This is an entry by Matt D’Agrosa, a Scappoose native who will contribute regularly to the blog.
My favorite section of the Crown Zellerbach Trail is also its highest point; the remote Nehalem Divide trailhead. The trailhead lies alongside Scappoose-Vernonia Highway at the turn for Mt. Pisgah Home logging road.
Heading down from the parking area to the trail and turning left brings you back under the highway, a portal taking you into some of the CZ Trail’s oldest forest.
A mix of Alder and Big Leaf Maple line the trail with Douglas Firs and Red Cedars dominating the deeper forest as the path winds downwards. Sword Ferns compose much of the understory.
One nice aspect of this section is that the trail travels away from Scappoose-Vernonia Highway, making for a secluded hike. For the adventurous spirit an off-trail hike can bring you to the mouth of a national historic tunnel cutting through the mountain. The tunnel is collapsing and is considered unsafe to enter.
As the trail levels out it parallels the Northeast Fork of the Nehalem River. Salmon still spawn in the river’s upper reaches. Keep an eye out for Red-tailed Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk sitting alongside the trail in trees hunting the nearby clearcuts. Chickadees, Nuthatches, and Oregon Juncos dart back and forth in synchronicity with bootsteps. Various woodpeckers frequent the diverse habitat.
If weather conditions are right you may find yourself in middle of a mollusk or amphibian migration day! The Oregon Forestsnail and Rough-skinned newt can be found out in the open by the dozens during a migration event.
About 1.1 miles down the trail crosses a small creek with a beautiful cascade. This is a good turnaround point if one doesn’t want to continue all the way to Scaponia Park another two miles further.
If you are looking for a peaceful journey into the Oregon coast range the Nehalem Divide trailhead delivers for all ages and skill levels.
Nehalem Divide at a glance
What: hiking, streams, rivers, wildlife viewing
Where: Nehalem Divide (45.83151, -123.04645) is just off of Scappoose-Vernonia Highway 11.5 miles west of Hwy 30, on Pisgah Lookout Road.
Hiking: It is 3.0 miles to get from Nehalem Divide to Floeter Trailhead.
Camping: Scaponia Park is just past Floeter Trailhead
Notable Wildlife: songbirds, woodpeckers, frogs, salamanders, mollusks
Property status: Columbia County Parks