Distance: 5.2 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet
Season: year round (except in winter storms)
Best: April – May; October
Pass: None needed.
Map: Spruce Run Lake (Oregon Department of Forestry)
Directions: From Portland, drive US 26 west exactly 54.2 miles to a junction with Lower Nehalem Road. Turn left and drive 5.2 miles on this road to Henry Rierson Spruce Run Campground. The trail departs from a signboard on the opposite side of the road from the campground.
Hike: Finding a peaceful wilderness experience in Oregon’s Coast Range can be difficult. On the trek to secluded Spruce Run Lake in the Nehalem River Valley you’ll find peace – but definitely not wilderness. While the first third of the hike follows a scenic, rushing coastal stream and the last third traverses a dark, forested hillside, the middle third bounces steeply up and down a canyon wall within eyesight of an unsightly mass of recent clearcuts. If you refuse to let that bring you down, this is a very nice hike to a peaceful destination.
Begin by locating the trailhead signboard, located on the east end of the road at the edge of Spruce Run campground. The newly-constructed Spruce Run Trail follows splashing Spruce Run Creek at a close distance for the first ¾ of a mile, giving you many opportunities to stop and relax. Soon, however, you begin climbing at a gradual rate. The climbing intensifies as you first crest the ridge, then descend halfway down, then climb back up to the top of the ridge, usually without the benefit of switchbacks. If you come before April you will be treated to a magnificent view of an active logging operation, one that seems to encompass the entire canyon of Spruce Run Lake. Fortunately, your side of the canyon remains in beautiful coastal forest.
At about 2 miles from the trailhead, reach a very well-marked trail junction marked by a large wooden stile. The trail to your right heads left towards an obscure forest road; you want to continue straight. Descend one last time down into a surprisingly beautiful forest of moss-draped hemlocks towards a reunion with Spruce Run Creek. Follow the trail slightly uphill to Spruce Run Lake. This small, marshy lake is quite peaceful and is downright lovely in the fall when the maple trees that surround it burn gold and orange with fall color. The trail follows the left bank of this small lake to trails end at a large downed tree. This is a decent lunch spot with a view out to the lake.
Return the way you came.