Category Archives: Willamette Valley

Downing Creek Falls (Autumn)

**This waterfalls does not have an established or maintained trail. It has been written up a few times but is not frequently visited. In order to help keep this place as pristine as possible we are not openly posting driving or hiking directions. Send us an email and we’d be happy to give you tips on finding this beautiful area.

      

The hike for this waterfall is short, on old roads with downed trees and through overgrown booth paths. It features a very pretty creek, a stunning waterfall, and an overabundance of moss. The moss is seriously great though, it really gives you that storybook feel.

      

The elevation at the waterfall is over 3,00 feet and we did run into some light snow on the old road but not much around the waterfall itself. We’d imagine that this place can get some decent snow during winter.

      

We really urge that anyone who visits here hikes responsibly and helps keep this place looking as untouched as possible 🙂

Distance: 0.7 miles (easy)

Elevation: 60 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Anyone who is comfortable with unestablished trails.

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All- winter may have snow, check snow levels before leaving.

Popular: No

Warnings: No established or maintained trails.

Silver Falls State Park- Trail Of Ten Falls (Winter)

Directions: Take I-205 to exit 10 and drive South on Highway 213. Follow signs to Silverton, once in Silverton get on Highway 214. Take Highway 214 for about 14 miles to the South Falls Lodge parking area.

We did this hike on a very rainy weekend. All of the waterfalls were very full which was great to see! There are park maps at the pay station area, they are nice to have so you know which waterfalls are coming up. You can do the large loop that takes you to all 10 waterfalls, or you can do just a few. There are three trailhead areas, each have multiple waterfalls within just a few miles.

All of the trails are very well marked with easy to read signs. The trails are all fairly wide, with packed dirt and rocky in areas. There are a few bridges and two areas with long and pretty steep staircases. You can walk behind multiple waterfalls as well, so there’s a good chance you will get a little wet in the warmer months, or soaked in the wet months.

      

Since this is such a straightforward hike we’ll just post some pictures of the highlights. We have done this hike in other season, winter is definitely our favorite so far. The waterfalls and creek were so full and it was a lot less crowded.

      

      

      

Distance: 7.5 miles (if you want to see all of the waterfalls)

Elevation: 1,200 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Dogs are not allowed on MOST of the trails.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $5 entrance fee

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: This is one of Oregon’s best State Parks!

Best Of 2016

We did a lot of great hikes in 2016, here are some of our favorites and our overall top hike of the year.

  • Willamette Valley:

Henline Falls– This is a short hike but it takes you to an amazing waterfall. Catch it at the right time of day and you might just see a rainbow at the base as well!

  • Columbia River Gorge:

Columbia Hills State Park– Great area to see wildflowers with amazing views of the Gorge.

  • Washington:

Lewis River Falls– So many pretty waterfalls in such a short distance. Definitely a must see.

  • Coast:

The Thumb– This was probably the most unique hike we did this year.

  • Central Oregon:

Smith Rock (Misery Ridge)– The views are amazing at the top and you get a very up close view of Monkey Face!

  • Mt. Hood:

Wind Lake– You get to ride a chairlift up to the top of Ski Bowl and then hike to a somewhat hidden lake. And the whole time you have great views of Mt. Hood and Government Camp. 

  • Portland:

Powell Butte- This is a great hike in the city. On a clear day you can see Mt. Hood, Mt. St Helens, and Mt. Hood.

  • Southern Oregon:

Plaikni Falls– This hike was inside Crater Lake National Park, it’s very pretty, especially in autumn with all the beautiful colors.

  • Kayak:

Disappearing Lake– This was such a treat! It’s a lake that’s only around for about a month out of the whole year.

Overall Best of 2016:

Bald Mountain– The hike up bald mountain is beautiful and lined with beargrass. Once at the top you round a corner and come to one of the best views of Mt. Hood we’ve ever seen. Do this hike!

What were some of your favorite hikes in 2016? Any you’re looking forward to doing in 2017?

 

Alsea Falls (Summer)

Directions: Take I-5 to exit 228. Go right and follow Highway 34 for a little over 9.5 miles where you will go left for Philomath and the Oregon Coast. In just less than a mile go right for Highway 99W South. Follow 99W South for a little over 15.5 miles and make a right onto Alpine Road. Follow this road for a little over 4 miles and go left at a junction (signed for Alsea Falls). From the junction it’s about 9 miles to Alsea Falls, make sure you go past the campground to the day use area.

Alsea Falls is right at the parking area. Take a small trail marked for Alsea Falls and pass the bridge where you will come to a staircase. Head down the stairs and you will be at the base of Alsea Falls. This waterfall is really full from late fall to spring. During the summer months it runs pretty low but allows you to see all the rocks it flows over.

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Head back up the stairs and follow the trail over the bridge, this is actually the top of Alsea Falls. After crossing the bridge you will come to a signed junction. We went left towards Green Peak Falls. The trail is fairly well maintained, some areas are a bit overgrown and there are a few spots in the trail that are eroding. You will go down some steps and the trail switches back a few times.

