Tag Archives: siuslaw national forest

Florence Area Trails

It’s been over a month since our last hike and I was beginning to go a bit stir crazy so when the forecast called for a mostly sunny Saturday we jumped on the chance and hit the trails.  We try and make sure our hikes are long enough so that we spend as much or more time hiking rather than driving.  On this day we did this by visiting several shorter trails near Florence, OR.

We started the day at the Whittaker Creek Recreation Site just off Highway 126.
Whititaker Creek Recreation Site sign

From there we walked through the campground and headed across Whittaker Creek on a footbridge.
Footbridge over Whittaker Creek

Whittaker Creek

A young bald eagle had flown over our heads and landed in a tree along the creek and allowed us to get fairly close before taking flight again.
Bald Eagle flying over Whittaker Creek

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle taking off

Meanwhile some common mergansers were floating the creek.
Mergansers

From the NW end of the campground we took the Old Growth Trail 1.2 miles up to the summit of the ridge. A mix of sunlight and morning fog created some interesting lighting in the forest.
Old Growth Ridge Trailhead sign

Old Growth Ridge Trail

Old Growth Ridge Trail

Along the way up we spotted a number of little snow queen flowers and stopped at a tall Douglas fir tree that had been struck by lighting at some point.
Snow Queen

Sign along the Old Growth Ridge Trail

Lightning struck Douglas fir

At the summit were benches and a sign giving the history of the trail. The low clouds and fog hid much of the view on this day.
Summit of the Old Growth Ridge Trail

Interpretive sign at the summit of the Old Growth Ridge Trail

View from the summit of the Old Growth Ridge Trail

On the way back down we turned on the signed Armantrout Loop Trail which led back to the campground in 1.5 miles.
Armantrout Loop Trail

There were a few spots of blowdown along this trail that were easily passed and numerous interpretive signs to stop and read.
Just a little blowdown along the Armantrout Loop Trail

After returning to our car we continued west on Highway 126 to Mapleton and turned west on Sweet Creek Road for 10.2 miles to the Homestead Trailhead.
Swee Creek Trailhead

There are a total of four trailheads that access the Sweet Creek Trail with the Homestead Trailhead being the most northerly. From there we followed the Sweet Creek Trail south for .9 miles to a junction with the connector trail from the second trailhead. Both the creek and surrounding forest were beautiful. A series of small falls and cascades line this section of Sweet Creek and on this day there was plenty of water flowing over them.
Sweet Creek

Small fall on Sweet Creek

Sweet Creek

Sweet Creek

Sweet Creek Trail

Sweet Creek Trail
Annice Falls
Sweet Creek and Annice Falls

Sweet Creek

Small cascade along Sweet Creek

Unnamed waterfall (possibly seasonal) on the far side of Sweet Creek

Unnamed waterfall (possibly seasonal) on the far side of Sweet Creek

Elk Wallow Falls
Elk Wallow Falls

Trail sign along the Sweet Creek Trail

From the junction another scenic half mile of the Sweet Creek Trail brought us to Sweet Creek Falls and the end of the trail.
Sweet Creek Falls

Sweet Creek Falls

A short trail leads up to an upper viewpoint.
Sweet Creek Falls from the upper viewpoint

It is possible during lower flow times to cross the creek below the falls and pick up the continuation of the Sweet Creek Tail on the far side, but that wasn’t going to happen given the volume of water that was currently flowing over the falls. After returning to the Homestead Trailhead we drove to the Wagon Road Trailhead 1.3 miles further south along Sweet Creek Road.
Wagon Road Trailhead for the Sweet Creek Trail

The Sweet Creek Trail heads away from the road in both directions from this trailhead. We began with the segment on the west side of Sweet Creek Road which would lead bus back down to Sweet Creek Falls on the opposite side of the creek.
Sweet Creek Trail

Sweet Creek Falls

Sweet Creek Falls

Sweet Creek Falls

Near the bottom of this trail were a number of skunk cabbage flowers.
Skunk cabbage

After visiting the base of Sweet Creek Falls we returned to the Wagon Road Trailhead and took the .6 mile segment of the Sweet Creek Trail to Beaver Creek Falls.
Sweet Creek Trail

