For those interested in exploring a newly documented* patch of Oregon wilderness, and who don’t mind a bit of a scramble hike, Ki-a-Kuts Falls in the Tillamook State Forest is a terrific option.
It’s only 2.8 miles in total, and it's a simple there-and-back trek, making it a nice hike stop on the way to (or from) the Oregon Coast. The elevation gain is moderate, so this is also a hike friendly for most everyone who doesn’t mind getting up close and personal with nature.
This hike starts at the Maple Creek Trailhead, about 80 yards or so down the trail. You’ll spot a side trail here leading off into the woods to the right – this is the unofficial entrance to the Ki-a-Kuts Falls Trail. Just follow this footpath down across a creek and up onto a mossy road.
The woods here are a gorgeous medley of green thanks to ocean-born rains, and dense layers of salal and sword fern grow in abundance. Watch the trail for a left-leaning curve, and look for a faint user trail that leads out along a basalt ridge to an overlook of Ki-a-Kuts Falls. You can’t see the falls themselves from here, but you can see a section of the Tualatin River curving through the woods.
While it’s possible to scramble down and get to the base of the Ki-a-Kuts Falls from here, it’s smarter and safer to head back to the main trail for now. Keep on the main trail and watch out for a section of washed out trail – you’ll want to take a path across this slide by looking for a trail leading down to your left through bunches of sword fern and Oregon grape. This detour will spare your hiking boots a muddy slog, and take you down to the banks of the Tualatin River.
From here follow the trail upstream along the slippery shore and over a few log jams until the Ki-a-Kuts Falls comes into view. It’s a really lovely rush of water spilling between two rough-hewn slabs of rock, and it’s worth sitting here for a moment to take it in. You can stay at this perch, or you can ford the stream and view the falls on the other side of the river.
This is easier to do in the summer months when water levels drop, and can get hazardous in the winter, so exercise due caution. Then, to wrap up the hike, return to the main trail and walk along until you hit an abandoned logging landing. There’s a trail here leading to the left that reconnects to the upper Maple Creek Trail if you want a longer jaunt. Otherwise stay on the main trail and drop down a ridge to the Tualatin River-Maple Creek Confluence, and maybe enjoy a lunch break under the shade of young alders.
*For those interested in a little backstory, the Ki-a-Kuts Falls was only officially “discovered” in 1993 by a team of Tualatin Riverkeepers. Loggers and hunters probably encountered the falls much earlier, but it was never formally documented. The USGS named the falls at the end of the 1990s, honoring the last chief of the Atfalati Kalapuyans.
Directions from Portland (1:42 travel time from downtown Portland going the speed limit)
- Take US-26 West to Exit 59 for Jackson School Rd.
- Turn Left on NW Jackson School Rd.
- At the traffic circle (after 0.6 miles), take the 1st exit onto NW Scotch Church Rd.
- After 1.7 miles, continue onto NW Zion Church Rd.
- After 2 miles, continue onto NW Cornelius Schefflin Rd.
- At the traffic circle (after 1.6 miles), take the 1st exit onto NW Verboort Rd.
- At the traffic circle, take the 3rd exit onto NW Martin Rd.
- Travel 1.9 mi and turn left onto OR-47 S/Quince St.
- After 6.5 mi, turn right onto SW Old Highway 47
- Travel 0.4 mi and turn left onto SW Patton Valley Rd.
- After 5.3 mi, turn left to stay on SW Patton Valley Rd., then continue onto SW Cherry Grove Dr.
- In 500 feet, turn left onto SW South Rd., then turn right to stay on SW South Rd.
- Follow the road for about 5 miles and continue onto Roaring Creek Rd.
- After 1.2 mi, turn left to stay on Roaring Creek Rd.
- Travel 3.1 mi and turn right onto N Fork Trask Rd/Gales Creek Rd. and follow it for 2.2 mi.
- Turn right onto N Fork Gales Creek Rd/N Fork Trask Rd.
- After 1.7 mi, turn right to find the Maple Creek Trailhead.