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Hiking Mollala Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Mollala River Recreation Area – 10/19/2016

Our recent hike at the Mollala River Recreation Area almost didn’t happen. Three days prior an ingrown toenail suddenly was making every step I took painful. By the next night I had managed to remove a bit of the nail but it was still pretty tender. Luckily the next morning one of Heather’s running buddies mentioned using floss to get under the nail and help alleviate the pressure. I gave that a try and it worked wonderfully.

I was ready to give it a try, then I checked the weather for the following day. One hundred percent chance of rain, breezy with gusts up to 30mph, and a chance of a thunderstorm after 8am. The rest of the weekend didn’t look much better so we momentarily considered skipping this weeks hike but instead we decided to at least make an attempt

The Mollala River Recreation Area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The area contains over 20 miles of trails open to hikers (all year), equestrians (May 16th – Oct. 14th), and mountain bikes (single track May 16th – Oct. 14th and all year for non-singletrack). We had waited for the seasonal closures to minimize the chances of running into other users and a wet, windy day would likely further reduce the number of people out.

There are multiple potential trailheads and we chose to start our day at Amanda’s Trailhead
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It had been raining in Salem when we left but at the trailhead we were spared, at least for the time being.

One thing that the trails in this area don’t do is visit the Mollala River so before we set off I crossed Upper Mollala Road to get a peak of the river through the trees.
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After checking out the river we started up Amanda’s Trail.
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We stopped at a trail map (we had also downloaded the maps to our phones) to discuss our planned route. There were a number of options with many of the trails looping and intersecting each other so having a map is a good idea (it’s always a good idea). Our plan was to take Amanda’s Trail to Looney’s Trail then turn up the Rim Trail and follow it to Bobcat Road. From Bobcat Road we’d follow the Huckleberry Trail back to Looney’s Trail. Finally instead of just retracing our steps back we would turn off Lonney’s Trail at Clifford’s Crossing Trail and take that trail to Mark’s Trail which would then lead us back to Amanda’s Trail for the final leg back to the trailhead. This was an 11.5 mile route with over 1500′ of elevation gain.
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We followed Amanda’s Trail for 1.5 miles to Looney’s Trail ignoring the marked side trails along the way. This stretch of trail followed an old roadbed through second growth forest. Yellow and golden leaves were mixed with the green conifers.
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IMG_1141Leapfrog Loop

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IMG_1145Mark’s Trail (our return route)

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In addition to the Fall colors there were plenty of mushrooms along the trail.
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This section also had the only view of the day across the Mollala River Valley.
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Amanda’s Trail simply turned into Looney’s Trail at a sign at the end of the 1.5 miles.
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The mile long Looney’s Trail descended via a series of switchbacks to a bridge over scenic Hardy Creek, then climbed a bit before arriving at a junction with the Huckleberry and Rim Trails.
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IMG_1186Rim Trail

We followed the Rim Trail for approximately 3 miles. The trail gained over 600′ following old roadbeds at times. The trail skirted a farm and a clearcut along the way.
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IMG_1236Huge anthills could be seen throughout the hike.

IMG_1245Skirting the clear cut.

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There were a number of trail junctions but the signage was good and we just kept following pointers for the Rim Trail.
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IMG_1273Unnamed creek.

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The Rim Trail ended at a fork with the Red Vole Trail to the right and Bobcat Road to the left. In the second edition of “Off the Beaten Trail” Matt Reeder mentions preferring Bobcat Road over the Red Vole Trail so we went left.
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We followed Bobcat Road downhill for a little over three quarters of a mile where we met the Huckleberry Trail (another roadbed).
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IMG_1295Varied thrush

We turned left onto the Huckleberry Trail which forked left uphill after 100 yards.
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IMG_1300One of the few unsigned junctions we came to.

The trail was fairly level as it contoured along the hillside arriving at Annie’s Cabin, a still functioning shelter, after .6 miles.
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Up until this point the weather had held up very well. Aside from a couple of very brief periods of sprinkles it hadn’t rained and the wind was mostly non-existent. That ended shortly after leaving the cabin when the clouds opened up and a heavy rain shower passed overhead.
IMG_1323Huckleberry Trail just before the shower.

IMG_1334Near the tail end of the shower.

Luckily the rain didn’t last long and we were back to mostly cloudy skies with a few sun breaks.
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IMG_1335The Hardy Creek Trail coming up from the Hardy Creek Trailhead on the right.

Two miles from Annie’s Cabin we arrived back at the Rim-Looney’s-Huckleberry Trails junction where we went straight onto Looney’s Trail.
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We recrossed Hardy Creek and followed Looney’s Trail until we arrived at a junction with Clifford’s Crossing Trail a total of .8 miles from the Huckleberry Trail.
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We turned right onto Clifford’s Crossing Trail. Our reasoning was simply to see some different trail rather than simply retracing our steps. This half mile trail descended fairly steeply only to immediately regain some of that elevation before making a more gradual descent to it’s end at Mark’s Trail.
IMG_1344Going down.