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There are many side trails that take you down to the river. The river is pretty and has lots of rocks so you can walk around in it. Back on the main trail you will pretty much roller coaster for a while with not too much elevation gain or loss. Soon the trail dumps you out at a campsite where you can follow a small road that takes you into the main McBee Campground. We were planning on seeing Green Peak Falls but our trail directions weren’t very good and we were meeting some people at the Scandinavian Festival nearby. So, we decided to turn around at the campground and find it next time!

 

Distance: 2.5 miles

Elevation: 230 Feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most ages. May be harder for older folks and young kids.

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area.

Parking Fee: $3 day-use fee.

Seasons: All but gate is closed during winter months.

Popular: Very popular swimming place during the summer months.

Overall: The waterfall was pretty but nothing spectacular. We’ll be back to visit Greek Peak Falls.

Ankeny Wildlife Refuge (Rail Trail) (Summer)

Directions: Drive I-5 South to exit 243. Go right onto Ankeny Hill Road and at a stop sign go left onto Wintel Road. Follow this road until you come to a road on the left marked for the Rail Trail. Follow the gravel road down to the parking area.

From the parking area get on the trail and follow it by a field and into a more heavily wooded section. You will soon come to a split in the trail, go right onto the boardwalk. Following the boardwalk you will pass a bird blind that looks out over a marshy area. The boardwalk continues on over a swampy section as you come back out to an open area. At the end of the boardwalk you can go left and take a look at the ponds before back tracking back to the boardwalk and going right.

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Follow the grassy trail along the marsh area for a while as you start to round around and follow near the road. You will come to a side trail on the left that ends at a green gate. Go around the gate and cross the road where you will find another side trail that takes you to a boardwalk trail. Follow the boardwalk a short distance to another bird blind that looks out over another marsh area. Backtrack to the road and cross it back to the gate and get back on the grass trail. Keep going on this trail where there are lots of blackberry bushes that are full of berries in July.

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This trail takes you back to the gravel road you drove in on. Go right on the road and follow it back to your car.

While at the refuge we were able to see Great Blue Heron’s, Robins, American Goldfinch, Northern Flickers, Song Sparrows, Yellow Warblers, Cedar Waxwings, and more!

Distance 2- 3.5 miles (depends on if you look at all the ponds)

Elevation: 0

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the wildlife refuge.

Good For: All ages.

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All. Parts of the trail are closed from Oct-Apr

Popular: No

Overall: Nice quiet area that’s great for bird lovers, may be a little boring for others.

McDowell Creek Falls County Park (Summer)

Directions: Take I-5 South to exit 233. Go left at the light for Highway 20 and drive for a little over 18 miles. Take a left onto Fairview Road, there is a small sign that’s easy to miss marked for McDowell Park. In about a mile go left onto McDowell Creek Drive, follow this road for a little over 7.5 miles to the first parking area on the right.

From the parking area take the trail over a footbridge and continue on the trail until you come to a junction. Go right up the stone steps as you follow next to Royal Terrace falls (you will see this waterfall towards the end of the hike), the steps end at a small viewing platform at the top of the waterfall. Cross the creek over a bridge and head uphill, sometimes steeply, you will soon come to another split in the trail (it’s unsigned) go right and follow the trail where you will cross a road.

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After crossing the road the trail heads downhill as you come to a large wooden viewing platform at the top of Majestic Falls. After the viewing platform head down the wooden steps to another smaller viewing area at the base of the falls. Continue on even more wooden steps and boardwalk as you get back on the trail. Keep going on the trail, you’ll switchback once and come to Crystal Falls. It’s a small waterfall in the creek.

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Continuing on the trail you will cross back over the road and continue downhill. You’ll cross over another bridge and continue on for a short distance before you come to the last waterfall, Royal Terrace Falls. From here after you cross the bridge go right and head back to your car.

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Back at the parking lot you can take a side trail down to the creek to see Lower McDowell Creek Falls. It has three small drops, it’s not tall but still pretty.

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation Gain: 220 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area (when we were here they were very dirty)

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Year round

Popular: Yes during the summer, it’s a popular swimming area. Not as crowded during colder months

Overall: Great easy hike to see a couple pretty waterfalls.

Jawbone Flats (Spring)

Directions: Drive I-5 South to exit 253. Take a left and get onto Highway 22 and drive for a little over 22 miles until you come to a blinking light intersection, go left onto North Fork Road. Drive about 15.5 miles and the road will turn from pavement to gravel (note: there is a short gravel section earlier but it quickly returns to pavement). The gravel road now become FR 2209 and you enter the Opal Creek Wilderness. Continue for over 5.5 miles (keep left at a split in the road) where the road ends at the trailhead. Warning: The gravel road has MANY potholes, some of them pretty large. We saw all different types of cars at the trailhead and only one (a Fiat) seemed to have a problem. Just be aware and decide how much you’re willing to put your car through. The road has changed a lot since the first time we were here three years ago.

To see our first post on Jawbone Flats click here.

