Directions: Take 1-84 to Exit 18 for Oxbow Park. At the stop sign take a left, there are signs for Oxbow Park. At the second stop sign go left and get on the Old Highway and it a little over 4 miles go right at the split onto Hurlbert Road. In another couple miles come to a blinking 4-way intersection and go right onto Gordon Creek Road. Just a short distance later take a right onto a gravel road. It’s not a signed road but you can see a spray painted metal sign that says dead end. Follow this gravel road past a few farm houses to a small parking area and a closed gate.
We decided to check out the much less popular side of Oxbow Park (the North side) and it honestly wasn’t the best experience. You can do this hike as a moderate two mile out and back hike to the Sandy River, which is what we recommend. Or, you can do this as what ended up being a loop through massively overgrown stinging nettles that ends up on Gordon Creek Road. We don’t recommend the loop at all.
From the gate follow the old access road downhill, sometimes steeply, as you wind your way through the trees. After about a half mile you’ll start to hear the Sandy River but wont see it for another quarter mile or so. As you start to reach river level there is a side trail that takes you to a view of the river. When water levels are low you will be able to get down to the river, the water was high so it was just a quick side trip for us. Getting back on the main trail and hiking just a bit farther (roughly a mile from the parking area) you will come to a split in the trail. Head right and out to a nice beach area with lots of rocks. You get nice views of the river and can walk down and around the beach a ways to explore. There were a few people out having picnics and enjoying the sun. There are lots of birds here so if you’re into birding this beach is great for it. We saw a ton of Cedar Waxwings and Spotted Sandpipers. We even saw an Osprey snag a fish. If you walk down the beach and around the curve at the very end there is remnants of an old car that’s kind of neat to look at.
Really we recommend just ending your hike here, it’s best just as a short hike to a quiet beach to relax. Head back out the way you came in for a two mile total trip.
We decided to keep going on the main trail to see where it went. The trail gets a little more heavily wooded as you head away from the river and slowly gain elevation. Once you’re at the top of the bluff you start heading downhill again and this is where it gets to be not so fun. You drop down into a VERY overgrown trail that’s covered in stinging nettles. Both sides of the trail are full of it and there really isn’t a way to not brush up against it with everything so overgrown. The trail starts to even out and things start getting boggy and gross. We ran into a large and deep muddy area, there was a very bouncy log that moved all over running across part of it. One of us made it across without much damage, the other rolled off the log and became a muddy mess.
As you keep going there isn’t much going on, you can’t see the river, it’s mostly large trees and tall grass with nettles lining the trail. In some areas the trail is completely washed out. You still know where you’re going but it’s not really a trail. There are a couple of runoff areas that probably get interesting in the wet months. After about a mile and a half of this the trail starts heading uphill again as you get closer to the road above and you suddenly come to a sign with a shoe brush at the base. From here it’s just a few more steps and you’re dumped out on the side of Gordon Creek Road. Take a left and head a bit steeply up the road for about a mile until you reach the gravel road that takes you back to the parking area.
We don’t recommend doing the loop. The trail is very overgrown and not in good shape, plus it’s not very scenic at all. The last bit on the road is dangerous because there isn’t much of a shoulder to walk on, so please be careful!
Distance: 2 or 4 miles (easy)
Elevation: 350 feet (easy)
Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed at Oxbow Park.
Good For: All ages if you are just going to the beach. Adventurous adults only for the loop.
Parking Fee: None
Warnings: Overgrown nettles on the loop portion of this trail.