With all of the craziness going on with the end of the school year, we are finally here. It's summer! First on our priority list was to get away from everything for a day and spend some undistracted time together as a family. Personally, I felt the deep need to smell the forest air, hear the thundering flow of waterfalls and creeks, and feel the crunch of the trail beneath my feet. We decided to get our family out onto the trails and head to the North Umpqua to check some more waterfalls off of our bucket list. I made an optimistic list of six waterfalls to hunt and ended up short but it still ended up being quite the adventure!
Here are the highlights:
165 Foot Lemolo Falls - Horsetail
60 Foot Warm Spring Falls - Vertical curtain
29 Foot Clearwater Falls - Segemented steep cascade
14 Foot Whitehorse Falls - Plunging puchbowl
First on our list of waterfalls was Lemolo Falls. There are two different trails with two different views and of course we wanted to get the best, up close view so we decided to take the harder south trail route. (See the end of our the blog for full details of how to get the south route) Be prepared if you are going during the summer, the dinosaur size mosquitoes are out with a vengeance on their teeny, tiny minds. Bring lots of mosquito repellent…we had three cans between our group of six and we used them the whole time.
The 1.7 mile hike down was pretty easy; through old growth forest, hopping over a few fallen trees, and zigzagging down into the canyon Ilias and Olivia cruised down to the waterfall with no problem. Watch for small spots where the trail gets a little narrow to keep a closer eye on the littler ones, but most of it is pretty safe.
Olivia always loves to listen for the first sounds of the running water; it gives her hope that we are almost there on the longer trails. As we got closer to the canyon floor the scenery got more lush and green and then we caught our first glimpse of majestic Lemolo Falls.
It literally took my breath away. Our whole group gasped at the beauty that was before us. I'm not kidding; the sight of Lemolo Falls is what people travel to Hawaii or distant parts of the earth for. We quickly headed down the path to get the closest view and to cool down from the mist. We were in awe and it was nice to get a short break from the mosquitoes. The kids and dogs were eager to jump in the water but the flow was too fast so we promised to get to a swimming hole soon and headed back up the trail.
The trek back was pretty steep; Olivia made it 3/4's of the way up and then started complaining about her legs hurting. Going back felt a lot longer that, so we distracted her with some singing, water, and snacks for a little while and then daddy carried her for a short bit. As far as we were concerned she is a rockstar. Not too bad for a five year old to hike 3.4 miles.
Lemolo Falls was our longest trail of the day which was perfect for the rest of the day to go smoothly. Fortunately Warm Springs Falls was just a twenty minute drive up the road from Lemolo Falls. When we got back to NF-2610 we took a left and crossed the dam. You will hit a fork in the road where you will keep going straight. Not too far from there you will see a bridge on your left side. That is where you would go to take the north trail route to see the top view of Lemolo Falls. We decided to skip that and head on past to Warm Springs Falls. If you stay to the left you will cross over the reservoir again and then you will hit the trail. It's a very short jaunt to the falls making for a great follow-up to the longer Lemolo Falls.
A pretty little walk with no elevation, the kids ran ahead with the dogs to beat us to the falls. Warm Spring Falls can only be viewed from above., but I really loved the carving in the canyon wall made from what I assume is, thousands of years of water flowing over. We noticed a little beaten trail as we were walking away which I am sure you could get a different vantage point but the kids and dogs were basically already back to the car, so we left it for another day.
What is so awesome about the waterfalls along Hwy 138 is that if you have the energy and time you can visit 8 to 10 waterfalls in one day. We didn't quite have it in us to visit all of the waterfalls but we did venture to Clearwater Falls and Whitehorse Falls since they were fairly close.
Clearwater Falls is where we let the kids and dogs get into the water. Since Olivia had been begging all day she jumped right in. Her reaction was priceless because it was freeeezing cold. Our kids are water babies so even though it was cold as heck they put in fifteen minutes or so of playing in the water. Olivia didn't want to get out but we wanted to explore the trail and of course go see the waterfall.
The short trail to Clearwater Falls is beautiful with moss covered rocks and big trees along the creek. When you get to the falls, if you are on the west side of the creek you have to cross a huge log to get the best view of the falls and the viewpoint. If you take the trail to the left of the falls up to the top you catch a magnificent perspective of water flowing under tree roots and tumbling down. Our brave Olivia did not hesitate one bit to go to the edge of the falls, though this mama was a little nervous. The kids were having such a good time exploring the falls that of course they didn't want to leave, but we knew there were more adventures to be had at our next waterfall Whitehorse Falls.
Talk about easy trail. Whitehorse Falls you just drive right, park, and the viewpoint is just twenty or so steps away. You can also walk down to the pool right in front of the falls. It looked like an amazing spot to go swimming. One adventure to add to the bucket list!
In spite of the nasty mosquitoes it turned it to be a pretty great day. Nothing is better than exhaustion from adventuring in my favorite place on earth; our home, southern Oregon.
What's next on our list? I'm not sure yet. We will just have to see what comes our way.
To get to Lemolo Falls:
We got a little turned around because the directions are not super clear and there are no signs off of the main road so you have to stop at the directory past the dam to figure things out. Since the trail to the bottom of the falls is before the dam here is my best description of how to get there. Your gps will take you onto Birds Point Rd/NF-2610 drive about 4.2 miles from Hwy 138 and then straight onto NF-3401. NF-3401 will be right after Poole Creek Campground and before Lemolo Resort on the left side of the road. There is NO sign, but trust me that is the way to go. Stay to the left which will be NFD 800. You will turn right onto a very rocky, bumpy road and you will drive 1.75 mile. The first road on the right is where you will turn and drive for about 1/4 of a mile where you will meet the trail head.
If you want to continue your waterfall hunting, and have the time you are can continue on to Watson Falls, Toketee Falls, and Fall Creek Falls. Check out our blog about this fun adventure here.