The must-see highlights of the Cottage Grove area aren't only the covered bridges and the wineries, they're also the several waterfalls. I took two trips to visit most of them; each trip including three different waterfalls. To make the trips shorter, you can hike to just one or two at a time.
Luscious green forests are familiar to me as a lifelong Pacific Northwest resident, and I head to Cottage Grove from Eugene when I need some quality time with my beloved trees. I drive south down I-5 for about 25 minutes, then onto Row River Road. From there, I can “choose my own adventure” and head north on the Forest Service roads or continue on as it becomes Brice Creek Rd. Because Trestle Creek and Brice Creek trails are open year round, these are my go-to waterfall hikes in the wetter, colder months. Moon, Pinard, and Spirit Falls require an uphill drive with tons of curves and are accessible starting in spring, so these waterfalls are perfect for the warmer spring and summer months.
Trip #1: Trestle Creek Falls and Brice Creek Falls
For those who want to put in the extra effort to get a big reward, taking on the 2.6-mile hike to see Upper Trestle Creek Falls is well worth it. The Forest Service roads are a bit icy and there's some snow still left on the ground when I venture on this hike. I start at the Lund Park Trailhead. Going in the winter was worth it for the additional wetness, creating miniature waterfalls along the way. I usually don’t fare well walking up elevation, so the breaks to catch my breath make this stretch seem long. As the rushing water sounds get louder and louder, I feel relief and anticipation. The unique aspect of this waterfall is that you can walk behind it (with caution, as the rocks are wet and can be slippery). I notice my hair and clothes are pretty wet just standing by the waterfall. Of course I'm more soaked after walking behind the curtain of water and making sure to stay close to the drenched rockface.
At the end of this trail, I hike east along Brice Creek Trail to reach Trestle Creek Trail, which leads me to Lower Trestle Creek Falls. If you understandably don't want to spend the time and energy to trek to the upper falls, these lower falls are very photo-worthy, too. And you'll still get those bragging rights that you hiked to a remote waterfall.
I head west on Brice Creek Trail after seeing the lower falls. I catch most of the trail going this way, enjoying the different falls and calm spots of Brice Creek. Brice Creek Falls is ideal for a warm summer day with its short cascading falls and ample room to cool off by getting your feet in the water. Because it's the winter, I instead do some rockhounding by the creek. My hiking companion gold pans since this area is rich with gold mining history (visit the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum in Cottage Grove to learn about this local history).
Trip #2: Moon, Pinard, and Spirit Falls
This time I follow Row River Rd until turning left on Layng Creek Rd #17, which I’m on for 8.8 miles. To begin my trek at the Moon Falls Trailhead, I turn right on Forest Service Rd #1790, then soon turn left on Forest Service Rd #1702, then continue right on Forest Service Rd #1702-728, and finally a left turn on Forest Service Rd #1702-203. I follow the directions in the Recreation Opportunity Hiking Guide for this drive in the mountains and looked at the interactive map beforehand so I knew what to expect. Both resources are from the Forest Service. I printed out the pages I needed from the Hiking Guide because I couldn’t rely on having cell service to pull them up on my phone. This made it so easy to then find the Pinard and Spirit Falls trailheads.
This journey is about 3 miles of hiking. Including the driving time, it took half a day for me to do this trip. What I love so much about this trio of falls is how different each one looks. The water at Moon Falls uniquely hugs the rockface in numerous thin jagged lines. Pinard descends like a slender pin into a lovely pool that is accessible with some effort. I think Spirit Falls looks like silk as it glides along the mossy rocks. I’m glad I took the time to see all three because I appreciate them more by noticing the beauty in their differences. I wouldn’t want to drive all that way, completing the twists and turns, and miss out on the awe of having my mouth actually agape when I encounter each one.
Plan Your Waterfall Adventure
After outings like these ones, my spirit is energized but physically I need time to decompress. There are two bed and breakfasts outside the Cottage Grove area that are perfect for some respite: Sweet Springs Family Farm and Lily of the Field. If you’re in the area during mid-May to mid-September, you can camp at Baker Bay Park and Campground at Dorena Reservoir. This is a convenient location since it’s right off Row River Rd heading to town. If you’d rather stay in town close to the stores, restaurants and amenities, consider the Best Western Cottage Grove Inn or Creswell's Comfort Inn & Suites just 10 minutes up I-5.