Family Road Trip: McDowell Creek Falls

August 9, 2013 (Updated August 9, 2013)

Oregon is home to a thousand waterfalls. Well, maybe not quite a thousand, but it seems every direction I drive the possibility to find one nestled in the dense trees is exceptionally high. When we want to skip the larger fall-seeking crowds, we head to McDowell Creek near Lebanon. It is a nice drive, winding through farms and forest off of the Interstate. We have ventured here in both winter and summer, noting the changes in the foliage and the size of the falls themselves. For a sweet treat, we found a place that is a perfect stop after visiting the falls once we are back in Lebanon.

The trail system is also a unique draw, as the switch back over the river is done on several beautiful bridges. It gives a tree-fort-like feel, looking down on the water and at nature above. While the loop is not long, it is easy to be distracted by the fascinating life that surrounds the path. This is for sure a snack-and-water packing trip; the length of time spent here is determined by how many interesting critters and plants are discovered. Petite delicate flowers, clover, slugs, termite homes, squirrels and all sorts of lichen are just some of what we have found. There are a few options for additional viewpoints; we hoofed up the stone steps to see the Terrace Falls from the top this last time, and while there is a rail, some steps can be high and harder for shorter legs. We were met with by a small platform that hangs over the falls, but thick brush kept our view minimal. This is still a good add-on and a bit of a thigh workout!

The parking lot has two decent vault-style toilets, and while they are primitive, they get the job done. I usually stash TP and hand sanitizer in my car, for situations just like this. We found that although quite a few picnic benches are scattered around, they are in the process of being reclaimed by the forest floor. We skip utilizing the natural moss tablecloth and just tailgate our sandwiches. The top of Majestic Falls at the end has a small seating area that would be a good spot for lunch. These trails usually have several other families wandering about, and I have seen a few dogs on leashes. Cell reception is pretty sporadic. It can be a good time to temporarily unplug, yet still snap a few photos to upload later.

To replenish the energy spent hiking and ogling all of the wonders found on the trail, we discovered tucked under a pink striped awning a treasure trove of ice cream treats. Herschel’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlour on Main Street in Lebanon will make taste buds happy and bring a bit of nostalgia to a fun afternoon. The menu offers everything from burgers to pizza, and if you can’t make up your mind, you can simply choose the pizza burger. We found the best spot to sit were red-cushioned barstools,and  it was fun to watch the modern-day Soda Jerk create beverages in the traditional way. We opt to share the generous banana split, but next time I will be trying the honey and hazelnut version. The colorful atmosphere was festive, and the fellows behind the counter were kind and seemed to really what they do. It was the perfectly sweetened way to end our day.

About The

Michelle Fahlgren
Michelle Fahlgren has been a NW gal most of her life and has made it a personal hobby to explore the unique and historical places that make this area fascinating. A camera in one hand, strong coffee in the other she is usually researching something new to explore with her hubby and son. She is a photographer, a reader, a road-trip junkie, a treasure hunter and finds most of life's troubles can be set right by salty sea air and a bit of chocolate. Check out more of her latest photos and adventures here</a.