Tag Archives: linton creek

Linton Falls from Linton Lake

In 2015 we did an off trail exploration of Linton Creek from Linton Meadows down toward Linton Lake. That day we cliffed out on the south side of the creek somewhere along Linton Falls. The Northwest Waterfall Survey gives Linton Falls a total height of 615′ consisting of 7 drops. We were unable to reach the final drop which is the tallest and most impressive so we vowed to return someday and try coming up from Linton Lake on the north side of the creek.

That day had finally come. We started at the Linton Lake Trailhead which is located 11 miles east of Highway 126 along Highway 242 near the Alder Springs Campground.
Linton Lake Trailhead

Then we crossed the highway and set off on the Linton Lake Trail which quickly entered the Three Sisters Wilderness.
Entering the Three Sisters Wilderness on the Linton Lake Trail

Linton Lake is just under 1.5 miles from the trailhead. The trail spends that time passing through the forest before crossing a lava flow and then descending via a series of switchbacks to the lake.
Linton Lake Trail

Linton Lake Trail

Linton Lake Trail

The trail stays above the lake at first and on this morning there was enough fog to keep us from getting any kind of a decent look. The trail descended to Obsidian Creek after a half mile which marked the end of the official trail.
Obsidian Creek

We crossed the creek and continued on use trails around the lake. We were now able to get down to the shore even though we still couldn’t really see anything.
Linton Lake

Since the use trails are not maintained there was a bit of blowdown to navigate but nothing too daunting.
Downed trees along Linton Lake

Linton Lake Trail

We reached Linton Creek just over a half mile from Obsidian Creek.
Linton Creek

At the creek we headed uphill continuing to follow fairly obvious use trails as we climbed along the creek.
Linton Creek

The climb was fairly steep in places but after approximately .4 miles we arrived at a viewpoint of 85′ Lower Linton Falls.
Lower Linton Falls

Lower Linton Falls

The use trails became increasingly faint as we climbed away from Lower Linton Falls. We stopped at the top of the falls to get a look down before continuing on.
Top of Lower Linton Falls

Lower Linton Falls

Not only did the use paths get fainter but the terrain continued to steepen as we climbed. Four tenths of a mile from the viewpoint of Lower Linton Falls we got our first glimpse of the final drop of Linton Falls.
The lowest portion of Upper Linton Falls

This portion of Linton Falls did not disappoint. The only issue with it was the massive amount of spray from the falls made it nearly impossible to keep the camera lens dry.
Upper Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls

After admiring the view we continued uphill. Our goal was to get far enough up the creek to at least be across from where we’d cliffed out in 2015 on the opposite side. To continue we knew from a 2012 trip report by Wild Umpqua that things were going to get even steeper as we continued. We veered away from the creek and followed an old creek bed uphill.
Route to the top of Upper Linton Falls

We knew we were on the right course when we spotted a small cave that was mentioned in that report.
Small cave near Upper Linton Falls

Route up Upper Linton Falls

We cut back over to the creek when the terrain made that a more attractive option than trying to continue up the dry creek bed. As luck would have it that happened to be almost directly across from our GPS track from 2015 and just above the top of a large drop of Linton Falls.
Upper Linton Falls

I was a little confused by the drop we were above because it didn’t look like what I would have expected from anything we’d seen from below. I think the answer is that this was actually the top of a drop that only the very bottom was visible of from below coming from the left around a bend. I was able to follow the ridge down a bit to get a somewhat limited look at the side of this drop.
Upper Linton Falls

Looking up the creek from this drop revealed more of Linton Falls.
Linton Creek above Upper Linton Falls

We walked up along the creek a very short distance where we saw a very familiar looking drop with a log in the middle of the creek.
More of the series of cascades that make up Upper Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls

We’d seen the same log from the other side in 2015.
Another tier of Upper Linton Falls

We now felt like we had seen most of Linton Falls between the two visits. As far as we can guess it goes something like this.
One of the drops that make up Linton Falls

Upper portion of Upper Linton Falls

More drops of Linton Falls

More of the series of cascades that make up Upper Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls above its final drop

Upper Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls

Upper Linton Falls

This is a complicated fall and it’s quite possible that there is something between the final drops and the big drop we were above that we were never able to see. It’s also difficult to say for certain where the actual start of Linton Falls is, but that is part of what makes this such a spectacular waterfall.