Beaver Creek Falls

Beaver Creek Falls

We left the Wagon Road Trailhead and headed back to Highway 126 and headed toward Florence. We made a quick stop at Florence Yamaha to pick up a Northwest Forest Pass which we needed for our final hike at the Holman Vista Day Use Area just north of Florence.
Sutton Creek Trailhead

We started this hike by taking a short paved path to an overlook of Sutton Creek and a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.
Sutton Creek

Sutton Creek and the Pacific Ocean

Next we set off on the Sutton Creek Loop Trail which led along Sutton Creek through a coastal forest .8 miles to a trail junction near Bolduc’s Meadow.
Sutton Creek Trail

Sutton Creek Trail

Crazy tree along the Sutton Creek Loop Trail.
Crazy tree along the Sutton Creek Trail

Sutton Creek

Sutton Creek

We kept straight at the junction passing Bolduc’s meadow where we spotted a lone daffodil and a single grape hyacinth.
Bolduc's Meadow

Daffodil in Boluduc's Meadow

Grape Hyacinths

We were now on the South Sutton Creek Trail which continued to follow the creek for 1.5 miles of short ups and downs. This trail brought us to the Sutton Campground where we picked up the continuation of the trail at a footbridge near site B16.
Footbridge across Sutton Creek

After crossing the footbridge we had the option to go left or right on the North Sutton Creek Trail. The left hand trail led a quarter mile to a dune while the right and would have brought us to the same dune on a .6 mile loop.
Sutton Creek Trail

At the dune we found a swing which Heather made use of.
Sutton Creek Trail

Dune along the Sutton Creek Trail

Swing break along the Sutton Creek Trail

From the swing we followed the North Sutton Creek Trail for 1.3 miles back to the trail junction near Bolduc’s Meadow. This section of trail passed dunes with a less dense forest. Common gorse and manzanita was beginning to bloom along the trail and some areas were covered in a light green moss that reminded us of snow.
Sutton Creek Trail

Moss

Common Gorse
common gorse

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Common manzanita
Common manzanita

Sutton Creek Trail

Bearberry
Bearberry

Dunes along the Sutton Creek Trail

Footbridge across Sutton Creek to the trail junction near Buldoc’s Meadow
Fottbridge over Sutton Creek near Buldoc's Meadow

After crossing the footbridge we turned right and then quickly turned left on an unsigned trail which led us .5 miles back to the parking lot at the Holman Vista Day Use Area.

We had a great time on these trails and it was nice that they were all very different from one another. We wound up doing a little over 13 miles of hiking but each of these trails are worthy of doing on their own. The Old Growth Ridge/Armantrout Loop hike was approximately 3.5 miles with about 800′ of elevation gain. Our first hike along Sweet Creek from the Homestead Trailhead was a little under 2.5 miles with 350′ of elevation gain while the segments from the Wagon Road Trailhead totaled just under 3 miles and 300′ of elevation gain. The hike on the Sutton Creek Trails was 4.5 miles with only about 100′ of total elevation gain. Happy Trails!

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Kentucky Falls

We had originally planned to visit Kentucky Falls a couple of years ago but winter storms damaged the North Fork Smith River Trail causing us to postpone the hike. Much of the trail has since been repaired and we decided that it was finally time for that trip. The North Fork Smith River Trail extends for over 8.5 miles between two trailheads in the Siuslaw National Forest west of Eugene, OR. We chose the Kentucky Falls Trailhead located on National Forest Road 919 as our starting point for a couple of reasons. First of all the three large waterfalls along the trail are closer to this trailhead and secondly the storms that damaged the trail had also damaged the 1 1/2 mile bridge (Named for its distance from the North Fork Smith Trailhead on forest road 23.) making it unsafe to cross and leaving a river ford as the only way to continue past on the trail.

