This is kind of a three-birds-with-one-stone hike, but instead of birds, we’re talking about knocking out beautiful, forest waterfalls. The Kentucky Falls Trailhead is tucked away in the Siuslaw National Forest, but if you make it out that way you’ll be rewarded with solitude and spectacular natural water features.
It’s a fairly straightforward hike, beginning at the Kentucky Falls Trailhead. You’ll briefly head downhill for less than a mile, and shortly after come across Upper Kentucky Falls. Continue another 1.2 miles through an old-growth forest, stick to the right at the junction, and right around the bend you’ll find twin 100-foot waterfalls: Lower Kentucky Falls and North Fork of the Smith Falls. There’s a viewing platform here at the base of the Lower Kentucky Falls.
This is a simple, all-year kind of hike, clocking only 4.4 miles round trip, but it rewards generously. It’s a hidden trail, meaning few footfalls will interrupt a solo hike. And it mixes coastal forest lushness with thundering water displays. Come in the winter to see the raw power of the waterfalls, or venture into the woods in the summer to catch wildflower season.
Adventurous souls can continue exploring the area by taking the North Fork Smith River Trail. While it’s not maintained – and can often suffer from wintertime ocean-generated storms – you’ll pass some giant Douglass firs and a dense carpet of foliage. And the bold will be rewarded, as down this trail are two smaller waterfalls and a beautiful swimming hole. In the summertime it’s a terrific place for a swim, especially since the elevation of the area keeps the water cool.
Please note that while the hikes in this area are easy, the drive to them may be challenging. There are unmarked logging roads and potholes aplenty to navigate around, so be prepared for a little roadtripping fun and games before the hike. Bring maps and a GPS, and a dose of patience.
Directions from Eugene:
Head west on Highway 126 for 33 miles, then take a left at "Whittaker Creek Recreation Area" between mile markers 26 and 27. Then take a right and cross a bridge onto Whittaker Creek Road. About 1.5 miles down, turn left on Dunn Ridge Road. Head straight for 7 miles until you hit a junction, at which you’ll take the Knowles Creek Road left. Veer right about 2.8 miles along to head onto Forest Road 919, which will take you straight to the Kentucky Falls Trailhead.