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Diamond Creek Falls Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Diamond Creek Falls on Diamond Creek (bobcat)
Footbridge over Salt Creek near Salt Creek Falls (bobcat)
Salt Creek Canyon from the Diamond Creek Falls Trail (bobcat)
Leafy aster (Symphyotrichum foliaceum var. parryi), Diamond Creek Falls Loop Trail (bobcat)
Salt Creek Falls, Willamette National Forest (bobcat)
The loop to Diamond Creek Falls (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: USFS/Caltopo
  • Start point: Salt Creek Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Diamond Creek Falls
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 3.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 450 feet
  • High Point: 4,375 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Late spring into fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: On summer weekends

Contents

Description

This loop hike takes in a spectacular clifftop viewpoint of one of Oregon's highest waterfalls, Salt Creek Falls, and then passes above a deep gorge, visits a lake, and encounters rushing Diamond Creek. A spur trail leads to Diamond Creek Falls, one of the state's prettiest, before you complete a loop back to Salt Creek. The loop is right off of Highway 58 and is highly recommended as a leg-stretcher if you are making a road traverse of the Cascades in this area. Those wanting a longer day hike into the Diamond Peak Wilderness should see the Vivian Lake Hike. The loop is also a marked cross-country ski/snowshoe route in the winter.

There’s an interpretive kiosk at the Salt Creek Falls Trailhead which explains the formation of the falls and the surrounding ecosystem. Hike a wide, paved trail through Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and rhododendrons to arrive, in short order, at the clifftop overlook down into Salt Creek Falls’ amphitheater. The waterfall is an impressive sight at any time of the year as it plunges over a 300-foot-thick basalt ledge of lava flows that issued from Fuji Mountain and Mount Yoran. Glacial action carved the ledge here and an active creek did the rest. At 286 feet, the falls are billed as Oregon’s second tallest single-drop waterfall after Multnomah Falls, but in fact Watson Falls were shown to be 2nd tallest when they were remeasured in 2009. The Northwest Waterfall Survey lists Salt Creek Falls as 14th tallest overall in the state (including waterfalls with multiple drops). You can climb the stairs to your right to get a slightly different angle on the falls, but photography is tricky on a bright sunny day. Down the Salt Creek Canyon, the prominences of Judd Mountain form the skyline.

Walk down to your left along the rim of the amphitheater. An interpretive sign explains that black swifts nest under the waterfall and hatch in July. You’ll get a close view over the lip of Salt Creek Falls before you follow a trail along Salt Creek past the picnic area. At a junction with the trail that leads back to the parking area, go right for the Diamond Creek Falls Trail #3598. Cross an alder-shaded curving footbridge over the creek, and enter shady woods. Just past a footbridge, you’ll come to the Salt Creek Falls-Diamond Creek Falls Loop Trail Junction, signed for Fall Creek Falls and Vivian Lake.

Go right here to cross a skunk-cabbage/alder draw, and head up a slope. The blue diamonds denote this is a cross-country ski trail also. Get a view of the Salt Creek Canyon from a basalt dome, and then follow a spur leading left to shallow Too Much Bear Lake. Return to the main trail, where another spur to the right offers a view to the tunnel on Highway 58 and Mount David Douglas looming behind. The trail drops to offer another glimpse of Too Much Bear Lake. Then you’ll make a descending traverse across talus into rhododendron woods. A spur right leads to a view of a couple of the tiers of Lower Diamond Creek Falls, obscured by vegetation, as they pour into Salt Creek. Cross a one log footbridge at a large noble fir, and head up to another viewpoint. The trail drops and veers left to undulate along above Diamond Creek. Pass above a campsite and arrive at the Diamond Creek Falls Loop-Diamond Creek Falls Trail Junction.

This junction is mistakenly labeled “Lower Diamond Creek Falls,” when in fact you are going to visit the upper Diamond Creek Falls. Go right here, traverse down a slide alder/thimbleberry slope to make a switchback and then descend a set of steps carved into a log. Hike along a wet seep slope that blooms with monkey flower, and pass through a thicket of goat’s beard. Cross Diamond Creek on a log footbridge and hike up a shady chasm to the base of beautiful Diamond Creek Falls, which splash 120 feet down a basalt face. After enjoying this spot, return to the trail junction, and make a right. The trail passes a viewpoint that looks down on Diamond Creek Falls, and reaches the unsigned Vivian Lake-Diamond Creek Falls Loop Trail Junction.

To complete the loop here, bear left and cross an abandoned forest road. Rise up a slope in mountain hemlock/silver fir/rhododendron/salal forest, and cross another decommissioned forest road. Switchback down twice before the trail loops below a talus slope to arrive at the Salt Creek Falls-Diamond Creek Falls Loop Trail Junction. Turn right here to return to the Salt Creek Falls Trailhead.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required
  • Sno-park pass required in winter
  • Restrooms, picnic area, interpretive signs at trailhead
  • Dogs on leash

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Diamond Peak Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Middle Fork Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Willamette National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Recreation Map Series: Willamette Cascades
  • Adventure Maps: Oakridge, Oregon Trail Map

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Hiking Central Oregon & Beyond by Virginia Meissner
  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Hiking Oregon’s Central Cascades by Bruce Grubbs
  • Hiking Oregon’s Three Sisters Country by Bruce Grubbs
  • 50 Hikes in Oregon by David L. Anderson
  • Snowshoe Routes – Oregon by Shea Anderson
  • Oregon's Southern Cascades: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Waterfall Lover’s Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb
  • Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest by David L. Anderson
  • Best Dog Hikes: Oregon edited by Falcon Guides

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.