Four waterfalls can be found within McDowell Creek Falls County Park. The trail is an easy loop which can be tackled from either direction. I suggest crossing the bridge at Royal Terrace instead of hiking to the top; that way, you’ll approach Majestic Falls from the bottom instead of the top.
Either choice will take you to Royal Terrace Falls first. Officially, Royal Terrace is a two-tiered fall, even though it looks like three tiers to me. This is the tallest waterfall in the park, and the terraced effect definitely makes it unique.
Follow the trail through the forest, past moss-covered picnic tables, and across the road to Crystal Falls. You’ll have to scramble down to the creek to get a good picture of this one.
The trail goes uphill at this point, and after approximately .2 mile you’ll start climbing a wooden staircase that leads to the observation deck for Majestic Falls. Even though Royal Terrace is taller and more unique, Majestic Falls feels like the highlight of the park to me because the setting is more dramatic.
Climb a few more stairs and cross the road again to start heading back. The trail leads to the top of Royal Terrace Falls and then back to the parking lot. Before you head out though, walk downstream a bit for a view of Lower McDowell Creek Falls.
My rating: Highly recommended (3 stars)
(Watefall ratings: Royal Terrace – 3 stars; Crystal – 2 stars; Majestic – 4 stars; Lower McDowell Creek – 2 stars; Trail rating for all – 3 stars; Experience rating for all – 3 stars)
Distance from Beaverton: About 2 hours drive southeast
Nearest town: Sweet Home
Nearest city: Salem & Eugene
Length of round-trip hike: About 1.6 miles
Best season to visit: Late fall – spring
Things to know:
- The waterfalls run low in summer, so a picture of Majestic Falls in summer is very different from a picture in winter.
- Crystal Falls is also known as Crystal Pool or Crystal Pool Falls.
Consider combining this trip with: Coal Creek Falls
Toilet / Amenities: Picnic tables and toilets.
How to get there:
- There are several different routes to this park, depending on where you are coming from. I suggest using the internet to find the best route for you. However, if you happen to be coming from the Portland/Beaverton area, you can follow these directions.
- Take I-5 south. Take Exit 228 for OR 34 and go east.
- OR 34 meets up with OR 20 in Lebanon. Continue travelling southeast on Highway 20 for around six miles.
- Turn left on the Old Santiam Highway.
- Turn right onto Fairview Road.
- Turn left onto McDowell Creek Drive. The parking lot will be on your right in about eight miles.