From the Kentucky Falls Trailhead the path gradually descends through the forest to a view above Upper Kentucky Falls.
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The trail then begins a steeper descent as it switchbacks down to Kentucky Creek below the falls.
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The trail again descends gradually crossing the creek on a footbridge before a second set of swtichbacks brings you to a trail junction at a sharp switchback.
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Sharp switchback
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The switchback is the continuation of the North Fork Smith River Trail and the route for a longer hike. A short path leading straight from the switchback junction leads a short distance to two more large falls. Lower Kentucky Falls and North Fork Falls.
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Lower Kentucky Falls
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North Fork Falls
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Turning back here would have made the hike approximately 4.5 miles, but we were planning on a longer trek so when we returned to the switchback junction we continued along the North Fork Smith River Trail. Under a mile from the junction we came to Swimming Pool Falls. A much smaller waterfall than the three upstream but scenic none the less.
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The trail after Swimming Pool Falls began to show signs of little use. The tread became narrower with some small plants and moss growing on the path.
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We had to watch our step but not because of the trail condition, we had to watch out for the numerous snails, slugs, millipedes, and other critters that we saw all along the trail.
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Our map showed that it was approximately 2.7miles from Swimming Pool Falls to the 3 mile bridge. This is the second bridge over the North Fork Smith River coming from the North Fork Smith Trailhead. We were on the lookout for a couple of markers along the way though, a small drippy waterfall and an 11′ Douglas fir. We spotted the drippy waterfall just fine which looked like it would have been very pretty with a higher volume of water.
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Not far after drippy falls there was a large tree trunk across the trail which made for a decent obstacle.
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Then we came to an unsigned trail junction at a switchback. This junction was not on any forest service map of the area we had seen and it wasn’t marked on the map in our field guide. The right hand fork led down a ridge while the left fork switched back along the canyon wall.

This picture is taken from the left hand fork looking back up at the unsigned junction.
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We decided to take the right hand fork to see if led down to the 11′ tree or possibly a campsite out on the ridge. We did pass an old campsite but the trail continued on down toward the river growing a little fainter as it went. We were following a side creek down the hillside which the maps showed the trail doing as it arrives at the 3 mile bridge so we kept going wondering if we had missed the 11′ tree and already arrived at the bridge. The trail crossed the little stream and arrived at another junction. This one had signs. A Kentucky Falls sign pointed right toward a very faint path while a North Fork Smith Trail sign pointed back up the way we’d come. The sign for the left hand fork said Swinging Bridge.
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We were headed for a bridge but it was odd that Sullivan had not mentioned the “Swinging” aspect of the bridge in his book. That is the kind of detail that he does include in his descriptions. Not far from the junction we arrived at the bridge though.
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It was a nice suspension bridge which was something else that didn’t fit the field guide description. We ventured out on the bridge and at the far end was a small sign that simply said. “3.5 miles to gated road 4880”. The path leading away from the bridge was an old roadbed that was overgrown with grass. We were able to deduce that the bridge must connect the trail system to some private land on which was shown on the map in our field guide on the opposite side of the river. So back up the hill we went to the unsigned junction to the path we hadn’t taken. This portion of trail had not been maintained for some time, probably since the storms that damaged the bridges, leaving a couple of wash outs that had to be navigated.
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When the trail began to descend a ridge toward the river we realized that we must have missed the big tree and would have to look for it on our return trip. In the meantime we were busy trying not to miss the trail as it became increasingly overgrown the closer we got to the river.
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We passed as small former campsite near a small stream with a very small fall into a little pool.
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Then we arrived on the bank of the river. Here the trail was almost completely overgrown, but Heather did an excellent job following it through the undergrowth.
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We struggled through the brush for a couple hundred yards at least before finally popping out at the river with a view of the 3 mile bridge.
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The next obstacle was figuring out the best way to reach the bridge which had been cut off by a new channel of the river after the storms. While we looked for the best route we noticed several little fish in the water.
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In the end we decided to go around to the right of the pool in front of us which worked out well and we were soon across the bridge. The trail then followed the river through a less overgrown wood. Here the sun was shinning and flowers lined the path.
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Several neat moss covered trees also added to the character of this section.
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The scenery changed again when the trail left the more woodsy forest behind and entered a different feeling area where there was very less undergrowth and giant stumps told of a past forest fire.
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We finally arrived at what remains of the 1 1/2 mile bridge.
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There were visible cracks in the middle of the log and clearly not something anyone should attempt to cross. Determined hikers could look for a place to ford the river and there was a rope that was tied on a log near the bridge to assist in climbing up the embankment, but this may not be an option in high water.
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We turned around and began our return trip having decided to stop at a sandy beach we had passed earlier near a 2 1/2 mile post.
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We sat by the creek and cooled our feet off in the cold (really cold) water.
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An ouzel was busy hunting for insects in the water just downstream.
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After resting for a bit we resumed our return hike focused on spotting the 11′ Douglas fir this time. We spotted it this time and also noticed a sign along the trail apparently identifying the tree. What the sign actually said we couldn’t tell but the tree was certainly larger than any of the other trees around.
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We also spotted a salamander in one of the little streams along the trail. I tried to identify the exact type of salamander this was, as it was the first we’d seen of this type, but all I was able to find out for sure is that it was indeed a salamander.
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When we arrived at the spur trail to Lower Kentucky and North Fork Falls we took it again wanting to see how the change in the suns position affected the appearance of the falls. They had been impressive in the morning, but now the sun was shining on the cascades and they were even prettier.
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We found the same thing at Upper Kentucky Falls.
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We finally arrive back at our car around 5pm after over 9 hours of hiking. The GPS put us at 17.4 miles and our feet agreed, but it had been a great hike full of plenty of surprises and adventure. According to a sign at the trailhead the Forest Service plans to replace the bridges in 2016, but until then the North Fork Smith River Trail should remain a bit on the wilder side. Happy Trails!

