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Vivian Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. Yoran from Vivian Lake (bobcat)
Diamond Creek Falls on Diamond Creek (bobcat)
Train, Southern Pacific Railroad, Vivian Lake Trail (bobcat)
Black huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum), Vivian Lake Trail (bobcat)
Salt Creek Falls, Willamette National Forest (bobcat)
The hike to Vivian Lake in the Diamond Peak Wilderness (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: USFS/Caltopo
  • Start point: Salt Creek Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Vivian Lake
  • Hike Type: In and out with short loop
  • Distance: 8.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1735 feet
  • High Point: 5,435 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No



This hike includes much of what is most representative of the central Oregon Cascades: several waterfalls, creeks, lakes, a view to a rugged peak, and delicious huckleberries in season. You’ll begin at the impressive drop of Salt Creek Falls, admire its forested canyon, visit two attractive veil waterfalls, and end up at a sparkling lake with Mount Yoran jutting up to the south. If you don't live nearby, the hike is a good stopover if you’re planning on spending a full day travelling between Portland and, say, Klamath Falls, or you can avail yourself of one of the many campgrounds in the area.

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.

Turn right here. You’ll see a road bed to your left before you descend to cross a skunk-cabbage channel. Pass over a log footbridge, and hike next to Diamond Creek to reach the road bed. Cross a multi-culverted concrete ford-bridge, and then find the Vivian Lake Trail leading left off the road bed. Get a glimpse of the railroad to the left, and traipse along a series of boardwalks in a skunk-cabbage bog. The trail switchbacks up to the Southern Pacific tracks. Across the tracks, you’ll find the trail continuing down to the left off an old road bed. Cross an old logging road, and pass a sign denoting this is the Vivian Lake Trail. Arrive at the boundary of the Diamond Peak Wilderness, where you’ll need to fill out a form at the permit box.

The trail rises past a seven-trunked silver fir and crosses a mossy creek. You’ll begin ascending a steeper slope, with rushing Fall Creek tumbling to your left. At a couple of Douglas-firs, you’ll get a glimpse of the partially hidden 50-foot lower tier of Fall Creek Falls. Keep winding up in a montane forest of mountain hemlock, silver fir, noble fir, and Engelmann spruce with an understory of rhododendron, huckleberry, and wintergreen. A short spur to the left leads to a view over the veiled 80-foot upper tier of Fall Creek Falls, a little obscured by shrubbery. Continue hiking up along Fall Creek in huckleberry/bear-grass woods where the berry gathering is prime in late August/early September. Eventually, you’ll reach a junction with a spur trail leading down to Vivian Lake.

Go right here to traverse through grouseberries and bog blueberries near the east arm of Vivian Lake, which becomes a separate pond in the summer. There’s a campsite on Vivian Lake itself, and a view of the forested crest of the Cascades. To see Mount Yoran, cross the channel to the east arm, and walk north along the north shore of the lake. On a sunny day, dragonflies flit about the shore as you admire Yoran’s steep-sided crag.

On the return, you’ll cross the ford-bridge on Diamond Creek and reach the unsigned Vivian Lake-Diamond Creek Falls Loop Trail Junction. To complete the loop here, bear right 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 and then arrives 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
  • Self-issued wilderness permit
  • Restrooms, picnic area, interpretive signs at trailhead
  • Dogs on leash on Salt Creek Falls Trail


  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

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.

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