Though the impressive 286 foot Salt Creek Falls is the star of the show, a rhododendron rich trail leads to one of the more unique falls in the area – Diamond Creek Falls. In addition, the complete hike provides a thigh-burning climb to Fall Creek Falls.
From the town of Oakridge take Highway 58 east for 21.5 miles, 1 mile east of the highway tunnel, to a signed turnout for Salt Creek Falls on the right. Follow the road down to a large parking area near restrooms and a kiosk.
Walk past the interpretive kiosk to a fenced viewing area and overlook of Salt Creek Falls. At nearly 300 feet, it’s one of the tallest accessible falls in Oregon. To get a better look, follow an unpaved boot path to the right of the viewing platform. The trail leads steeply down do the base of Salt Creek Falls.
To begin the loop hike, go back to the kiosk/restroom area and take the paved walkway upstream about 300 feet to a signed trail. Turn right onto the path; walk past a picnic area and cross Salt Creek on a footbridge. After the bridge follow a faint path into the woods for 300 feet to a signed junction.
Turn right at the junction and climb a quick .2 mile to a wide open canyon view. Continue along the main trail past Too Much Bear Lake and a number of spur paths to optional viewpoints, for 1.1 mile to a junction leading down to Diamond Creek Falls. The steep path gets down the canyon wall in a hurry, crosses a footbridge, and in .2 mile ends at the base of the spectacular Diamond Creek Falls. The veiling, horsetail-style falls spreads wide and descends 120 feet over basalt steps and fissures. Because of its unique layout the falls are unusually accessible. During summer water levels it is possible to safely rock hop out to the base and feel its power up close.
Make your way back up to the main trail and turn right. 350 feet later you’ll reach an upper viewpoint of Diamond Creek Falls; offering a different perspective and a view of where you probably just had a snack and took pictures.
To take the short loop, continue past the upper viewpoint another few hundred feet to a junction. Take a left here and follow the main trail as it makes an easy 1.2 mile descent back to the parking area, crossing a gravel road twice in the process.
To continue on to Fall Creek Falls, walk past this junction for .1 mile to a cement bridge crossing Diamond Creek. Just over the bridge, pick up the marked trail on the left and enter the woods again for .1 mile. The trail then re-emerges from the trees at a railroad crossing. Cross the tracks (carefully) and stay straight along a broad path for 400 feet to a “T” junction. Turn left here and descend down another broad, rocky path for .2 mile to a junction on the right.
Turn right and begin a steady, often times very steep climb into the Diamond Creek Wilderness. After .8 mile you’ll reach a partial view of Fall Creek Falls. Continue another .2 mile to a clearer ledge viewpoint of the falls.
From Fall Creek Falls, backtrack 1.4 mile to the junction near the upper viewpoint of Diamond Creek Falls. Hang a right here and follow the trail as it makes an easy 1.2 mile descent back to the parking area, crossing a gravel road twice in the process.
For more of Adam's writing, reviews, and photography, visit AdamSawyer.com or follow him on Facebook. His forthcoming guidebook, Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon, published by Falcon Guides, will be available spring 2014.