What is it about waterfalls that makes them so captivating?
My husband, Gary, and I took a Southern Oregon waterfall tour with the kids and it was one of our best trips of all time. We enjoyed every moment of the serenity — the quiet meditation as we hiked to each waterfall was so calming and surreal. We kept our eyes wide open so we didn’t miss a thing: a squirrel crossing our path; a lizard lounging on a rock; or the first misty moment when we near the thundering falls.
In all, we encountered 13 waterfalls. Every hike was memorable. Every waterfall was breathtaking. Technically, the route can be done in a day, but if you have kids you might want to break it down into a weekend adventure, camping along the way or even staying nearby in the Rogue Valley.
Butte Falls is located at the former site of a early 20th century water-powered sawmill. Not really a hike, the waterfall is easy to access from the historic town of Butte Falls off Highway 62. Specifically, take a right at Falls Road before the town, pass a business on the left, and just as the road starts weaving to the left, look for a clearing straight ahead where cars can park. From there, it’s just very short path to the waterfall. There’s a charming viewing deck — the perfect place to snap pictures of the 10-foot cascade — and you might be tempted to eat a snack at one of the nearby picnic tables. But we recommend taking a quick look-see and moseying onto the next waterfall.
Mill Creek Falls and Avenue of the Boulders
Just outside of the town of Prospect, Mill Creek Falls plunges 173 feet into the Rogue River gorge. The year-round waterfall is accessible from the Prospect State Scenic Viewpoint. An easy hike, the trail is gorgeous with lots of beautiful trees. It’s also wide enough for the kids to run and explore.
From the viewpoint you can see Mill Creek Falls from a bird’s-eye view. Linger as long as you like, but remember there’s another exciting waterfall along the same trail.
Barr Creek Falls
Barr Creek Falls can be seen from the same trail as Mill Creek Falls. The rock viewpoint overlooks the waterfall and canyon.
It’s a good idea to visit Prospect State Scenic Viewpoint during spring when snowmelt and rain make the waterfalls extra incredible — you’ll also be lucky to see the 240-foot Barr Falls become a double waterfall.
If you are going to go see Mill Creek Falls and Barr Creek Falls, you must go see Pearsony Falls. Instead of taking a left to head back to the highlight, turn right to the town of Prospect. Soon you’ll see a rest area on your right. There is no sign, but there is a short trail that will take you to Pearsony Falls, a lush green path that is perfect for kids to venture on their own. It’s a beautiful falls with lots of moss-covered rocks so be careful not to slip and fall in when you are trying to get the perfect photo. Bonus: if you continue down the path you will see Mill Creek Falls from the top.
National Creek Falls
When we went to see National Creek Falls we were already kind of tired from hiking and exploring Mill Creek Falls for half the day so it seemed like it took forever. In reality it was just a 25-mile drive away along OR-62. Just when we thought that there was no way we were going in the right direction, we finally hit the National Creek Falls trailhead. Luckily it was such a short trek the kids were easily appeased. We got up close and personal with these year-round falls so it was really fun for the kids to feel the mist coming off of the falls.
This waterfall is gorgeous, cascading 102 feet into a sparkling pool. But to see it from the base of the falls requires a very steep hike down via the Lemolo Falls Trail. If you go there in the summer make sure that you have mosquito spray and sunscreen as the hike is partly sunny and partly shady. More about our hike here on our blog.
Warm Spring Falls
It’s a pretty little walk with no elevation to reach Warm Spring Falls. The kids ran ahead with the dogs to beat us to the lookout. Warm Spring Falls can only be viewed from above, but I really loved the carving in the canyon wall made from what I assume is, thousands of years of water flowing over. We noticed a little beaten trail as we were walking away which I am sure you could get a different vantage point but the kids and dogs were basically already back to the car, so we left it for another day.
The short trail to Clearwater Falls is beautiful with moss-covered rocks and big trees along the creek. If you take the trail to the left of the falls up to the top you catch a magnificent perspective of water flowing under tree roots and tumbling down. Our brave Olivia did not hesitate one bit to go to the edge of the falls, though this mama was a little nervous. The kids were having such a good time exploring the falls that of course they didn’t want to leave, but we knew there were more adventures to be had at our next waterfall.
Talk about easy trail. To reach Whitehorse Falls we just drove right up to the falls — no trail at all; the viewpoint is right by the parking area. You can also walk down to the pool right in front of the falls. It looked like an amazing spot to go swimming… another adventure to add to the bucket list!
To reach Watson Falls is nice easy trail for everyone, with a couple of spots where we held the kids’ hands; otherwise it is fairly easy to navigate. Take the trail in a circle for a different view as you go back to the main road. I highly recommend this in the winter to avoid the crowds and the view is stunning! I can’t wait to go back again. For more about this waterfall hiking adventure read our blog.
Probably my favorite trail yet! And it’s pretty iconic. There is so much to see on your way to Toketee Falls. The trail takes you along a beautiful gorge that makes you want to take a dip on a warm summer’s day. I can’t wait to go back again.
Fall Creek Falls
The trailhead for Fall Creek Falls is a little bit of a trek in but it is a magnificent hike following Fall Creek through an enchanting trail of moss-covered walls called the “squeeze play rocks.” We were told if you continue up the path you can see the top tier of the falls that we didn’t do… once again we have something to go back to explore another day! I can’t wait to go back again.
Susan Creek Falls
Susan Creek Falls was one of the longer trails that we have taken but it’s a very family-friendly route with flora and fauna plaques along the way. Ilias read every one. It was another waterfall that the kids enjoyed because we could get up close and personal.
What’s next? We will be heading towards the northern part of the Umpqua River to visit Grotto Falls, Yakso, Hemlock and who knows what else. The options are endless in Oregon so I am sure we will be heading north soon to checkout some more of the breathtaking beauties. Do you have any suggestions? What are your must see waterfall experiences? We want to visit every waterfall in Oregon ultimately so any suggestions you have are welcome. Happy waterfall hunting!