McDowell Creek Falls County Park
McDowell Creek Falls County Park
McDowell Creek Falls County Park is easy to access with two wonderful waterfalls along a 1.8 mile loop hike. This means that the park does tend to get crowded. When I showed up at 8:45 on a Tuesday, I was not the first car there. And the park is not secluded: you can see the road through the trees at many points. However, McDowell Creek Falls Country Park is just as magical as the rest of Oregon. And, given that it’s easy to access, is available all year long.
McDowell Creek Falls County Park is located near Sweet Home and Lebanon, in the foothills of the Cascades. The hike is easy and beautiful that I did it twice just for fun. There are many places to duck off along the river to write, photograph or just to be and enjoy.
Lower McDowell Creek Falls
I began my hike at the first parking lot you come to, the lower parking lot. Before you start on the actual trail (before the footbridge), make sure to check out Lower McDowell Creek Falls just east of the footbridge you cross. There is a trail on the north side of the creek, again with several places to get closer to the creek and enjoy the falls and rushing water. Lower McDowell Creek Falls is the first of four named falls you will pass by.
Royal Terrace Falls
So now you’ve crossed the first footbridge and are on your way to Royal Terrace Falls, an impressive waterfall with a tiered 119-foot drop over basalt rock. When I arrived, the sun was just starting to peek through the trees, over the mountains, casting the waterfall in an ethereal light. There is a bridge in front of the waterfall to take it all in. There is also a trail leading up to the middle of the falls and behind. It gets muddy and slippery up there though, let me tell you! Be cautious.
After viewing Royal Terrace Falls, continue up the steps to the right of the falls and onwards to Majestic Falls. It’s another short walk (with some steps and a road crossing) to get there. There is a parking lot at Majestic Falls as well, so it can be a starting place for your hike. There is a great set of wooden stairs and boardwalks around Majestic Falls, making for a myriad of angels, patterns and perspectives for photographers. I loved standing on the viewing platform, as close as I could get, and feeling the mist spraying my face.
Another short walk and you arrive at Crystal Pool, the last of the named falls in the park. Crystal Pool can be a bit difficult to see through the trail but it’s worth it. You should see Crystal Pool before you cross the road for the second time. After taking it in, enjoy the walk through the woods on the way back to the lower parking lot.
Here, I have described the longest hike in the park, the outermost loop hike. There are intersecting trails along the way allowing you to roam and meander as you wish. The park is small and it shouldn’t take very long to hike all of the trails.
How to get there:
From I-5, take exit 216 (OR-228 towards Brownsville/Halsey)
Go EAST for 18.5 miles.
In Sweet Home, turn LEFT onto First Ave.
Turn RIGHT onto Main Street.
Turn LEFT onto Pleasant Valley Road for one mile.
Turn LEFT again to stay on Pleasant Valley Road for another mile.
Continue STRAIGHT onto Berlin Road for three miles.
Turn RIGHT onto McDowell Creek Drive.
The park is in four miles, on your RIGHT.
It’s well-signed and fairly easy to miss.