The Lower Sandy River Trail drops to the shoreline of the Sandy River where Cedar Creek flows into the main channel. The trail starts at the intersection with the Upper Sandy River Trail
(an old logging road) and the Jim Slagle Loop Trail
(constructed in 2015). Before the trail drops to the river, there is a short spur to a viewpoint that shows a small waterfall and the Sandy River beyond. Please do not cut switchbacks that descend to the river as this trail is difficult to maintain and easily eroded. Cutting switchbacks channels the rainfall into the switchbacks and erodes the entire hillside, so stay on the path!
Once you reach the Sandy River, you may see some fishermen and women. Cedar Creek flows into the main channel just upstream. There is a fish hatchery further up Cedar Creek, which makes this confluence a popular destination for returning spawning salmon and folks fishing and fish-watching in the fall. A separate trail comes down to this point from the fish hatchery. The trail peters out at the river, but a fishing trail leads downstream. Be careful, as these trails are not designed or maintained and can be unstable and adjacent to fast-moving water. The ice cold Sandy River makes an "oxbow" (u shaped) turn just downstream. This causes fast, changing currents as well as large log debris jams.
Unfortunately, some fishermen leave fishing line, hooks, beer bottles, and trash. Pack a trash bag to pack some out, and you can call yourself and your kids a Sandy River Eco-Helper! Please keep your dogs on a leash and give some clearance to fishermen trying to cast a line.
This trail is a good place to come see salmon spawning in the fall in Cedar Creek. After a good rain that brings the creek levels up, the salmon can be easily seen laying eggs in redds, or fighting each other to fertilize the eggs. There are also some spent dead salmon on the river bank that can attract bears and other wildlife, so keep an eye out and do not let your dog get anywhere near the carcasses if you don't want an emergency veterinarian trip.
Once you head back up the trail, I recommend taking the Jim Slagle Loop Trail
to return. It is amazing to have such a gem of a destination so close to Sandy. For a famous photo op to memorialize your trip, head a half mile down Bluff Road to take your picture at the Jonsrud Viewpoint
where you can see your Sandy River destination, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, the Bull Run Watershed, and the Devil's Backbone, which is part of the Oregon Trail.
The Lower Sandy River Trail has an abundance of ferns, salal, Oregon grape, salmonberry, thimbleberry, red huckleberry and some stinging nettle. The hardwood trees are alder, bigleaf maple, and vine maple that are great in the fall. The conifers are mostly western red cedar, Douglas fir, and western hemlock. The spawning salmon in fall are a must-see, but there are plenty of blue heron, ducks, osprey, and an occasional bald eagle visible along the shoreline.