Day Trippin’ to Jewell Oregon, a Secret Gem of Clatsop County

I was driving in my Jeep on Highway 202 looking for the small town known as Jewell, Oregon, when suddenly I saw a herd of elk off to my left. There were about 40 in the herd. The cows  (females) were off to one side, and to the right was a small group of bulls. Their giant antlers reached out high into the air like arms outstretched in a southern church. I quickly found a safe place to pull over so I could watch the herd grazing on the wet mossy grass of the coastal region. I was enthralled with their beauty as I stared in wonder.

Photo credit: Beth Bauer

The possibility of spotting elk is just one of many things that makes Jewell special. From mushroom hunting in the green emerald fields to fishing in the Nehalem River, there is no shortage of recreational opportunities. Whether you hike through Clatsop State Forest or get lost in the rich history of the area is up to you. Jewell is a secret gem of Clatsop County.

Jewell, Oregon is an unincorporated logging community situated where Oregon Route 103 meets State Highway 202. The town is named after the former United States Postmaster General, Marshall Jewell. However, you won’t find a post office in Jewell anymore as it closed in 1967. You won’t see much of anything in Jewell, aside from the elk, old abandoned homes, and a historic cemetery. Now, it’s mostly a ghost town where the pioneers once thrived, and the logging industry flourished.

Oregon loves its State Forest lands and Clatsop State Forest, near Jewell, is a perfect example. Prior to the 1930s, almost all of the property that is today known as the Clatsop State Forest was privately owned. The land was primarily used for logging camps, lumber mills, and railroads. Eventually, they traded the logged land to the county instead of paying taxes. In early 1936, Clatsop County became the first Oregon county to deed its forestlands over to the state to manage with an agreement to continue to receive some of the revenue from any future timber sales.

Photo credit: Beth Bauer

Today the forest is full of meandering trails, gurgling streams, giant fir trees, and lofty maples. It’s a mushroom pickers dream, and a perfect place to lose yourself in the wonders of nature. There are also tons of great trails for hikers of all abilities, and you have the choice to take your backpack or stay in one of the many campgrounds.

While in the area, visit Jewell Meadows Wildlife Preserve, operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Its primary function is to provide protected winter habitat, and if necessary, supplemental feeding for the many herds of Roosevelt elk that reside there. Vast fields border state highway 202 and often provide an exceptional view of up to 200 elk during the winter and spring months. There is also plenty of other wildlife in the area, such as deer, raccoons, fox, coyotes, bobcats, otters, beaver, and plenty of birds. There are two paved parking lots and four viewing areas, along with a picnic area and restrooms. If you want to see the elk up close, you should consider volunteering to help feed the herds in the winter. To get more information on volunteering call (503) 755-2264.

Jewell has an abundance of trees, but none compared to its crown jewel, the World’s Largest Bigleaf Maple Tree, which tragically fell during a windstorm in March of 2011. At the time it stood over 103 feet tall and spread out over 112 feet tall. It was a giant loss for the community and tree lovers everywhere. A Bigleaf Maple can grow up to 157 feet tall and are native to the Pacific Northwest, but most prevalent near the Pacific coast, from Alaska all the way to southern California. Some are also found inland near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s and even occasionally in Idaho.

Photo credit: Beth Bauer

Another fun thing to do while you’re in the Jewell area is to hike Saddle Mountain. The trail is about 4.5 miles long. If you go in May or June, you’ll enjoy the beautiful wildflowers along the way, and the view from the top is always breathtaking! As the highest point in northwest Oregon, at the top of the saddle-shaped peak on a clear day, you’ll have a panoramic view from the Pacific Ocean all the way to Mount St. Helens. Note that the trail is rated as difficult and dogs must be kept on a leash.

There might not be a town for shopping and dining in Jewell, but it’s a recreational paradise and perfect for a day trip on a warm sunny day. So, pack your binoculars and charge your camera batteries. You’re going to need them!

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