As we began our descent the Sun finally started to make an appearance.
Sun finally penetrating the fog

Coming down was harder than going up but we managed to make the descent without incident stopping back by the viewpoints below Linton Falls and above Lower Linton Falls to see how the emerging Sun had changed the views.
Upper Linton Falls

Rainbow over Linton Creek below Lower Linton Falls

Linton Lake was fog free when we made it back.
Linton Lake

As we made our way around the lake it was possible to see some of Linton Falls on the hillside. The view didn’t do much to clear up the makeup of the falls though.
Linton Lake with part of Linton Falls visible up on the hillside beyond

This was actually our third time encountering Linton Creek, our first was in 2014 on a backpacking trip around the South Sister. which has cemented itself as our favorite creek. From it’s beginnings at Linton Springs and Linton Meadows it puts on one amazing and scenic show on it’s way to Linton Lake.
Linton Springs

South Sister and Linton Creek

With nearly all of the creek being off trail it makes for a challenging goal but the rewards are great. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Linton Falls from Linton Lake

Three Sisters Wilderness Day 2 – Linton Creek Exploration

The second day of our four day backpacking trip was set to be an adventure. Our plan was to spend the day “off-trail” exploring Linton Creek which is home to several rarely visited waterfalls. We had camped at Eileen Lake on the NE side of The Husband and originally planned on hiking down the official trail to Linton Creek where we had eaten our dinner the night before, but during our evening exploration of the area behind our campsite we realized we should be able to follow a dry creek bed we’d seen and reach Linton Creek by a more direct route. It would also allow us to avoid another trip through all the frogs along Eileen Lake.

I woke up a little before 5 and went down to the lake for a bit to look at the mountains.

Heather woke up and I was busy getting ready for our breakfast and the days hike when I looked up and noticed there were deer about 50 feet from our tent. Heather was still inside putting her hair into braids and hadn’t noticed them yet.

I got her attention and we watched as they nibbled on some plants then entered the little meadow by our site and had their own breakfast.


They looked up at us occasionally but didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned with our presence then left the same way they’d come slowly disappearing into the forest.


After our breakfast we threw on our daypacks and got ready for our adventure. We had our compass and three different maps including the map loaded on the Garmin and I had studied the area using Google Earth. That research along with information from a few trip reports and the Northwest Waterfall Survey had us feeling pretty confident that we would at least be able to reach Duncan Falls and possibly Upper Linton Falls if time allowed. I also established a turn around time in order to make sure we had enough time to climb back up from wherever we ended up.

We followed a use path from our campsite through the little meadow along the dry creek into a larger meadow. The use path ended at the larger meadow so we hopped into the dry creek bed planning on following it as far as possible.


We had to leave the creek bed in the meadow for a bit when we started running into small pools of water. We got back in shortly after leaving the meadow but that also didn’t last long because the creek bed was getting deeper and we spotted downed trees blocking it further downhill. We didn’t want to get stuck in the bed and be forced to backtrack so we got out and started bushwacking through the forest.

We gradually made our way downhill toward the meadows surrounding Linton Creek. There was some blowdown in the forest but it wasn’t ever too bad and the vegetation was sparse enough not to cause any problems. We used the Garmin and our maps to keep us heading in the direction we wanted. We were aiming for the northwestern end of the meadows where Linton Creek enters the forest near a series of whitewater. We managed to reach the meadows fairly close to that area and made our way to the glassy creek.


There were a few flowers still blooming including some very tall monkshood.


The South Sister loomed behind us over the creek and meadows.

Shortly after Linton Creek enters the trees it takes a horseshoe bend through a rocky chasm where it puts on its first whitewater show. We were on the south side of the creek and able to side-hill along and around the ridge that the creek bent around which allowed us some good views of the now raging creek.



After rounding the ridge we came to the first small unnamed waterfalls. A pair of short drops were visible through the trees.


A little further was another whitewater slide.

The creek was putting on a good show and we were trying to stick as close as possible to it given the terrain. When we couldn’t see the creek we listened intently for any indication of another fall. The creek then began a second horseshoe bend turning back toward the NW. Somewhere in the middle of the bend was where we would find Duncan Falls. It was one the two main targets for our hike and we heard it well before reaching it. We arrived at the top of the falls and could tell we were not going to be disappointed.


The ridge stayed and made a wide swing around the falls. We were finally able to get a good view though.


It was a spectacular waterfall. After standing in awe of this hidden gem we worked our way down a steep hillside to the creek a little ways below Duncan Falls. We could just see the bottom of the falls through some trees and briefly considered hiking up the creek to reach the base but decided against that in the end. We still had a lot of bushwacking ahead of us and the thought of wet shoes and socks was not appealing plus I was fairly certain that I’d fall in and ruin the camera.

Below Duncan Falls the creek settled down some as the terrain became a little more level.

At one point we found what looked like it could possibly be a beaver pond.



We then came upon another pair of small waterfalls.



In the other trip reports that I had seen the hikers had been on the north side of the creek from Linton Lake until somewhere below Duncan Falls. We had originally planned on staying on the south side of the creek the entire time, partly to be different, and partly because the top tiers of Upper Linton Falls were said to not be visible from the north side of the creek. That changed when we could see that we had arrived at point directly across from the start of a large meadow on the other side of the creek. It looked so much easier than picking our way over and around logs and brush and there was a perfect log to cross the creek on near us. We gave in and walked across the log and entered the meadow. I had read about the meadow and the reports called it marshy but I was hopping the dry year we were having would lessen that, but there was still plenty of wet spongy ground and both of us had soaked shoes in no time.

