Hike and Soak in the Cascades Near Eugene This Winter
Did you know the Willamette Valley reaches from the crest of the Oregon Coast Range in the west to the peaks of the Cascade Mountains in the east?
In fact, many creeks and rivers with headwaters in the Cascades nurture the lush valley year-round. These higher altitude streams put on an especially dramatic display in winter as snow falls and softens the surrounding landscape. So if you’re looking to explore the wintry fun this season, head out along Highway 58, heading east from Eugene, for a memorable outing.
Salt Creek Falls, just more than an hour east of Eugene, is the second highest single-drop waterfall in Oregon. With an impressive 286-foot drop into a scenic canyon and easy access, Salt Creek Falls offers a huge reward for little effort. The primary observation platform at the top of the waterfall is only 50 yards from the parking lot. The platform is wheelchair accessible with railings that accommodate wheelchair sightlines. (Just keep in mind that the parking area and trail may be covered in snow throughout winter; pack along microspikes, snowshoes, or other traction devices just to be safe.)
For those willing to adventure a little further, snowshoeing from Salt Creek Falls to nearby Diamond Creek Falls is an unforgettable experience. The Diamond Creek Falls Trail #3598 is a difficult 2.5-mile (4 km) loop that goes east and crosses Forest Road 5893-420. Here, you can look back and see the cliffs of Mt. David Douglas. The trail continues through the forest, crossing Forest Road 5893-420 once again and heading northeast back to the Salt Creek Falls Observation Site. And after you’ve checked out the scenic waterfalls, start planning your next trip—and learn more about the waterfalls of the Willamette Valley.
For families looking for a more kid-friendly activity, visit the nearby Salt Creek Sno-Park, where a somewhat steep hill offers plenty of opportunities for sledding and tubing.
After spending the day playing in the snow, warm up with a soak at McCredie Hot Springs (just 15 minutes east of Salt Creek Falls—and one of several hot springs around the Willamette Valley). Finish your day with an authentic, cask-style English ale and traditional bangers and mash from 3 Legged Crane Pub and Brewhouse in Oakridge.
After a long day and satisfying evening, consider spending the night at nearby Westfir Lodge and Mountain Market; the quiet lodge is home to eight rooms with comfortable beds (some of which afford views of the historic Office Covered Bridge across the street). Stays include homemade breakfast and access to the on-site yoga room.