One of the great things about driving through the Oregon wilderness is that one never truly needs to be bored. There’s always a quaint town around the bend, or a breathtaking vista worth stopping for. And – best of all, in my mind – a sudden sign beckoning drivers off the roads and into the woods for a spur-of-the-moment hike.
So if you ever happen to be winding down Highway 101, maybe to or from a trip to Tillamook, be sure to take a detour and cool off at Munson Creek Falls. It’s tucked into a splotch of woodland that’s not quite part of Tillamook State Forest, although the environment is rewardingly similar. Instead, this beautiful waterfall is part of the less-explored Munson Creek Falls State Park.
The hike is a simple there-and-back, totaling just under a mile in length. The trail is an easy trot uphill, winding along Munson Creek through a box canyon. The trail sides are rich with western red cedar, Douglas fir, big leaf maple, and red alder. Trillium, corydalis, and violets bloom seasonally, and salmonberries ripen to reward lucky hikers passing by. The area is also home to the second tallest Sitka spruce in the world--it's an astonishing eight feet wide and 260 feet tall.
You’ll find the waterfall up a series of stone steps at the end of the trail, which lead to a viewing area. Here Munson Creek plunges 319 feet off basalt cliffs into a deep basin, making it the tallest waterfall in Oregon’s Coast Range. There’s a convenient picnic area here at the base of the falls, which is a great place to cool off in the mist during the summer months.
Note that recent hiker reports suggest that winter storms have caused fallen trees to obstruct the final stretch of the trail. Experienced hikers can, of course, ignore these obstructions, but travelers hoping for clear paths might want to take this hike after trail maintenance workers have passed through.