Hiking Mollala Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Butte Creek & Abiqua Falls

While much of the country is dealing with a winter that just doesn’t seem to want to end the Pacific Northwests never really started. Another beautiful weekend was being forecast and we decided we just couldn’t miss another one so we headed out to check out a couple of short waterfall hikes. The trailheads for Butte Creek Falls and Abiqua Falls are less than 5 miles apart a short distance outside of Scotts Mills, Oregon. Both trailheads are located on roads accessed by taking Crooked Finger Road from Scotts Mills.

We started at the Butte Creek Falls Trailhead in the Santiam State Forest.

The trail set off from a small parking area (with an outhouse) passing to the left of the trail sign and descending .2 miles to a signed junction.

The right hand fork would lead us past Upper Butte Creek Falls on a loop back up to the parking area so we turned left first and headed toward Lower Butte Creek Falls. In just another .2 miles we arrived at a rocky ridge and the end of the maintained trail.

A well worn trail led out onto the ridge which provided a front row view of the falls high above Butte Creek.

After enjoying the lower fall we headed back to the junction and started the return loop. Upper Butte Creek Falls had been visible through the trees from the junction and we were quickly on our way down to its base.

Shorter and wider than its counterpart Upper Butte Creek Falls offers close up views and a path behind the falls into a good sized cavern.

While we were exploring around the splash pool we noticed that the salmonberries were beginning to bloom.

From the upper falls it was a short .3 mile climb back up to the parking area. The hike to these two waterfalls had been less than 1.5 miles so why not visit another nearby waterfall – The .5mile trail to Abiqua Falls. To get to Butte Creek Falls we had traveled 11.4 miles on Crooked Finger Road to CF 400, took a left and followed signs to the trailhead. Now we returned to Crooked Finger Road and headed back toward Scotts Mills for .7 miles to CF 300 marked by signs for an ATV staging area on the left. Despite the trailheads only being about 5 miles apart the drive was not quick. The 2.5 miles on CF 300 were slow due to the presence of many good sized rocks and ruts. High clearance, good tires, and 4wd were all helpful.

The Abby Foundation of Oregon owns the land where the trailhead, trail and, Abiqua Falls are, but allow the public to use it. A yellow gate marked the end of the tedious drive and the start of the short trail where we were greeted by a lone daffodil.

To find the correct path down to the falls we needed to walk back up the road a short way passing a first clear path that leads to a grassy clearing to a second worn trail marked by a white sign.

The trail down to Abiqua Creek was fairly steep in places but there were several sections of rope secured along the trail to assist with the climb.

The trail then heads up the creek in a narrow canyon toward the unseen falls.

Just as the trail began to curve out and around a rocky outcrop we got our first views of Abiqua Falls.

The canyon walls opened up to reveal a large circular bowl lined with columnar basalt colored with mosses and lichens with the falls as its centerpiece.

We spent some time exploring the rocky beach looking at the various rock cairns stacked about.

There was also a path around to the left side of the falls which I followed to see how far I could go.

We could have stayed there for hours if it had been warmer but it wasn’t so we headed out just as sunlight began to arrive inside the canyon walls.

Other than the Ouzels and a few other birds we had had the area all to ourselves.

We made it back up to the car (with some assistance from the ropes) just as another group of hikers arrived having survived the drive down. It was their turn to visit this special place. Happy Trails!


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