Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Jacksonville Forest Park

How did Jacksonville Forest Park ever escape my attention? Why have I never hiked here? The short answer is that I'd never heard of the place. I had heard of the nearby Jacksonville Woodlands trail system which is basically just across Highway 238 from Forest Park but I had never been on those trails either, my preconceived notion being that the Woodlands trails generally lack adequate mileage. But Forest Park has many trails and so many possible routes that are most hike-worthy in terms of both mileage and scenery. Actually, I have no idea if the trails are scenic or not as I have never been on them but based on my first time out, they probably are.

A tree gets a mossy hug

This was not going to be a long hike, thank my hernia very much! I did put together a route involving the Ol' Miner's, Owl Hoot, Atsahu, Arrowhead Pass, Shade Creek, Canyon Falls, Norling, and Rail Trails. It did not escape my attention there is also a Legburner Trail in the park which could be either good or bad, depending on the mood or inclination of a certain hernia. Anyway, like a couple of urban(ish) trail systems I've been on lately, like Cathedral Hills, a good map is essential to make sense of the numerous trail junctions encountered on most any hike in the park. There also are plenty of trail signs to orient hikers unfamiliar with Forest Park who, despite having a map and decades of experience, still managed to get a little misplaced while hiking here. 

Some of that local attraction on the Ol' Miners' Trail

After a short climb through a thick forest of young madrone, the Ol' Miners' Trail entered a hydraulic mining site, which consisted of a grassy area littered with rusting mining machinery. From there, the route continued uphill to a gold mining site that was off limits with an official detour around the site. The trail was probably closed here because quite obviously, a large number of trees had fallen on the trail. It was probably easier to create a detour than remove them all, or maybe there is some other compelling reason for the reroute. However, following the detour is where and how I got myself "misplaced", despite having a good map on hand.

It was this sign's fault!

My plan was to take the Owl Hoot Trail which would be intersecting my current trail from the left. So, when I ran into an unsigned but very clear trail that surely must be Owl Hoot Trail, a left turn was duly executed. Wow, this trail did not even pretend to be nice, heading straight up an exceedingly steep ridge crest forested with hardwood trees of various ilk, some of which were sprawled in fallen profusion across the trail. To make things worse, after nearly a mile of this, the path just ended. Just like that, with no fanfare or any other proclamation of Customer Appreciation Day. After some irritated "Hoot, mon!" utterances (or some salty variations thereof), there was nothing to do but return back to the junction that had originally led me astray.

Tall madrone trees surrounded the trail

Back on the Boulder Trail, in short succession I ran into the resumption of the Ol' Miner's Trail and the real Owl Hoot trail angling to the left. My legs and hernia had given their all on the Buzzard Fart Trail (my name for that Owl Hoot Trail imposter) and they now couldn't give two hoots about the Owl Hoot Trail. So, stay on the Boulder Trail it was, and that was fine for it was a nice and mostly level walk through woods of moss-covered trees interspersed with smooth-trunked madrones.

One of many small cascades on Jackson Creek

The sound of Jackson Creek trickling through the woods became more pervasive near a nexus of several trails intersecting near the rushing stream. After briefly exploring Norling Gulch, I beat a retreat back down to Jackson Creek and began the next phase of this little woodland sortie. The pleasant Canyon Falls Trail followed the creek on down the canyon. The vibe was somewhat canyonish and there were a number of noisy cascades that bordered on waterfall status. I'm not sure if any singular one of these falls were the famed and elusive Canyon Falls or whether the entire collection is referred to as Canyon Falls, but the walk along the bounding creek was my favorite part of the whole hike.

Bridge to nowhere

The loop hike was wrapped up by way of the Rail Trail, which sports an actual railway trestle that abruptly ends halfway across a ravine. Didn't see any pile of rusting train carcasses laying at the bottom of the ravine from which I deduced the missing trestle half probably disappeared long after mining trains last ran here. The hikers' footbridge crossing semi-stagnant Jacksonville Reservoir's outlet and dam looked very much like a trestle but at least it went all the way across, unlike its railroad bridge cousin.

This way to Rattlesnake Gulch

My hiking buddies Glenn and Carol had both given me sagacious advice not to hike up Rattlesnake Gulch, despite that alluring and enticing name. Seems like it's like a Richard Hike with none of the benefits. Well, with an endorsement like that, don't you know I just wanted to hike up Rattlesnake Gulch? Especially since the trail leaving the junction with the Rail Trail didn't look all that tough as it inclined up into the oak-dotted gulch. But for today, I listened to Glenn, Carol, and my hernia and decided to save that one for later, for I will be back to this charming little park.

Mossy tree trunks were a thing on the Canyon Falls Trail

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Glad you finally got to the Forest Park. Easy to get lost so having a map is essential You can definitely get some climbing and distance in at the Forest Park and we would be happy to hike with you there to show you that it is true. The Woodlands also have some great climbs, views and even miles. We know a loop of various trails that total between 7-9 miles depending on your choice of route. We have seen lots of wildlife there including multiple encounters last year with some Great Grey Owls. Let us know, we would love to share a hike with you and maybe treat you to lunch - maybe.

  2. Let's put it on the list, I know there is so much more to the park other than the little corner I visited.

  3. I finally discovered this wonderful place too! I've been there 4 times in the last few weeks and hiked different trails each time. Made it to Upper Twin Peak last Tuesday for a wonderful views East and South!

    1. Congrats, you got me beat! :) This has been my only foray into the park and there's so much more to see there. I'll definitely be back and hopefully hit the Twin Peaks among other park destinations. Happy Trails!