Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Sweet Spring Hike

Tucked off the beaten path deep in the Oregon Coast Range is a beautiful series of small waterfalls. Surprisingly few hikers venture off of Highway 126 to find this family-friendly path. Spring is the best time to discover Sweet Creek; the waterfalls are filled with seasonal rain and wildflowers ornament the trailside. Kids love the catwalks that cling to streamside cliffs, making it possible to follow the creek bank. There is some disagreement as to the total number of falls; it depends on what is considered a waterfall. The steep creekbed and numerous cascades confuse the facts, but counts range from ten falls up to nearly twenty.

This is, in fact, a pretty sweet creek, but it is actually named for the Sweet family who settled here in the 1800s. This wet, remote little valley, prone to flooding and far from civilization, must have been a challenging place to farm. Sweet Creek flows into the Siuslaw River, though, which was the highway of the time, and ample rainfall would have grown vigorous crops. Small farms still dot the area, but Sweet Creek is now owned by the Forest Service.

To find the trailhead, drive 15 miles east of Florence or 46 miles west of Eugene to Mapleton. Go over the bridge and turn west (right) on Sweet Creek Road. Follow this small, paved road for about ten miles and turn right into
the parking lot for the Homestead Trail. A short section of this path is fairly accessible and makes for a lovely creekside pause. Then the trail begins in earnest, although it never becomes steep or difficult. Keep children in view; the creek is tempting but flows quickly. Small dogs may need to be carried on the catwalks, as their little paws can catch in the decking. Watch alongside the path for a wide variety of ferns and wildflowers. After a little over a mile, this trail ends at a final waterfall; return the way you came. Since this is such a short hike, be sure to bring your camera and linger at the many viewpoints. It seems impossible to take a bad photo here.

The Forest Service provides some trail information on this link. If you wish to combine this hike with a trip to the coast, be sure to check out the main Siuslaw National Forest site for campgrounds and activities. Florence is a fun town to visit any time of the year, and Dunes City (just south of town) offers sand-based entertainment in the form of OHV rentals and sand boards. Fishing, hiking, and boating are also popular in the Florence area, and it will doubtless appear in many future postings on this site.

1 comment:

  1. We have been looking for close hikes we can do in just a day. This fits the bill perfectly! It even sounds like I can enjoy part of it with my walker. Thank you, Sally and Austen!