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Harts Cove & Drift Creek Falls

It has become a tradition to finish off our hiking year either on the Oregon Coast or in the coast range. This year we targeted a pair of shorter hikes to keep the tradition alive. For the first of these two hikes we traveled to Cascade Head just north of Lincoln City in order to visit Harts Cove where a waterfall spills into the Pacific Ocean. We parked at the Cascade Head Upper Trailhead along road 1861 at a sign post for the Nature Conservancy Trail. A trail here led off for a mile to Cascade Head’s upper viewpoint which we had visited before. In order to find the Harts Cove Trailhead we walked another .9miles down road 1861 where a large parking area with plenty of signs marked the start of the trail. We could have driven here but were contemplating hiking to the upper viewpoint later if the sky cleared so we decided to park at the upper trailhead.
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One of the signs warned of difficult hiking conditions on the trail which piqued our interest.
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The trail started out by diving fairly steeply downhill through the forest for the first half mile then descended more gradually to a bridge across Cliff Creek.
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Cliff Creek

After crossing the creek the trail turned back toward the ocean along a ridge. We could hear a number of sea lions on the rocks below but could only get small glimpses of them across the water through the trees.
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As the trail wound around the ridge end there was a bench that offered an obstructed view across Harts Cove to a meadow which was where the trail would end. The trail then bent back leading us around the cove. We crossed Chitwood Creek which appeared to have once had a bridge but it was now in pieces further down the creek.
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We had been in clouds and fog for most of the hike but as we came out of the forest into the meadow we could see clearer skies out over the ocean. The trail was steep here also and muddy making it a bit slick.
Looking down the trail:
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Looking up from below:
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North toward Cape Lookout:
Cape Lookout from the meadow near Harts Cove

South toward Cascade Head:
Cascade Head

The sea lions could still be heard across the way below Cascade Head, and now we could see them better.
Sea Lions and Seagulls

We followed the trail down and around to the left toward Harts Cove so that we could get a view of Chitwood Creek’s waterfall. We were surprised to find a handful of flowers in bloom including a number of Salal bushes.
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The waterfall turned out to be very picturesque as it fell down into the surging ocean.
Harts Cove and Chitwood Creeks waterfall

Chitwood Creek waterfall

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There was a nice open spot below a tree where we stopped for a snack and to remove some of the unnecessary layers of clothes we had on. While we were resting there Heather spotted a hummingbird that was interested in my orange jacket. It was zipping about, landing occasionally and then darting back into the air. I was snapping pictures frantically trying to get some sort of picture before the hummingbird disappeared. I wasn’t sure if I’d managed to get anything until we got home, but I wound up getting lucky with a single shot.
Hummingird in the meadow near Harts Cove

As we headed back up the steep trail we noticed that Haystack Rock near Pacific City was shinning in full sunlight.
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We returned the way we’d come and decided to skip the upper viewpoint because it still appeared to be enveloped in the clouds. This hike had been 7.6 miles which included the unnecessary 1.8 miles due to parking at the upper trailhead.

