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Stairstep Falls Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Stairstep Falls, Middle Fork North Fork Trask River (bobcat)
Oregon wood-sorrel (Oxalis oregana), Middle Fork North Fork Trask River (bobcat)
Downstream from the ford, Middle Fork North Fork Trask River (bobcat)
The hike to Stairstep Falls (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Stairstep Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Stairstep Falls
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 70 feet
  • High Point: 895 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No



Stairstep Falls is not really a waterfall, but a series of “steps” in the bed of the Middle Fork North Fork Trask River, maybe about 12 in all, an interesting feature resulting from eroded alternate layers of sedimentary and volcanic rock and breccia, all part of an ancient ocean floor. In this little-known corner of Washington County, you will need to pay careful attention to road directions, accomplish a 35-yard ford of a river, and skitter down and along a steep bank to get here: all in all a great little outing for those with kids who have a sense of adventure.

Walk a few yards down the road towards the North Fork Trask River and go left on a muddy jeep track that heads into the woods of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, big-leaf maple, and red alder. At a fork, go left on the track. To the right, you will see a large campsite. From this point until the Middle Fork North Fork Trask River Ford, the old jeep track is bermed, ditched, and obscured by debris (It was decommissioned in 2013). Most of the time, it is easier to bushwhack adjacent to the track. Soon enough, though, you will descend to the ford at the Middle Fork North Fork Trask River.

Any time of year, this is a true ford, so you should bring Crocs or water shoes for the crossing. Wade across to where the road track resumes on the opposite bank. The water can be very cold most of the year, so be prepared for frozen extremities! Once at the other bank, take the time to admire the mossy banks and pristine course of the river in this location.

Now the road track is easy to follow. Under an arbor of alders, it cuts across a wide meander in the Middle Fork North Fork to a campsite. From here, go right to where the track ends abruptly at an eroded slope that drops steeply to the river. Scramble down the slope and head upstream. The river braids here around an alder shaded islet. There is a very narrow verge here and, at times, you may need to put one foot in the water. Stairstep Falls, with its regular one to two-foot drops, comes into view. You can get to about the middle of the “falls”, where the river cuts into a steep, layered rock face, before calling it quits.

For a more bushwhacking, you can attempt to ford the river at the islet and head upstream about 0.7 miles to Elkhorn Creek.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • There is active logging in the area. Be aware of road closures and logging operations. Travel these roads on weekends.


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 50 Hikes in the Tillamook State Forest by the Tillamook State Forest Committee, Columbia Group Sierra Club

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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.