Main Trailhead: Champion Creek Trailhead or Upper Trestle Creek Falls Trailhead (The two trailheads are within sight of each other and both are great starting points!)
Distance: 3.5 mile loop hike
Busy: Not very busy
Twenty-five miles east of Cottage Grove, Oregon is one of my favorite places. The trees, Douglas Fir, Red Cedar and Western Hemlock, soar into the grey sky and wear blankets of bright green moss. The forest floor is a playground for ferns and trilliums. The constantly cascading creeks create a sounding symphony of background noise. Rounding bends in the trail, we are greeted with views of trees through the mist, creeks flashing whitewater as they roll over rocks and mountains beckoning in the distance, enshrined with the ever-present Oregon fog. The air is fresh and clean but still damp with drizzling rain, especially now in January. It may also be because it’s January that we were completely alone in this paradise for our Tuesday afternoon adventure.
Our adventure today is a 3.5 mile loop hike with almost 1,500 feet of elevation gain. There are two definite waterfalls, but keep a lookout for unnamed cascades pretty much everywhere you can see. It took us about two hours to complete this journey, including some picture-taking time. There are also a multitude of hiking trails just along this road so it would be entirely possible to plan a whole day of hiking in this area. The Trestle Creek Loop can be completed clockwise or counter-clockwise. We’ve started at both trailheads and enjoyed the hike both ways.
START AT BRICE CREEK TRAILHEAD (clockwise)
Brice Creek Trail begins immediately after the bridge over Brice Creek. The trailhead is well-marked and will be on your left if you are walking from the Champion Creek Trailhead Parking Area. This direction has a less steep climb than hiking counter-clockwise. The trail is fairly flat as it follows Brice Creek to start. After a quarter mile, turn right for a short half-mile round-trip out-and-back trip to Trestle Creek Falls. At forty-five feet tall, Trestle Creek Falls are worth the short side trip.
Once you are back at Brice Creek Trail, make your way to the right to continue the loop. It is about a half-mile up Brice Creek Trail to the junction for Upper Trestle Creek Falls. It is one mile from Brice Creek Trail to Upper Trestle Creek Falls but it is fairly steep. It is also breath-taking. The higher you climb, the more views you can catch through the trees and down into the forest.
Coming from this direction, you will first walk behind the waterfall, then slightly down and around the cave-like walls of the pool below the waterfall. From here you can view Upper Trestle Creek Falls completely. The walls surrounding the waterfall are themselves dripping and beads of water collect on the moss at every opportunity.
The good news is that once you have reached Upper Trestle Creek Falls, you are at the highest point of the hike so it’s pretty much all down hill from here. The bad news is that in just 1.5 miles you will be back at the parking area.
IF YOU BEGIN AT UPPER TRESTLE CREEK FALLS TRAILHEAD (counter-clockwise)…
The official Upper Trestle Creek Falls Trailhead is about 20 yards further down FR-22 and will also be on your left if you are coming from the Champion Creek Trailhead Parking Area. There is a smaller parking area (2-3 cars) just over the bridge on FR-22 and directly across from the Upper Trestle Creek Falls Trailhead.
When you begin at the Upper Trestle Creek Trailhead, you will climb steeply and immediately through a series of switchbacks. It’s a bit intense but not too bad.
If you begin at the Upper Trestle Creek Trailhead, you will first see the waterfall in it’s entirety before walking behind the falls to continue to Brice Creek Trail.
To get to Trestle Creek, take exit 174 (Cottage Grove/Dorena Lake) off of I-5. Head east on the Cottage Grove Connector. The Cottage Grove Connector will become Row River Road. Continue east on Row River Road for approximated 18 miles. After 18 miles, continue straight onto Brice Creek Road for 8 miles. The Champion Creek Trailhead will be on your left just before the junction of Brice Creek Road and FR-22. You can continue over the bridge and immediately on your right will be the parking area for Upper Trestle Creek Falls Trailhead.