: Melanie Griffin / Eugene, Cascades & Coast

A Waterfall for Every Season

The South Willamette Valley has enough cascades to keep you entertained all year.
March 15, 2024

Whether they plummet, cascade, roar or trickle, waterfalls have a way of captivating our senses. Seeing and hearing the rush of water toward the earth, feeling the spray and mist hit your face and smelling the ferns and trees surrounding the powerful feature create a memorable experience. In the lush landscape of the Southern Willamette Valley, it’s an experience you can have all year long. Here are some excellent waterfalls to explore no matter what time of year — and how to keep the fun going after your outing.


Frozen winter waterfall in Salt Creek
Salt Creek Falls (Photo by Samantha Inouye / Eugene, Cascades & Coast)


Snowshoe to Frozen Waterfalls

Snow can transform waterfalls into a magnificent wintry scene. Experience the magic of cool-season falls at Salt Creek Falls near Oakridge in the Willamette National Forest. Claiming the title as the second-tallest single-drop waterfall in Oregon, Salt Creek Falls plummets a whopping 286 feet. Take in the view from an observation deck accessed via a short, flat path from the parking lot. The nearby, 90-foot Diamond Creek Falls has been known to freeze over in colder temperatures, creating a wondrous display of glistening ice. 

Intrepid snowshoers can access Diamond Creek Falls from the Salt Creek Falls Sno-Park via a 2.25-mile snowshoe trail. 

After your adventure, explore the small city of Oakridge in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Warm up with an artisan coffee from Mane Street Coffee or pop into the The 3 Legged Crane for a cottage pie, a cask-ale brew and English-style pub vibes, including live music on the weekends. Stick around and see the talents of local artists on display at Diamond Peak Wine Bar, Gallery & Gifts.

View of Sahalie Falls from above
Sahalie Falls (Photo by Melanie Griffin / Eugene, Cascades & Coast)


See Powerful Waterways Brimming With Snowmelt

Two dazzling waterfalls, Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls, can be found in an old-growth conifer forest along the majestic McKenzie River. Named for the Chinook words meaning heaven and sky, Sahalie and Koosah Falls are accessible via Highway 126 about 70 miles east of Eugene. You can drive between the two or visit both along a 1-mile Waterfalls Loop Trail that connects the two while offering an intimate view of the fast-moving McKenzie River. 

Sahalie’s 73-foot plunge wows viewers from the ADA-accessible platform, just a short distance on a paved path from its parking area. Just as stunning, Koosah’s 74-foot vertical block falls can be seen from a short but steep walk from its own parking area. In spring the falls are at their most powerful, with snowmelt and increased rainfall feeding the rivers. 

Afterward, stop in at McKenzie General Store and its attached counter-service restaurant, Obsidian Grill. Enjoy a restorative plate of salmon tacos or a slow-cooked, pulled-pork sandwich with homemade slaw. Choose between patio seating on warmer days or cozy up to the fireplace in their indoor dining area for colder outings. Before you go, pursue the store’s fresh produce, artisan foods and crafts, and a curated selection of wine.

Sweet Creek Falls
Sweet Creek Falls (Photos by Thomas Moser / Eugene, Cascades & Coast)


Cool Off With a Shady Creekside Hike

To get to Sweet Creek Falls in the Siuslaw National Forest near Mapleton, 45 miles west of Eugene, you’ll follow the 2.2-mile out-and-back Sweet Creek Falls Trail. Along the way, you’ll encounter nearly a dozen smaller waterfalls until you reach the namesake feature. The four-tier plunge charms hikers as its water navigates the 70-foot craggy rock face. The trail is relatively flat and mostly shaded, making it family-friendly and perfect for hot summer days.

Extend your adventure with a day trip to the Oregon Coast by continuing your drive west to Florence on scenic Highway 126. After witnessing the magic that is the Pacific Ocean at South Jetty Beach, you can get your fill of adrenaline at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, have a unique experience visiting the Sea Lion Caves or take a staff-led guided tour of Heceta Head Lighthouse (no reservations required, check the website for the current schedule).  Or simply stroll through the charming streets of Historic Old Town Florence, grabbing a bowl of chowder at the iconic Mo’s Seafood & Chowder or a plant-forward meal overlooking the Bay Bridge at Nosh Eatery. 

Trestle Creek Falls with person next to waterfall
Trestle Creek Falls (Photo by Melanie Griffin / Eugene, Cascades & Coast)


Peep Colorful Leaves

Located in a moss-covered rock grotto and framed by towering old growths and maidenhair ferns, the two-tiered, 60-foot Trestle Creek Falls rewards hikers with spectacular views. Travel about 25 miles southeast of Cottage Grove into the Umpqua National Forest to reach the trailhead for these falls. A moderate .75-mile path takes you to the falls, which run lower in autumn, bringing the waterflow to its most melodious. Hikers looking to work up a sweat can get a different perspective by continuing on for a steeper 2.5 miles on a path that goes behind the cascade. 

Afterward, stop for a bite to eat in Cottage Grove. Sink your teeth into the elevated comfort food at Jack Sprats Restaurant, warm up with a hot noodle dish at Oba Ramen or pair a hearty burger with a craft beer at Axe & Fiddle Public House. Stick around to continue your adventure with a walk or bike ride along the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway, a 16-mile, mostly flat path that shows off eight of the area’s impressive covered bridges. 

About The

Emily Gillespie
Emily Gillespie is a travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, CNN Travel and Afar magazine. She’s lived in three of Oregon’s seven regions, currently calling Portland home. She and her husband look for every opportunity to hike to a view, bike through wine country and eat their way through a new city.

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