The sun rose above the mountainside to our left as we made our way south on I-5. We took the Cottage Grove exit and followed our Google Map directions to Row River Road. Grassy hillsides, patiently waiting for the sun, passed through the passenger window. We chased the river along our right as we made our way.
A small gravel parking lot marks the trailhead to Spirit Falls. Tall pine trees border the road and welcome you as you begin your short, but sweet, hike. The 0.6 mile trail is well-maintained, appearing as a smooth orange line weaving through a green forest. The morning light peeked through the airy tree branches. Dainty Western Trilliums scattered the edges of the trail, some shyly hiding under elegant ferns. After a gradual descent the trail evened out and we could tell we were nearing the waterfall.
Through a curtain of trees, we could see the rushing water. After a few switchbacks, we made our final descent to the fall. A picnic table offered a place to sit and eat, while a bench made for a great viewpoint. We felt like we had stumbled upon a hidden gem as we were the only ones there. After a few minutes of enjoying the view from the bench, we began to explore.
The mist swirled in the air and sparkled when it caught the sun’s rays. It tickled our faces as we carefully meandered from rock to rock along the fall’s pool. As I walked closer, I stopped myself in the center. The 40 feet of rushing water next to lush, moss-covered rock and ferns sprinkled with dew was a sight that deserved to be documented and remembered.
We followed the water and, after squeezing under a few fallen trees, came to a small beach along the side of the creek. The water was cool and clear: pastel colored river rock could be seen through the current. We sat on the cool sand and listened to the water quietly travel over the rocks.
After exploring the creek, we made our way back to Spirit and spent the rest of the morning sitting on a log, watching the never-ending show of the falling water dancing in the sunshine.
As we began our hike back up to our car, we both agreed that we couldn’t believe this beautiful location was only a short hike from the road. It felt like we had explored a wild, untouched, and rare place. Barely out of breath, we got in our car feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.