A Waterfall Road Trip near Crater Lake

If you get to Southern Oregon, set aside 2-3 days for a waterfall road trip.* The region features 30-40 waterfalls, mostly within a short road distance of each other, and well-maintained trails catering to all fitness levels. No internet service throughout so bring maps and guides from the internet or collect them at ranger stations nearby.  Gas up your car, pack a lunch, and be inspired.

Location info: We were close to the towns of Roseburg and Glide for the majority of these falls–about an hour and a half west of CLNP, so not really close by but completely worth the haul. The road we were on is called Rogue-Umpqua National Scenic Byway and this is a handy list of descriptions for all it has to offer and here’s the map we followed (available at ranger stations). We barely managed to cover 20% of this list–there just wasn’t enough time in the day! We were so astounded by the natural beauty in the region that we actually cut short a Crater Lake day to spend another afternoon visiting waterfalls. Coming from CLNP, we were on a different route and the waterfalls we saw were close to the town of Prospect, Oregon. I think we managed to visit 7 in total (one of them isn’t pictured) even though we only stopped for trails less than a mile round-trip. Turns out parking, getting out and reading signs (remember no internet), finding and completing the trail, taking pictures, basking in the stupefying glory of nature, and hiking back takes longer than you would plan for. We were efficient with effort, but not with time.

Oh, and how could I forget?

 

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Plaikni Falls, a very easy 1 mile trail within CLNP

 

A word about Toketee Falls (Pictured first): This is the one most featured by guidebooks and websites about the area, with good reason. It’s a short though not super-easy hike and the water is absolutely gorgeous. The trail is kid- and dog-friendly, has railings and protective barriers for most of the way up to a viewing platform. But it was definitely the least friendly-looking of the waterfalls we caught that day and possibly the most magnificient for the same reason. Tons of people on the internet recommend a hike down to the water, but we didn’t plan on it because they do also warn you that it’s difficult and can be scary. Sure enough, there isn’t an actual trail leading down to the water–you just have to figure it out, sort of.  There are warnings all over the place that we would be leaving the well-defined path at our own risk. And it looks like someone just died/went missing doing just that. We did see many people getting off-trail when we were there (probably because of what they read on the internet) and it all seemed pretty foolhardy to me. So, Internet, please calm your ardor with this one. You could easily get to the water at all these other waterfalls nearby instead and, when you do, (if you’re like me) you’ll experience bitter disappointment that it isn’t warm enough for a swim. Seriously, don’t risk your neck trying to get closer to Toketee.

Not waterfall, but things we saw worth mentioning:

  • Crater Lake National Park, duh. It was a bit hazy from wildfire smoke when we were there, but still a wonderful experience, especially when we took the trail down and got a boat ride on the water.
  • A natural bridge where the Rogue River flows through a lava-rock tunnel for 250 ft. It’s right on the main road coming from Crater Lake to Prospect and completely worth the stop. There is also a campground and a longer loop offering more views of the river, which seem lovely, but the actual viewing area for the natural bridge is about 500 steps from your car.
  • Lots of gold rush history in the area as well, if that interests you.
  • Great Cats World Park. I cannot recommend this place enough. Not your typical zoo experience! We took the guided tour and it was great seeing the guide interact with the big cats. I’ve never seen such happy and lively (zoo) animals.
  • Sundial Bridge, Redding: Cute little stop on I5 to take in the serene Sacramento River. Great time for a quick swim too. Bring a picnic lunch!

*Honestly, I doubt you could do justice to the region even in 2-3 days, but that’s enough to make the most of the area with good planning. For reference, we had 1.25 (ish) days, and we made it to 7 different falls. If we had known about these treasures beforehand and planned ahead, we maybe would have made it to 10-12 with the same time.

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