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McDowell Creek Falls Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Revision as of 16:42, 14 February 2016 by Bobcat (Talk | contribs)

Majestic Falls, McDowell Creek Falls County Park (kaltbluter)
Bridge below Majestic Falls, McDowell Creek Falls County Park (bobcat)
Crystal Falls, McDowell Creek Falls County Park (kaltbluter)
Royal Terrace Falls, McDowell Creek Falls County Park (kaltbluter)
The loop in McDowell Creek Falls County Park (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Royal Terrace Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Majestic Falls
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 230 feet
  • High Point: 1,105 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes, on nice weekends

Contents

Description

Tucked into the Cascade foothills north of Sweet Home, Linn County's McDowell Creek Falls County Park offers an entertaining family outing at every season. The loop trail here takes you to two impressive waterfalls as well as a couple of smaller cascades and a popular summer swimming hole. Hiking through the lush mixed woodland here, an island of serenity in the surrounding clearcuts, you are almost always within earshot of the sound of rushing water. The substrate around these falls is different from the lava flows farther north at Shellburg Falls and Silver Falls: these are layers of volcanic breccia, sandstone, and intrusive diabase typical of the Old Cascades. McDowell Creek is named for James McDowell, an early settler in these parts. Note that the falls become rather wispy trickles in the dry season, so late fall into early summer are the best times to visit.

Mossy big-leaf maple, red alder, Douglas-fir, western hemlock, grand fir, western red-cedar, sword fern, and salmonberry compose the woodland at the parking area. The trail crosses a footbridge over McDowell Creek. Look for a small waterfall downstream from the bridge. Continue on a graveled trail a junction, where you go left to a footbridge that allows a view of two-tier Royal Terrace Falls, 120 feet high, on Fall Creek. After viewing these falls, backtrack and head left up a stone staircase with a clearcut to the right. At the top of the falls is a small viewing platform. Continue on this loop trail over a small footbridge on Fall Creek. The trail heads up into woods of Douglas-fir and hemlock, vine maple, red huckleberry, salal, Oregon grape, trailing blackberry, thimbleberry, and sword fern. You are now high above McDowell Creek on a canyon rim which offers partial views towards the Willamette Valley through the screen of Douglas-firs. Where the trail splits, go right. Cross McDowell Creek Road and continue for 0.3 miles through the forest to reach the Majestic Falls Trailhead.

Stone steps lead down from the parking lot to viewing platforms at 40-foot Majestic Falls. Loop down above Majestic Falls on a short trail and reach a slippery wooden staircase leading up for more views of the falls. Continue on the trail to cross a wooden footbridge, and switchback down under moss-draped trees. Come to small Crystal Falls in their mossy amphitheater. These falls are 15 feet high, and the Crystal Pool at their base is a rather murky summer swimming hole (It's more "crystal" at the other seasons). The trail continues along the north bank of McDowell Creek under cedars, Douglas-fir, big-leaf maple and hemlock.

Cross the road and keep on the trail down the creek. There are a couple of trail junctions with paths that lead right to the middle parking lot and main picnic area. Between them, there’s another junction where the old trail leads down and has been washed out, so it’s left, right, left at these three junctions. The trail leads over the creek again on another solid footbridge and passes spur trails leading right to the creek. Cross a footbridge over Fall Creek below Royal Terrace Falls and go right at the junction. Then, back at the Royal Terrace Falls Trailhead, take a short loop at the western end of the parking lot down to the streamside for a view of Lower McDowell Creek Falls, with its three drops of a total of 20 feet.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No fee
  • Dogs on leash
  • Restrooms, picnic tables

Maps

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades by William L. Sullivan
  • Corvallis Trails by Margie C. Powell
  • 100 Classic Hikes on Oregon by Douglas Lorain
  • Wild in the Willamette edited by Lorraine Anderson with Abby Phillips Metzger
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • Waterfall Lover's Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb
  • Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest by David L. Anderson
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • A Guide to Trails in the Corvallis Area by Phillip R. Hays

More Links


Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.