Coal Creek Falls

We visited Coal Creek Falls in February. It’s an off-trail waterfall, so it doesn’t get much traffic, and the untouched beauty of the spot is almost magical. Everything is covered in inches-deep moss or fallen leaves, or both.

Our directions were not accurate, and we almost gave up trying to find the right spot. But it was our 50th waterfall, and we were determined to find it. We’re so thankful we did.

After parking at the edge of a blocked-off road, we walked around the pile of rocks serving as the roadblock, up the road, past a clearing that was littered with trash, and came upon this hill. I have to admit, the slope of the hill stressed me out at the time. But I’m sure it’s what keeps the area beyond untouched by the careless visitors to the clearing.

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The hill that marks the edge of the clearing

We scrambled up the hill and then carefully made our way further north, across the slope. After a hundred feet or so, the slope gave way to some boulders. At this point, I chose to make my way down to the creek, while my husband and son continued picking their way north. I’m glad it worked out this way, because the best views and pictures were to be had from the bank of the creek.

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Some microfalls on the creek

This entire section of the creek could possibly be called a waterfall, and indeed, oregonwaterfalls.net lists Lower Coal Creek Falls as a separate waterfall visible from the side of the road. I have not included Lower Coal Creek Falls in my list, though, since I don’t see it listed as an official waterfall elsewhere.

Even though this is an amazing spot to visit, I am only rating it as a Highly Recommended Hike for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a bushwhack, and even though it’s not a long bushwhack, that slope is fairly tricky. This is about as difficult a bushwhack as I will include on my list. Second, one reason it’s so amazing is that hardly anyone visits! I definitely want to include this gem on my list, but I don’t want to encourage hoards of people to go and mess it up. So please, if you visit, respect the area and keep it as splendid as it is now.

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Some flowers growing out of the moss on a rock

SUMMARY:

My rating: Highly recommended (3 stars)
(Waterfall – 3 stars, Trail – 2 stars, Experience – 4 stars)

Distance from Beaverton: About 2 hours drive southeast

Nearest town: Foster

Nearest city: Salem & Eugene

County: Linn

Length of round-trip hike: About 1/3 mile or more if you go farther than we did

Best season to visit: Late fall – spring

Things to know:

  • The creek did not have a lot of volume even in February when we visited, so I assume it will run low in summer.
  • We got our information from the very handy “Waterfall Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest 5th Edition,” by Gregory Plumb. Unfortunately, the entry for this waterfall is outdated and lists the incorrect road names. So don’t rely on the book to help you find this one.
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Quartzville Drive and our car on the blocked-off road that leads to Coal Creek

 

Consider combining this trip with:  McDowell Creek Falls

Toilet / Amenities: None

How to get there:

  1. From Lebanon, travel southeast on Highway 20 for around 20 miles.
  2. Turn left on Quartzville Road, which becomes Quartzville Drive.
  3. After approximately 2 miles, turn left onto the gravel road pictured above.
  4. OR, if you are coming from McDowell Creek Falls County Park, start by going east on McDowell Creek Drive.
  5. After 2.9 miles, the road takes a slight right and becomes Sunnyside Road.
  6. After 2.5 miles, turn left onto River Drive, which ends after .4 mile at Quartzville Drive.
  7. Turn left. The gravel road should be on your left in approximately 1 mile.

Helpful websites:

 

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