We aimed for the closest stand of trees and exited the meadow. We took a short side trip to check out one of two small lakes/ponds that the maps had shown toward the back of the meadow.

After checking out the pond we began making our way back toward the creek. Shortly after rejoining the creek we found another log we could cross on and got back to our original plan of being on the south side of the creek for Upper Linton Falls.

We knew we were getting close to our goal but before we got to Upper Linton Falls there was another nice little fall with a great viewpoint.

The next fall we came to was the top tier of Upper Linton Falls.

The roar from the creek was amazing as it thundered steeply down toward Linton Lake.

We found our way down to the third tier where there was a nice viewpoint.


The fourth tier was visible below.

The ridge we were on began to swing away from the creek though. We could see Linton Lake far below and went in search of a decent view but there were too many trees to ever get a good clear look.


We found one final viewpoint of Upper Linton Falls. We appeared to be somewhere between the 5th and 6th tiers.

There was a big drop below us but no way to get a look at the lower tiers from the south side. We decided that just gave us an excuse to come back some day and hike up from Linton Lake to see Lower Linton Falls and get a look at the lower tiers from the north side. In the meantime we sat at the edge of the enormous fall recharging in the cool breeze it generated.

We had made it to our goal just before the established turnaround time and now it was time to climb back up to Eileen Lake. This time we did stick to the south side of the creek avoiding the marshy trap of the meadow. By doing so we located a couple more small falls we’d missed on the way down.

We also managed to find a balloon which happens more often than you’d think (and we’d like) in the forest. We retrieved the garbage and packed it out with us.


We arrived back at Duncan Falls to find it was just as impressive the second time around.


After Duncan Falls we left the creek and took a more direct route toward Linton Meadows which avoided the steep ridge above the whitewater of the first horseshoe bend. White fluffy clouds hung over the mountains when we finally reentered the meadows.

We were paying more attention to the views than to where we were going and wound up passing the spot where we had entered the meadows in the morning. We turned up a different creek bed instead. It looked similar enough that we both thought we remembered certain details as we passed them but as the drainage got steeper and we started noticing more blowdown than we’d remembered we knew we had made a wrong turn. Using the GPS and our maps we could see that we were just on the other side of the ridge we’d come down but we had found a different little meadow here and it’s creek had a little more water which was home to some larger frogs and fish.




We were able to make our way over the ridge at the far end of the meadow and picked up our earlier path just about where we had entered the dry creek bed near the start of our hike.

According to the Garmin we had covered 9.3 miles. We both had a few scrapes and bruises as well as some mosquito bites and Heather had been stung in the shin by a yellow jacket but it had all been worth it. We spent the evening at Eileen Lake watching clouds float by and then disappear over the Three Sisters.

Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157656375371832

Three Sisters Wilderness Day 1 – Separation Lake Trailhead to Eileen Lake

We just started backpacking last year and we really enjoyed it so we were looking forward to our first outing of the year which we recently completed. I plan on covering our trip over three entries starting with this post featuring our first day.

We had originally planned on spending a long weekend in the Opal Creek and Bull of the Woods Wilderness areas, but with the early snow melt in the mountains we changed our destination to the Three Sisters Wilderness. I had been wanting to check out the waterfalls along Linton Creek since seeing a trip report that was posted on Portlandhikers.org in 2013. There is no official trail to any of the falls along the creek and in most places there is no trail at all. The few reports I found on the area all began their hike at Linton Lake along Highway 126 and climbed up toward Linton Meadows. In the report on Portlandhikers they had hiked up the creek then over to Eileen Lake for the night then returned to Linton Lake the next day. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of carrying our full packs while bushwacking uphill so I came up with a different plan.

The solution was to start the exploration of Linton Creek from Eileen Lake where we would already have established our campsite. This would allow us to explore down stream as far as Upper Linton Falls using daypacks. I began studying our maps trying to plan the trip. The three closest trailheads to Eileen Lake are the Obsidian Trailhead, the Foley Ridge Trailhead, and the Separation Lake Trailhead. I quickly settled on the Separation Lake TH since it was the closest to us, didn’t require a limited entry permit, and offered a couple possible return loops.

We had been to the Separation Lake Trailhead in May 2014 when we hiked to Separation Lake so we were familiar with the trail when we slung our packs on and set off into the Three Sisters Wilderness.

This time we took the Louise Creek Trail when we reached the junction just under a mile from the trailhead.

