If you have a GPS unit you will get a signal, just be sure to download detailed maps of the area before embarking. If you haven’t considered it, a Delorme inReach two-way satellite communications device is a great piece of equipment to have in areas like this, even if just for emergencies.

On the way back home Theron and I spent some time at Gearhart beach, the longest continuously-drivable stretch of beach on the Oregon coast. Definitely worth the stop! There aren’t many areas where you can still drive on the ocean beach and it’s very entertaining and makes for some great photo opportunities (especially if you’re traveling with a professional photographer :) Just do all your fellow adventurers a favor and be responsible when you’re out there.

Camera used: Sigma DP2 Merrill

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