Just outside Corvallis is the Beazell Memorial County Forest in Philomath, OR, a beautiful temperate rainforest that showcases numerous hikes, educational hubs, bird watching spots, and more. It’s the newest (and largest) park in Benton County, and it’s an amazing, self-sustaining slice of classic Coast range that’s perfect for a day of relaxed outdoor exploration. The trails are open year round to hikers, bikers, canine friends, and equestrians.
There are two main loops around the forest, the first using the South Loop, South Ridge, and Plunkett Creek trails. The Bird Loop is the second, shorter option. Or you can even tackle all four trails in one continuous ramble through the area.
For the three-trail loop, start at the trailhead by the Plunkett House (an 1875 farmhouse) where the path starts off by leading into the shade of some old oak trees. This is the start of the South Loop Trail. The oak trees will soon give way to Douglas firs as the trail follows an old road bed and slopes uphill. In the wetter months this path can get muddy, but by high summer it’s packed and dry. Stay right at the loop junction to stay on the south part of the trail.
You’ll see another foliage swap as big leaf maples take their turn dominating the canopy theme, right before you duck back under a patch of surprisingly thickly planted firs. Another trail junction will pop up, and you’ll take a right to start down a new trail - South Ridge Trail. This was my favorite section of the stroll, with a beautiful meadow spilling across the hillside as the forest cover fell away. By late summer the wildflower booms had faded, but I was promised that the area is bright with ox-eye daisy, self-heal, and hairy cat’s-ear in the spring. And if you’re lucky, you'll find a few wild strawberries hiding in the grass.
The trail leads back into the shade of a Douglas-fir plantation as the path climbs up a ridge. Follow the South Ridge Trail down the hill to the edge of a clear-cut, then swing back under forest foliage to a lush stream-side woods. You’ll spot red alder, wood fern, and Pacific waterleaf thriving in the damp soil, as well as (seasonally) meadow rue, bleeding heart, poison larkspur, and three different trillium species. Keep an eye out for the very rare Siskiyou false hellebore as well, which supposedly grows in this forest as well.
You’ll cross a small footbridge over Plunkett Creek and hit the upper end of the Plunkett Creek Loop. There’s another tiny footbridge as the path follows the creek down through mossy yews. You’ll see the carcass of an old car in the creek slope, and then you'll connect with the old road bed and the lower end of the loop.
Beazell Memorial Forest is just 15 miles from Corvallis on Kings Valley Highway (State Hwy 223). From Corvallis, take Hwy 20 west for five miles past Philomath, turn north on Kings Valley Highway at Wren and drive six miles to the park entrance on the east side of the road. The park entrance is well signed, and more directional signs are on all major roads in the area.
Learn more about Beazell Memorial Forest & Education Center in Benton County: https://www.co.benton.or.us/parks/page/beazell-memorial-forest-education-center