The Umpqua River Wild and Scenic Corridor along Highway 138 hosts a plethora of uproarious waterfalls. With ten different trailheads spread across 60 miles of highway this is an adventure that requires more driving than hiking. Go when the steelhead are spawning and you are sure to witness trout jumping upstream in several of the falls or save it for a winter excursion when the bugs and crowds both die down. Several of the beautiful campgrounds in this distinctive area are open year round and discussed below.
Warm Spring Falls is 0.3 miles down a very easy and level trail. The falls can only be viewed from above but the remarkable 60 foot fall thunders into a mossy amphitheater over a columnar basalt formation.
Directions to Warm Spring Falls: From Hwy 138 follow signs to Lemolo Lodge turning onto Birds Point Rd/NF-2610. Go about 6 miles and just past the damn turn left onto Birds Point Rd/NF-600/N Umpqua Rd (where NF-2610 makes a hard hairpin right turn.) Go 3 miles to RD 680, turn left to cross the single lane bridge and continue 1.7 miles on RD 680 to the tiny trail head parking lot on the left.
The trail head is unsigned and very easy to miss. It is basically just a patch of gravel large enough for 4-5 cars to park. Additionally GPS apps won’t have reception in the area so it is wise to download a map in your preferred app beforehand as there are many forks and service roads that get very confusing.
Lemolo Falls is 2.3 miles down a more challenging trail that follows the North Umpqua River. There are several astounding view points along the way of bonus waterfalls that would make excellent stopping points for a lunch break. The falls can be viewed from the top and bottom but going to the bottom dramatically extends the hike it is quite the climb back up.
Directions to Lemolo Falls: From Hwy 138 follow signs to Lemolo Lodge turning onto Birds Point Rd/NF-2610. After 5.2 miles cross over the dam to a fork in the road and fork left onto Birds Point Rd/NF-600/N Umpqua Rd (where NF-2610 makes a hard hairpin right turn.) Continue half a mile and turn left across the wooden bridge to park at the trailhead. The trailhead is well signed.
Clearwater Falls is a ridiculously gorgeous segment style fall that showers over moss covered rocks in classic pacific northwest fashion. The breathtaking falls are easy to find and only a few steps from the parking area. The “trailhead” is equipped with pit toilets and a picnic area.
Directions to Clearwater Falls: At mile marker 69.5 on Hwy 138 follow signs into the Clearwater Campground entrance. Follow the access road 0.2 miles to the picnic area.
Whitehorse Falls is a 15 foot punch bowl style waterfall that is located within Whitehorse Falls Campground. The viewing platform is steps away from the parking lot making it a great option for the hiking-adverse and elderly.
Directions to Whitehorse Falls: At mile marker 65.9 on Hwy 138 turn into Whitehorse Campground. The entrance and waterfall location are both well signed.
Watson Falls is the third highest waterfall in the state. At 293 feet it tumbles over a cathedral amphitheater wall of basalt. The hike up the trail isn’t long but it is steep. It crosses a wooden bridge below the falls that puts you right into the lower rapids with an amazing view of the falls as they roar over the lava cliffs. After that the trail continues up the hill to a lookout point with a wooden bench to rest and admire the beauty of the falls before the walk back down.
Directions to Watson Falls: At Hwy 138’s mile marker 60.5 follow signs for Watson Falls and turn onto road 37. The trailhead parking is on the right.
Toketee Falls is one of the most famous and recognizable waterfalls in Oregon. The majesty of this two tiered falls makes it easy to see why. The clamorous river drops into a gorge carved from ancient columnar basalt. Falling 40 feet at first Toketee then cascades over another 80 foot drop to a beautiful pool below. The viewing platform offers the perfect view but the walk there and back consists of numerous stairs that could prove difficult for some. The trailhead also includes information and a look at a hydroelectric power project constructed between 1947 and 1956.
Directions to Toketee Falls: At Hwy 138’s mile marker 58.6 turn onto Road 34 following sings to Toketee Falls. Cross the bridge and turn left to the parking area. It is very well signed, you can’t miss it.
Steamboat Falls has a heavy human influence. A fish ladder is constructed next to the falls creating an important steelhead spawning tributary. With a concrete slab to the right of the falls it is a popular location for sunbathing in the summer as well as watching the trout migrate. The falls are visible from within Steamboat Campground which is open year round.
Directions to Steamboat Falls: At Hwy 138’s mile marker 38.8 turn onto Steamboat Creek Road 38. Drive 5.3 miles and turn right at the bridge to the Steamboat Campground entrance. The campground is on the left and access to the falls is at the picnic area across from the pit toilets.
Fall Creek Falls is a two tiered twisting fall that makes a great summer destination. It is perfect for wading in to stand under the falls and the hike not a dull one. Starting with a narrow winding rock slot this beautiful walk can be enhanced with a side trip to Job’s garden. The moss covered rock garden is impressively speckled with mushrooms and ivy. The rest of the hike ends at the base of this beautiful fall with higher landings to view the upper portion of the falls up close.
Directions to Fall Creek Falls: At Hwy 138’s mile marker 32.2 follow signs to the trailhead parking on the North side of the highway. It is well signed with a porta-potty in the parking lot.
Deadline Falls is a short but powerful. One of the few handicap accessible options this little nugget is popular with non-hikers and senior citizens. The falls can be seen from the highway but a closer look might offer a glimpse at salmon and steelheads jumping up the falls on their way to the ocean. The hike can be extended with an additional 1.75 miles to Fern Falls if desired.
Directions to Deadline Falls: At Hwy 138’s mile marker 22.2 turn onto Swiftwater Park Dr. Cross the bridge to the trailhead parking.
Susan Creek Falls is just off the highway and easy to find. The nearly paved, short, easy hike to the falls is peppered with signs explaining fun botany facts making it great for children. The 50 foot fanning waterfall is covered in ferns and lush moss. There are multiple angles from which to view the falls perfect for pictures and selfies.
Directions to Susan Creek Falls: At Hwy 138’s mile marker 28.2 there are signs for a trailhead parking lot and a picnic area across the highway.
There are several campgrounds in the North Umpqua area that make excellent base camps from which to explore. Island campground is centrally located smack in the middle of all these waterfalls. It is directly on the North Umpqua River and has pit toilets serviced year round. There is a $10 fee per night and bringing backup toilet paper of your own is highly recommended. Highway noise can be heard from the campground but the close proximity makes it easy to drive off and explore the area.
If a more secluded campsite is desired Steamboat Falls Campground is much further off the beaten path. The drive down the dirt road may include several deer encounters and follows the creek to the campground. It is also open year round with pit toilets, however make sure to have enough gas to drive the 12+ miles round trip to the highway repeatedly with plenty left over to explore the area. Gas stations are few and far between.
Leave No Trace
Neither of the campgrounds listed have trash cans and very few of the trail heads do either. Please plan to pack out what you pack in and do your part to protect this sacred area.
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