Our plan was to follow the Louise Creek Trial for 7.2 miles to another trail junction at Buck Meadows then continue up to the Foley Ridge Trail which would take us to yet another junction. From there we would take the Linton Meadows Trail to a final junction where we would head for Husband Lake and our ultimate destination of Eileen Lake.

As we climbed up the Louise Creek Trail we met a couple that were hiking out after having camped at Sisters Mirror Lake. They had come down a portion of the Separation Creek Trail from the James Creek Shelter to Indian Hole Falls and reported that the trail did indeed have many downed trees across it. This confirmed what the information on the Forest Service website which called the trail “impassible due to heavy blowdown”. We had planned on visiting Indian Hole Falls then taking that trail down to Separation Lake where we would camp on our third night but had nixed those plans after seeing the information on the website. The other couple said the falls were beautiful and we still planned on visiting them but by using the Separation Creek Meadows Trail instead.

They also reported that there were a couple of people doing trail maintenance just up the trail and that they had not seen any water along the trail for quite some time. We had plenty of water for the day but it was good information to have for our return trip so we didn’t short ourselves hiking out.

The Louise Creek Trail was indeed dry and most of the flowers had long since passed although a few stragglers could be found here and there. There was also the remains of what must have been an impressive beargrass display lining much of the trail.



The meadows of Buck Meadows were also dry as far as we could tell. There were some patches of green but no visible water. Purple aster dotted the dry grasses and were popular with the butterflies.


We got our first look at The Husband from the meadows. We knew Eileen Lake was on the far side of the rocky mountain.

The final meadow was surprisingly long and we wound up losing track of the trail near the far end and just headed cross county to a small knoll with trees. We were now planning on staying somewhere in the area of the meadows on our final night and this seemed to be a viable spot. We picked up the trail again near the signed trail junction.

The pointer to the left was for the Foley Ridge Trail and the right was for Honey Lake. Oddly none of our maps or the Forest Service website showed a trail going to Honey Lake, instead the trail passed by on its way to the Separation Creek Meadows Trail. It was also unclear if either or both forks were still considered the Louise Creek Trail. Our two maps indicated the right hand fork was the Louise Creek Trail but the Forest Service showed it as the left fork. Either way we needed to get to the Foley Ridge Trail so we headed left. The trail switchbacked uphill offering a brief view of Diamond Peak to the south before arriving at the Foley Ridge Trail junction.


It had been a tough climb up for us not being used to carrying full packs so we rested a bit at the junction where we were joined by a hummingbird.

Shortly after setting off again we passed the first water we’d seen all day, a few small ponds that still held some water.



We followed the Foley Ridge Trail for almost two and a half miles to the next trail junction.

Four trails met at this junction. The Foley Ridge Trail we had come up and on its right was the trail to the James Creek Shelter. To the left were two trails one to the Pacific Crest Trail and to the immediate left the trail to Linton Meadows. We had expected to see a fifth trail at the junction, the Separation Creek Meadows Trail, which appeared to also meet here according to the maps. We thought it was odd but it was a question for another day and headed toward Linton Meadows.

We had been on this portion of trail during our backpacking loop around the South Sister the previous year. The trail passes through a pumice plain which manages to support a good amount of colorful vegetation.



Just .3 miles from the big junction the Linton Meadows Trail split again. The right fork headed down to Linton Meadows while the left fork pointed to Husband Lake. The left fork then passes Eileen Lake before rejoining the right hand fork at Linton Creek.

We stopped at Husband Lake for a moment to take in the views before continuing on our way.



We finally came upon a creek with flowing water between the lakes coming down from The Husband.

On our previous visit there had been tons of frogs along the shore of Eileen Lake and we had been wondering if we would find the same thing this time. That question was answered upon arriving at the lake.


There were more this time than before and we slowly made our way around the lake being careful not to step on any of them. We were planning on setting up camp on the far side of the lake where we would be able to set up at least 100 feet away from the water and the trail per wilderness regulations. We found our spot on a small rise with a small meadow behind us and no frogs to have to watch out for.

After setting up camp we decided to hike down to Linton Creek to have dinner in the same location we had eaten at the year before and to fill up on water from the creek. We tried going around the lake on the other side hoping the frogs would be less but it proved just as challenging and slow. On our way down to the creek we spotted 4 deer also making their way down the meadows.


We arrived at Linton Creek to find it flowing strongly. It is primarily fed by Linton Springs so the dry year apparently hadn’t effected it as much as the other creeks. The springs also mean the water is cold and we had forgotten just how cold until we tried to soak our feet. The water was too cold to keep them in for more than 10 or 15 seconds.

After having dinner and filling up on the wonderfully cold water we returned to Eileen Lake where we explored the area behind our campsite then sat by the water watching the frogs along the shore and small fish occasionally jumping from the water disrupting the reflection of the mountains.

It had been a great start to our trip and the adventure had just begun. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157656374056692