Four Oregon Falls

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HENLINE:

Tucked away in the Opal Creek Wilderness, this unique waterfall plunges 125 feet into a creek full of colored rocks and moss-covered logs. At about two miles round-trip and very little elevation gain, this hike is good for all skill levels. 

The trail takes you through Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock, leaving no shortage of beauty to look at on your way to and from the fall. Once you’ve arrived at the fall, one of the first things you’ll notice is how it falls. With a massive rock face to its right, the water comes off from the side and falls in between the cliff from which it came from and the rock face to its right. This is one of the features that makes this place truly unique.  

Something very special about Henline is that it used to be part of a mining site from the 1930’s. To the viewer’s right of the fall, you’ll find an abandoned adit that can be explored for about 30 feet before a gate has blocked the remaining 100+ feet. 

If you make your way to the base of the falls, you’ll be delighted to find a beautiful green pool decorated with colorful rocks that are viewable through the almost crystal-clear water. Take a moment to feel the mist on your face and the rocks beneath your feet before heading back on the trail. 

Henline takes on very different looks throughout the seasons so be sure to visit a couple times throughout the year. There is also tons more to explore in Opal Creek so be sure to make a day out of it. 

As always, pack out what you pack in. 

Directions: Take exit 253 for Highway 22 near Salem, OR and stay on Highway 22 for approximately 22 miles before turning left on North Fork Road. After 15 miles, the road turns to gravel. 1.3 miles later keep left at the junction and continue 0.2 miles until you reach the trailhead on the left. The trail is straightforward until you reach a junction where you will keep left to continue following the creek below.


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DRIFT CREEK:

There aren’t many waterfalls that can be added as a “stop” on a day of coastal exploring but Drift Creek Falls is one of them. Situated between Lincoln City and Pacific City and to the east, it is about 35 minutes of driving each way from either coastal town. 

At three miles round trip and an elevation gain of about 500 feet (mostly on the return journey), this is a mild hike that is suitable for most hikers. The trail is very well maintained and consists of packed dirt and rock. The trail to the fall winds through the Coast Range forest that is re-growth from previous clearcutting. There are two incredible features on this trail: the fall itself and the incredible suspension bridge that crosses the canyon. 

The first you encounter is the suspension bridge. At over 200 feet long and 100 feet high, it is truly a magnificent feature that in unique to Drift Creek Falls. From the bridge, hikers get a unique perspective of the fall below and a terrific view of the coastal range forest that surrounds them. Be sure to take a moment to stop in the middle (if it doesn’t frighten you too much) and appreciate the views that this bridge offers. There aren’t many trails that allow you to view a waterfall from twenty feet above like this one does. 

The second is Drift Creek Falls which plunges about 80 feet into a boulder filled creek. The basalt face of the cliff that the water falls from keeps your eyes interested and the boulders below serve for some fun exploring. Another interesting aspect of Drift Creek is that instead of falling into a creek that runs from it, it falls into a creek that runs perpendicular to the fall. As always, be sure to pack out everything you packed in. 

Directions: From Depoe Bay, head north until you pass Salishan Golf Course. Just after, turn right onto Drift Creek Road. Shortly after, keep right onto South Drift Creek Road and follow until you see signs for Forest Road 17. Turn left and follow FR 17 for 10 miles until you reach the parking lot for Drift Creek Falls. Follow the trailhead down to the suspension bridge where the trail will circle down to the base of the falls. Return the same way you came. 


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FALL CREEK:

In my opinion, one of the most impressive falls in the Pacific Northwest is Falls Creek Falls. There are three drops in total making FCF a combined 250-foot monster of a waterfall. 

The trail is moderate in terms of difficulty. The way there being the more difficult side of it. About 1200 feet of elevation gain in approximately 1.7 miles gets you to the main viewpoint of FCF. If you want to go when the road gate is closed (December-April 1st) you will add another 4 miles to this hike. If you’re up for it, hike when it was snowed and you’ll be treated to an out of this world experience.
Along the way be sure to take in the sights as you follow the creek almost the entire way there. Less than a quarter mile into the trail you cross a small, but neat suspension bridge and then continue to work your way through a dense forest of Douglas-Fir. Small, rocky, mossy, and beautiful streams flow perpendicular to the trail making some amazing scenes to see along the way. 

Once you arrive to the viewpoint, it’s hard to not remember how small you are and how photos that you’ve seen of this place do not do it justice. It is truly a powerful experience. One of the most special features of this fall is the lone tree that sits at the edge of the final drop. During heavy flow, a second stream will fall from the other side of it, adding to the character of FCF. After taking it all in, head back the way you came and be sure to pack out whatever you have packed in. 

Directions: From Portland, take I-84 East to Cascade Locks. Take the Bridge of the Gods ($2 toll) into Washington and turn right towards Stevenson and follow Highway 14 for approximately 6 miles. Turn left on Wind River Road and drive 14.5 miles through Carson and then keep right at the 90-degree turn to stay on Wind River Road. In a half mile, turn right onto Forest Road 3062 for the Fall Creek Falls Trailhead. The road turns to gravel and after 1.1 miles, keep left at the junction with FR 056. After another mile, keep right at the junction with FR 057 for Lower Falls Creek Trail #152A. Shortly after you will reach the large parking lot for the Trailhead.

Disclaimer: The Forest Road is not well maintained so there are very large potholes along the way. Drivers of low clearance vehicles should use their judgement but may have to park along the FR and walk in the rest of the way. 


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TAMANAWAS:

First, if you can go in the winter, go in the winter. Tamanawas is one of the easiest falls in Oregon to reach after a heavy snowfall. Located in the Mount Hood National Forest, the trail starts right off the road that is well maintained in the winter by road plows. Tamanawas is beautiful all year but it is truly something special in the winter. At just over 3.5 miles round-trip and 600 feet of elevation gain, it is a fairly mild hike. In the winter, be sure to pack some micro-spikes and possibly even snow shoes if you’re the first on the trail after a heavy snow. 

The entire trail is littered with special scenes on the Cold Spring Creek. As you hike the trail along the creek, take plenty of time to admire the beauty of small drops and snow topped rocks (if you are there in the winter). There is certainly no shortage of beautiful stopping points. 

When you come around the corner and the trail opens up, you are greeted by a wonderful view of the fall. Lava cliff surrounds you and the 150-foot beauty falls untouched over the edge. From here you can take in the sights or venture closer to feel the mist on your face. In the winter, several channels form through the snow from the base of the fall and down through the creek. Icicles form on the walls surrounding the fall creating a surreal and unique scene. 

What makes Tamanawas so special is the experience as a whole. Not many waterfall trails contain this much beauty from start to finish. If you are a fan of small scenes, this is the trail for you. And because of its location, the trail and fall will look completely different from season to season, making it easy to come back time and time again with a totally different experience. As always, be sure to pack out everything you pack in. 

Directions: From Government Camp, keep on Highway 35. Pull into the parking lot signed for Tamanawas Falls right off of Highway 35 near milepost 72. From the parking lot, head to the right and cross the footbridge and head to the right, following East Fork Trail. After just over a half mile, reach another junction and head left over another footbridge. Stay on the current trail, passing two more junctions, until you reach the destination. Head back the same way you came.

Michael Howard
@michaelhowardphotos
michaelhowardphotos.com

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