Our next stop was Drift Creek Falls which is located in the Siuslaw National Forest between Hwy 18 & Hwy 101 along Drift Creek Camp Road (Road 17). There was a good sized parking area and restrooms at the trailhead.
Drift Creek Falls Trailhead

The trail leads down through the forest crossing two creeks on footbridges.
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At the .7 mile mark the trail forks at a sign for the North Loop, a longer loop option which we planned to take on the way back from the falls. A third of a mile later we came to the other end of the North Loop.
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Just a short distance later we arrived at the suspension bridge over Drift Creek.
Suspension Bridge over Drift Creek

The bridge passes over the creek very close to the falls allowing for some nice views.
Drift Creek Falls

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The trail continues on the far side of the bridge down to Drift Creek where we could get a different perspective.
Drift Creek Falls

After enjoying the falls for a bit we headed back, this time taking the North Loop which would add about .7 miles to the return trip. This 1 mile section of trail climbed up and wound back through the forest. Aside from the trees and a few mushrooms there wasn’t much to see, but the trail was nice and good for a little extra exercise if wanted.
North Loop - Drift Creek Falls Trail

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By taking the North Loop back we wound up with a total of 3.9 miles showing on the Garmin. These two trails were close enough (30 minute drive) and short enough to do in a day but they were also nice enough to stand on their own. As far as the cautions at the Harts Cove Trail we didn’t experience anything that we found too hard or scary but some of that is subjective and the trial was steep in places and the wet conditions caused a lot of mud which was slick at times. We will most likely be back to the coast sometime next month to kick off our 2015 hikes, but until then Happy Trails!

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Gwynn Creek & Cape Perpetua shelter

Our first hikes of 2013 are officially in the books. We headed to Cape Perpetua just South of Yachats on the Oregon coast to visit two trails. One of the things we are always on the lookout for on our hikes is wildlife. We see plenty of birds, chipmunks, and squirrels and a fair number of deer but are always hoping to see something different. On this day we would wind up spotting an owl, a small herd of elk, a deer, and an eagle eating a recently caught fish. The only problem was these were all seen from the car.

The first hike was a loop along the ridges surrounding Gwynn Creek which is located about a mile South of Cape Perpetua in the Siuslaw National Forest. We set out shortly after Sunrise on what turned out to be a nice day. Although there were some clouds and a couple of very brief very light showers, temperatures stayed around 40F for the day. Many of the plants along the trails were showing buds and a few early flowers were starting to bloom. We were also fortunate enough to be able to see the Ocean from the view points along this mostly forested trail.

View from a viewpoint along the Gwynn Creek loop.
View from a viewpoint along the Gwynn Creek loop.

Anyone familiar with the Oregon coast knows there is often a layer of low clouds hanging just at the shore line which have hidden the Ocean from us on several hikes in the past.

After finishing the Gwynn Creek loop we stopped in at the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center to take the short trail up to the stone shelter constructed in 1933 at the top of the cape.

shelter on Cape Perpetua
shelter on Cape Perpetua

We had been to the area in 2011 visiting the tidepools and Devils Churn along the beach, but we hadn’t been up to the shelter before. On our way up the 1.3mi trail we could tell we hadn’t been doing much hiking. The 700ft elevation gain felt a lot worse than it should have. 🙂 The view from the top was worth it though. On a clear day the view extends 37 miles to sea and a good 70 miles to the South and to Cape Foulweather to the North. The only drawback on this day was that the position of the Sun to the South limited the view, but did provide some nice effects as it reflected off the Ocean.

The view South from the shelter on Cape Perpetua
The view South from the shelter on Cape Perpetua

More pictures from the trails have been posted on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200643581919156.200254.1448521051&type=3