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IMG_1348Going back up.

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Mark’s Trail was another half mile that wound its way up through the forest to Amanda’s Trail. These two trails would probably have been more fun on mountain bikes as they were clearly designed for that and not to get from point A to point B. With nothing of note to see there really wasn’t a need to hike this unless you’re looking for some extra climbing or are like us and like to take different routes when possible.
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IMG_1357Back at Amanda’s Trail.

We turned right onto Amanda’s Trail and followed it back down to the trailhead which was just under a mile away. We had been watching for rough skinned newts all day but hadn’t seen any until this section where a loan newt was sitting in the middle of the trail.
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The only other people we saw all day was a family coming up from Amanda’s Trailhead to take what appeared to be some senior pictures. The rest of the hike was full of solitude.
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We were glad that we hadn’t let the forecast deter us. It hadn’t rained enough to really affect the hike and both the wind and thunderstorm had never materialized. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mollala River Recreation Area

Categories
Hiking Oregon Salem/Albany Trip report Willamette Valley

Silver Falls State Park

It’s been a while since we’ve had a recent trip report to post but we finally took our March hike on Heather’s birthday. We are in the midst of training for the Corvallis Half-Marathon so we were looking for something on the shorter end and without too much elevation gain. After our first plan was scrapped due to our most recent snowfall we turned to – Silver Falls State Park.  We had done this hike a couple of times in the past before starting the blog. In fact our first visit to the park happened on a hot day in August, before we had started hiking, and resulted in us thinking we might die of heat stroke causing us to be unable to visit all the waterfalls. We returned slightly more prepared in July of 2006 and completed the hike which we consider our first true hike.  We went back once again on 7/30/2010 when Dominique chose this hike as his pick during our vacation that year.

It turns out we were there a little early. The posted hours for the day use areas were 8am to 8pm which hadn’t been clear on the park website and the entrance to the South Falls day use area was still gated so we began our hike at the North Falls Trailhead.
North Falls Trailhead

There is a $5 day use fee which we attempted to pay but the envelope box had been removed, presumably for the night, so after filling out an envelope we left the stub on our dash along with a note that the box was not in place so we would drop our payment off on the way out. With that taken care of we took a footbridge over North Fork Silver Creek and followed a pointer for Upper North Falls.
North Fork Silver Creek

Sign for Upper North Falls

The trail immediately passed under Highway 214 then in a quarter mile brought us to the 65′ Upper North Falls.
Upper North Falls

Upper North Falls

Upper North Falls

After admiring the fall we returned the way we’d come and after passing back under the highway faced a choice at a junction. To the left the Rim Trail headed uphill and would follow the highway along the canyon rim to the South Falls Day Use area while the right hand fork would lead us on a longer trek through the canyon and the other waterfalls.
Trail junction in Silver Falls State Park

The question was did we want to end with the more scenic trail through the canyon or start with the canyon figuring that there would be fewer people on the trails earlier in the morning. The prospect of fewer people won out and we took the Canyon Trail along the creek (please note dogs are banned on the Canyon Trail). Not far from the junction the trail descends past a sign for North Falls and passes under basalt overhangs.
Sign for North Falls

Trail to North Falls

North Falls came into view as we descended some stairs before turning back towards the falls and ultimately passing them.
North Falls

North Falls

North Falls

View from behind North Falls

The water was roaring as it crashed down into the splash pool. It was a stark difference from our July 2010 visit.
North Falls
July 30, 2010

North FallsMarch 29, 2018

The trail was now on the north side of the creek and remained fairly level for over a mile as it passed through the canyon. We spotted quite a few flowers starting to bloom along this stretch.
North Fork Silver Creek

ToothwortToothwort

Skunk CabbageSkunk cabbage

Salmonberry blossomsSalmonberry

Blossoms along North Fork Silver CreekIndian plum

The next waterfall up on the Trail of Ten Falls was 31′ Twin Falls.
Sign for Twin Falls

Twin Falls

A short distance from Twin Falls (and about 1.5 miles from the North Falls Trailhead) we came to a junction with the Winter Falls Trail.
Footbridge over North Fork Silver Creek

The half mile Winter Falls Trail starts at the Winter Falls Trailhead along Highway 214 passing Winter Falls and ending at the Canyon Trail. We turned left onto a footbridge crossing North Fork Silver Creek and headed for Winter Falls.
Footbridge over North Fork Silver Creek

The trail was fairly level as it led to the 134′ waterfall.
Winter Falls

Winter Falls

Later in the year Winter Falls all but dries up so this was the first time we’d gotten to see this waterfall.
Winter Falls

After checking this fall off our list we returned to the Canyon Trail and continued downstream toward Middle North Falls.
Sign for Middle North Falls

In just .2 miles we came to the side trail down to Middle North Falls.
Middle North Falls

Here there was another opportunity to go behind the waterfall.
Middle North Falls