This whole trail is a rarely used access road for the small town of Jawbone Flats, which is now an environmental center. For more information on Jawbone Flats click here. The trail roller coasters over easy hills most of the way into Jawbone Flats. There is a lot to see along the way as well. You will first cross a bridge over Gold Creek and then come to an old mining shaft. It’s dark and pretty wet during the rainy season. Next you will start to see old mining equipment off to your right. There is a short side trail that takes you through all the equipment and to an old shed that’s barely standing. Behind this old shed is a hard to see trail that leads to Sawmill Falls. It’s well worth the short trip.

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Back on the main trail you will continue to see the Little North Santiam River and mining equipment occasionally. You will pass a trail junction with a bridge over the river, make sure you stay straight on the main trail though. Next there is another side trail that takes you to a natural rock waterslide that gets heavy use in the summer. Soon you will enter Jawbone Flats as you walk right down the middle of the tiny town. There are cabins on both sides of the trail and you will pass an information cabin. Cross Battle Ax Creek and follow the sign pointing you (right) towards Opal Pool.

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You will pass by an old fire truck (complete with chains on the tires!) and a bunch of old cars, wood stoves, and appliances. Continue past the picnic table area and meadow as you get back into the woods and come to another sign pointing you right again, Opal Pool is just a short distance later. There is a bridge that crosses Opal Creek and plenty of places to sit and relax. The water level was really high this time around so we didn’t see the pools it was just a fast moving creek! However, it was a nice weekend (high 60’s) and we did see people cliff jumping, which was shocking since it was only the second of April :). This is the turn around point so head back out the way you came in.

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This hike is pet and family friendly. There is a vault toilet at the trailhead and a compost toilet in Jawbone Flats. There is a $5 parking fee (NW Forest Passes are accepted).

We’re keeping our original Nalgene rating of 5. This place is great no matter the season!

Distance: 7 miles

Elevation: 380 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All Ages

Bathrooms: Yes. Vault toilet at trailhead and compost toilet in Jawbone Flats

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: All but may close during snowy times.

Popular: Yes

Overall: We love this place. There is so much too see that you’ll want to plan a good chunk of time for this hike.

Henline Falls (Spring)

Directions: Drive I-5 South to exit 253. Take a left and get onto Highway 22 and drive for a little over 22 miles until you come to a blinking light intersection, go left onto North Fork Road. Drive about 15.5 miles and the road will turn from pavement to gravel (note: there is a short gravel section earlier but it quickly returns to pavement). The gravel road now become FR 2209 and you enter the Opal Creek Wilderness. Continue for about a mile and a half (keep left at a split in the road) and you will see the Henline Falls trailhead on the left. Warning: The gravel road has MANY potholes, some of them pretty large. We saw all different types of cars at the trailhead and only one (a Fiat) seemed to have a problem. Just be aware and decide how much you’re willing to put your car through. We drove this road in the summer of 2013 and it has changed a lot since then.

The first part of this trail is an old access road and it’s fairly wide and pretty rocky. It’s heavily treelined as you gradually head uphill to a split in the trail. At the split stay left as the trail gets closer to Henline Creek. Soon you will enter the burn area, the trail just recently opened after a wildfire above the trail caused the hillside to become unstable. There are some burned out trees and the trail is eroding a bit so it’s kinda skinny in this area.

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A short distance later you will start seeing the waterfall as the trail takes you past some old mining remnants. The trail ends at the base of Henline Falls where there are plenty of rocks to hangout on and eat lunch or relax. There is an old mining shaft on the right side of the waterfall, you can’t go in very far but it’s interesting to look at. This is an out and back hike so head back the way you came.

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Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: 200 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: No

Seasons: All but check before going during winter months.

Popular: No

Overall: This is a beautiful waterfall and a nice addition to other hikes in the area.

 

Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival (2016)

This is our second year going to the Tulip Festival, it’s a fun tradition we’ve started to celebrate spring!

The farm is located in Woodburn, Oregon and the festival is running until May 1st. For more information checkout their website here.

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The fields are great and FULL of so many different types of tulips. There is a big kid-friendly area, as well as craft and food vendors. The gift shop has lots of stuff for your yard and you can order bulbs. We took home a pot of Prinses Irene Tulips and have been really enjoying them!

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Distance: 0-1 mile

Elevation: 0

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes throughout the farm

Parking Fee: $5 per person (they also have other prices such as per car)

Seasons: Spring

Popular: Very

Overall: This is a great tulip festival with lots of activities.

Spring Hikes

Hope everyone is enjoying the new season! Here are some of our favorite spring-time hikes 🙂

 

If you’re looking for flowers:

Pittock Mansion

Rowena Crest & Tom McCall Nature Preserve

Lacamas Creek (Camas Lily Field)

Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival

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Hikes that open in spring or that should be done before it gets too hot:

Larch Mountain

Painted Hills

Smith Rock

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Waterfalls!:

Tunnel Falls

Fairy Falls

Dry Creek Falls

Pool Of The Winds

Falls Creek Falls

Mist Falls

 

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Spring kayaking:

Columbia River Slough

Sturgeon Lake

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