Walking Salt Creek Falls & Waldo Lake, Oregon

Our first full day in Eugene, Oregon was going to be hot, 95 degrees – so Mike brilliantly said we should head up hill for cooler air. A perfect solution to go to the Cascade Mountains. (We also heard when the fog settles on the valley in the winter, it’s a good idea to go up hill to find some sunshine. Okay, with me as long as it doesn’t also involve snow.)

First stop Salt Creek Falls. Salt Creek Falls

The falls drop 286 feet – the second highest falls in Oregon (Multnomah dropping about twice that).

From the parking lot a short flat walk goes to an overlook. Rhododendrons flourished in the sunnier lot, just not in bloom in August.

Salt Creek path

We stared over the falls and out over the mountains. I loved the rows of mountains in Oregon. I did have to adjust to the fact that national forests, managed by the USDA, mean they are harvested for lumber. The mountains are periodically shaved. It’s a different look than in California.

Salt Creek view

I managed to climb the uneven steps to gain a better view. Rugged steps of placed stone and ‘found’ stone lead to the falls and around to a picnic grounds.

Salt Creek steps

We had a picnic lunch, but did not have time to hike. This bridge over the creek provides end-of-summer sounds of running water – and leads to the trailhead for the hikes listed below.

Salt Creek paths

In the Willamette National Forest trails are numbered. We accomplished Overlook #3673.  Over the bridge was Diamond Creek #3598  which indicates a steep log ladder and Vivian Lake #3662 sign says trail is 1 3/4 mile but to lake is 4 3/4 mi. (?) Diamond Creek Wilderness beyond – Yikes, what am I thinking? USDA website also indicates the challenges of mosquitos in the earlier part of the year. Lucky us for choosing August.

Basic info: 23 mi SE from Oakridge on Hwy 58; $5 to park; flush toilet – but no other water.

Next stop Waldo Lake

At over 5400′ and 70 miles from Eugene, this is one cool and nearby place.

Waldo Lake shoreline

Per USDA website: Lying high on the western slopes of the Oregon Cascades, Waldo Lake is one of the largest natural lakes in Oregon (9.8 square miles with a maximum depth of 427 feet). Waldo is one of the purest lakes in the world. It has no permanent inlet to bring nutrients into the lake for plant growth. The lack of plant life contributes to its purity. You can see to depths of 120 feet on a calm day.

Waldo Lake vista

Plenty of camping here. Boating for non-motorized craft – that’s what helps keep the lake water clean. We went around to the north end and found a gorgeous little beach. It’s protected from the wind by an island. Mike went swimming. I went wading. Cole swam a quick u-turn.

Play at Waldo Lake

A short (1 mile) shoreline trail links the various beaches, campgrounds and boat launch areas.

Waldo Lake shoreline trail

Charming vistas abound – in isolated peeks

Waldo Lake dock

Or snowy mountain tops.

Waldo Lake with mountains

Basics on Waldo Lake: Hwy 58 to road 5897; $5/vehicle, check website for additional camping info, pit toilet, no water. North end in August is apparently the best place to avoid mosquitoes. East side of lake was closed due to a recent fire. Roads may also be closed due to fires.

Next up? Cottage Grove and covered bridges.

See you on the trail!

Words by Lynn Millar, pictures by Lynn & Mike Millar

Waldo Lake tree

 

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