Trail behind Middle North Falls

View from behind Middle North Falls

View from behind Middle North Falls

The side trail continued on the far side of the fall wrapping around the canyon to a great view of the cascade.
Middle North Falls

Middle North Falls

After oohing and ahhing at this waterfall we returned to the Canyon Trail which also had several nice views of this fall. Of all the waterfalls on this hike this one was probably the most visibly different from our previous visits.
Middle North FallsJuly 7, 2006

Middle North FallsJuly 30, 2010

Middle North FallsMarch 29, 2018

A little downstream from Middle North Falls we came to a viewing platform above little Drake Falls.
Drake Falls

Drake Falls

Less than a half mile from the Winter Falls Trail junction we arrived at another junction. This time with a very short spur trail to Double Falls.
Sign for Double Falls

Here again the difference in water volume was very apparent.
Double Falls

Double FallsJuly 7, 2006

Double FallsJuly 30, 2010

Double FallsMarch 29, 2018

Just beyond the spur trail to Double Falls the Canyon Trail passed 30′ Lower North Falls.
Lower North Falls

Lower North Falls

After the flurry of waterfalls in the three quarters of a mile between Twin Falls and Lower North Falls things settled down. The trail continued on the north side of the creek for about a quarter of a mile before crossing over on a footbridge.
Footbridge over North Fork Silver Creek

The trail then stayed on the south side of the creek passing an unnamed seasonal waterfall.
North Fork Silver Creek

Unnamed waterfall in Silver Falls State Park

The trail soon veered away from North Fork Silver Creek and a mile from the spur trail to Double Falls we arrived at a junction with the Maple Ridge Trail.
Maple Ridge Trail junction

The Maple Ridge Trail allows for a shorter loop option if you start at the South Falls Day Use Area but that loop only passes three waterfalls. It was however our escape route on our first visit when the heat of August and our lack of carrying water forced us to abandon our attempt at the full loop. The Canyon Trail here rejoined a creek but not the North Fork Silver Creek. This was now the South Fork Silver Creek. A short distance upstream we came to Lower South Falls.
Lower South Falls

Lower South Falls

Lower South Falls is another that the trail passes behind but before we headed behind the water a varied thrush landed on a branch just a few feet from us. I’ve mentioned before that these birds are my nemesis as I can rarely get a decent photo of one. This guy was no exception, despite his sitting on the branch for a good 15 seconds or more I could not get the camera to focus on him.
Varied Thrush at Lower South Falls

Having failed to get a clear picture of the bird we headed behind the waterfall and out the other side.
Lower South Falls

View from behind Lower South Falls

Lower South Falls

Again the difference in the appearance from our previous visits to this waterfall was obvious.
Lower South FallsJuly 7, 2006

Lower South FallsJuly 30, 2010

Lower South FallsMarch 29, 2018

Another series of stairs climbed up above Lower South Falls which was probably the most strenuous part of the hike. The trail then leveled out again for about a mile before arriving at South Falls.
South Fork Silver Creek

South Falls

A footbridge over the creek below the falls allows for a short loop from the day use area. We passed by the footbridge opting to pass behind this waterfall as well.
South Falls

South Falls

View from behind South Falls

A comparison of our visits shows the difference that the timing of a visit makes.
South FallsJuly 30, 2010

South FallsMarch 29, 2018

Doing the loop in the direction we’d chosen made South Falls the 10th of the 10 waterfalls along the Trail of Ten Falls but that didn’t mean it was the last waterfall we’d visit on the hike. That honor went to Frenchie Falls. A sign part way up the trail from South Falls pointed toward this little fall.
Sign for Frenchie Falls

Even at this time of the year it wasn’t much more than a wisp of water and it lacks a good vantage point but it’s a named fall none the less.
Frenchie Falls

After checking out Frenchie Falls we completed the climb out of the canyon to a viewpoint above South Falls.
Plaque above South Falls

Looking down from the top of South Falls

We then looped around a picnic area and into the South Falls Historic District.
South Falls Historic District at Silver Falls State Park

South Falls Lodge

South Falls Lodge

Nature Store

Here we passed the cafe, store and theater before arriving at a junction with the start of the Maple Ridge and Rim Trails.
Rim and Maple Ridge Trails

We followed the Rim Trail through a picnic area and into the forest.
Rim Trail

Rim Trail

Rim Trail

The last of the winter snow was melting as the first of the spring flowers were coming to life.
Snow along the Rim Trail

Violet

The Rim Trail passed through the Winter Falls Trailhead parking but offered no views of the waterfall. The only real view of any of the falls came near the end of the 2.1 mile trail when North Falls was visible down in the canyon below.
North Falls from the Rim Trail

The pay box was in place at the trailhead (which was now full of cars) so we dropped off our $5 before driving back home.  With all of our previous visits having come during the summer months it was great to visit when the water levels were higher. A few more weeks will bring out the flowers adding to the beauty of this hike. Happy Trails!

Flickr: 2018
2010
2006