Photo by William Sullivan
to Sweet Creek Falls
a creek with a dozen small waterfalls, following a trail on catwalks bolted to
About the Hike: Just a few miles inland
from Florence, the waterfalls of this dramatic Coast Range gorge are accessed
by an easy trail. Visit in April or May to see woodland wildflowers, including
big white trilliusm and a rare breed of pink fawn lilies.
The easy, 2.2-mile round-trip trail to Sweet Creek Falls gains just 350 feet of
Season: Open all year.
Drive Highway 126 to the Siuslaw River Bridge in Mapleton (15 miles east of Florence
or 46 miles west of Eugene). Cross the bridge from town and immediately turn west
on Sweet Creek Road for 10.2 paved miles. Then take a paved turnoff to the right
to the Homestead Trailhead turnaround.
Recreation Fee Pass (Northwest Forest Pass) parking permits are required at the
trailhead. They cost $5 per car per day or $30 per season.
Tips: From the Homestead Trailhead, the graveled path heads upstream past
a split, 10-foot waterfall. Later, the trail hugs a cliff through a canyon full
of punchbowl-shaped falls. Four-foot-thick Douglas fir trees tower above the creekside
alder and bigleaf maple.
0.7 mile a path from a second trailhead joins on the left. Continue upstream 0.4
mile to a cliff-edged plunge pool at the base of 20-foot Sweet Creek Falls. A
spur trail switchbacks up 150 yards to a viewpoint of an upper falls in a thundering
Creek Falls Catwalk
photo by William Sullivan
Sullivan is a veteran Oregon journalist and author with 12 published books
on Oregon travel, history and hiking.
hike is in the Oregon
If you'd like
to explore the valley's upper reaches, hike back to your car and drive the paved
road 1.3 miles beyond the Homestead Trailhead. Just after a bridge, park at the
Wagon Road Trailhead on the left. Across the road, a path heads downstream 0.8
mile to a different viewpoint of Sweet Creek Falls.
A nearby 0.6-mile
trail to Beaver Creek Falls is also nice, and very quiet. From the Wagon Road
Trailhead, walk across the road's bridge to find a Sweet Creek Trail sign on the
right. This portion of the path heads upstream to the base of a fan-shaped waterfall
where Beaver Creek and Sweet Creek merge.
History: The valley
here was settled in 1879 by the Zarah T. Sweets, a family of Oregon Trail pioneers.
The modern trail incorporates portions of an early wagon road.
The Coast Range in this area consists of mudstones, sandstones and an occasional
basalt flow. All of this rock belongs on the seafloor of the Pacific Ocean. It
has been brought to the surface only by a quirk. The North American continental
plate has been advancing westward across the Pacific, at the rate of about an
inch a year, for quite some time. About 30 million years ago a chunk of Pacific
seafloor buckled up in front of the advancing continent and decided to become
land, creating Oregon's Coast Range and the terrain you see here along Sweet Creek.