“Sandy River starts near Riley Horse Camp, goes to Ramona Falls TH, and becomes first part of the Ramona Falls Loop.”
— Kathleen Walker
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers
The access road to both the Sandy River Trailhead near Riley Horse Camp and the Ramona Falls
Trailhead are gated at the junction of Forest Road 1825 and 1828 for winter (when there is a foot of snow on trails). Both trailheads require a Northwest Forest Pass or other valid parking pass. Crossing the Sandy River on logs, rocks or fording it, requires skill and rational decision making and the willingness to turn back if conditions are too difficult.
Sandy River Trail #770 begins across the road from Riley Horse Camp on Forest Road 1825-382. The first 1.9 miles of the trail are much less used as it travels to the Ramona Falls
Trailhead. That section of the trail is a steady 5% grade through "Old Maid Flats" which is an old mudflow from Mt. Hood's 1780's eruption. Moss covers the ground, rocks, and trees. After about 1/2 mile, the trail crosses to the north side of Forest Road 1825 and continues another 1+ mile to the Ramona Falls
Cross to the far end of the large opening towards the bulletin board, and the trail starts to the left of them. Most users will be running this section of Sandy River Trail. The trail continues through mossy forest. Please stop and review the river crossing safety sign before continuing on as that information will be helpful soon.
As you continue, the trail will begin skirting the edge of the volatile Sandy River Canyon. Stay back from the edges as the loose sand and overhanging cliffs are unstable! You can see sections of this trail that have had to been rerouted away from the cliffs as they were eroded away. Just before the 3 mile point (or 1.1 miles if you started at Ramona Falls
Trailhead), Sandy River Trail drops into the Sandy River Canyon.
At this point, the relatively easy trail becomes more challenging as there is no bridge crossing. You can look up or down stream for down logs, hop on rocks, or ford across the river. If the river is very high, and you cannot find logs to cross, or you feel that crossing the river is above your abilities, you should turn around and find an easier trail to run. The Sandy River can be low in the morning and much higher in the afternoon as snow upstream melts. Depending on where you crossed, you'll need to find where the trail picks up on the other side. The crossing offers one of the best views of Mt. Hood on the trail.
Continue north and cross another older channel of the Sandy River before heading back up into the forest. Run another 1/4 mile, and the trail ends at the intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail. If you are doing the Ramona Falls Loop
, it is best done counter-clockwise, so head straight (east) on the PCT. Check out the Ramona Falls Loop
featured run for info on the entire loop.
Flora & Fauna
The Old Maid Flat - a geologic feature from a volcanic eruption in the 1780's left a large sandy mud flow in this area. It is now covered in moss and lodgepole with good mushroom picking (you need a permit!). Lodgepole is dominant because of the drier sandy soils. Bear grass, rhododendron and a myriad of mosses make it otherworldly.