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Oregon

48 Hours of Waterfall & Hot Spring Hunting in Eugene, OR

[ Sahalie Falls | Rain Jacket by Arcteryx ]

To be honest, I almost didn’t leave my bed when my 3:30AM airport alarm went off the morning I was supposed to leave for Eugene. Brooklyn was snoring right next to my shoulder, and the longer I watched her little chest and belly rise up and down, the more impossible it became for me to imagine being away from her for an entire week.

I knew I needed to take the time to shake myself out of my comfort zone, though. I’ve been feeling disappointed in the rhythm I’d fallen into lately, and knew I needed a reboot–so I reminded myself that every time I do something as uncomfortable as traveling to a brand new place alone, I always come home with a new perspective. There have been so many things that I’ve had difficulty in letting go, that I knew the only way to get the drastic shift I needed was to take a huge step out of my comfort zone. With that thought in mind, I got up to throw on my sweats, hiking boots, my mom’s old leather jacket and headed out to take advantage of the opportunity. What I found when I was out in Eugene was that every excuse I tried giving myself to stay home became invalid. Everything I’d worried about in regards to the trip never became an issue. For example, I was worried that it would be freezing cold, but it ended up being warmer in Eugene than back home in DC, reaching the mid 50’s on most days. I was afraid of being alone, but met a really nice, kind-hearted (and pretty cute tbh) local guy who offered to hike with me (which I didn’t end up doing, but it was still really nice that he offered). On top of all this, I worried about not seeing any sun for decent sunset/sunrise photos–but Emerald City decided to put on a show of rainbows and gold rays for me for 5 days straight as it blasted non-stop sunlight for all but one of the days I was there. There was so much sun that I literally sat at one spot for 40 minutes getting sprayed by a river, waiting for all the sun to die down so I could take a photo with even exposure–all because it was so sunny. I also got to cross off something at the top of my bucket list (which I’ll write about later), so needless to say–I’m thankful I went, and most of all–I’m thankful for another experience that proved to me that there’s no way I could ever justify turning down an opportunity to get out and explore the magic hiding in the world outside of my comfort zone.

My Map

Whether you want to spend more time hiking, grubbing, waterfall hunting or soaking in hot springs–I hope this map helps you plan your trip out. Before every trip I go on, I create a google map of the places I want to visit, my bases, and the hikes I want to knock out to make sure I see as much as I can.

P.S. This is a shared google map that’s organized by waterfall hikes, hot springs, my favorite airbnb’s and places to eat. Expand the map to see the map legend, and feel free to make a copy to add/edit and make it your own. Enjoy!

[ Blue River, Willamette National Forest ]

The Plan

I didn’t hit up every spot I wanted to on my map, but below is a list of the places I was able to see in two days. I chose to limit myself to trails in the two National Forests (that’s right droners–national *FORESTS*, not Parks–so fly your hearts out) that are closest to Eugene–Umpqua and Willamette.

Day 1: Umpqua National Forest

[ Umpqua Hot Springs ]

STAY

I decided to stay at a modern treehouse on the Southeast edge of Eugene for quick access to the highway that leads to Umpqua. It came with a hot tub and hammock that overlooks the city from the hills, and has the loveliest view of Eugene at sunset. Book the Airbnb here: [Link] and use [My Link] if you’re a new member to get $40 off.

EAT

As soon as I got off the plane, I got my dinner at Sizzle Pie (a slice of the “Spiral on tap” and “Pig destroyer”), a few donuts for dessert ***because I crave sweets at night :)*** from Voodoo Donuts, and stocked up on water from the Safeway next to Lox, Stocks & Bagels where I grabbed an everything-bagel-dog for breakfast the next day.

I made my trip down to Umpqua the next morning eating bagels for breakfast and a small lunch I got from Safeway when I got to my first stop (the hot spring). To be honest, I skipped dinner that night because I was too exhausted to go out–but if I had the energy, I would have wanted to try the beef marrow noodle soup at Bao Bao House.

ADVENTURE

It’s amazing how close the three of the places below are to one another in Umpqua. So, even though it’s a 2+ hour drive from Eugene to see them-I promise it’ll be worth it. You’ll see them all right next to each other on my map.

The stops

  1. UMPQUA HOT SPRINGS (Pictured above)
    1. Hike distance: 0.6 miles
    2. Difficulty: Easy
    3. Things to note: Bring a towel, extra change of clothes, and just know that there are 6-7 springs, and the ones that are farther down are colder than the ones that are higher in elevation.
  2. TOKETEE FALLS
    1. Hike distance: 0.8 miles
    2. Difficulty: Easy
    3. Things to note: The earlier you get here the better, as this is one of the most popular waterfalls in the forest. I’m not completely happy with my photo of it, so I decided not to post (sorry!) but here’s a great one.
  3. WATSON FALLS
    1. Hike distance: 0.6 miles
    2. Difficulty: Easy (but it’s a steep incline straight from the parking lot)
    3. Things to note: If you climb over some of the rocks and gravel–you can get straight to the base of the waterfall. 🙂 Again, I’m not happy with my photo of it so I’m not posting–but I love this photo.

If you’ve got time…

  1. TRESTLE CREEK FALLS
    I was rushing to get back in time to facetime my kids before they went to bed (8:30PMET/5:30PMPT) so I didn’t have time to do this, but on the way back to Eugene is a ~4 mile hike to a beautiful waterfall that has two cascades that cross at the base (see here).

    1. Hike distance: 3.7mi
    2. Difficulty: Moderate

Day 2: Willamette National Forest

 

[ Koosah Falls | Rain Jacket by Arcteryx ]

STAY

I stayed at the coziest cottage along the blue river in Walterville. It’s probably the best home bases you can have in the area if you want direct access to Willamette National Forest. As a woman traveling alone, I appreciated that it was completely gated off from the rest of the neighborhood (especially since it was right next to the highway), and I loved that it came with a giant king sized bed (with tons of pillows and blankets), a bose speaker I’d blast my PNW playlist with every morning, wifi, cable TV … and FREE POPCORN :D. Book the Airbnb here: [Link] and again, if you’re a new member save $40 and sign up with: [My Link].

EAT

Options are limited in Walterville, but before you get into the area–you’ll come across a big shopping center with a grocery store and a bunch of fast food options (Burger King and Mcdonalds to name a few). You’re going to want to stock up on water again at the grocery store–for the hikes, and because soaking in hot springs sucks the hydration out of you–and you’ll want to grab breakfast for the following morning.

For lunch after the hike, I stopped by a restaurant called Takoda‘s that was on the way back to my airbnb and was conveniently located right next to a grocery store and Shell Gas Station, where I filled up and got more water. This place had free wifi, the sweetest strawberry lemonade, fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs, and some addicting crispy parmesan garlic roasted potatoes that I ate for lunch, dinner and breakfast the next morning.

ADVENTURE

The Hike

  1. MCKENZIE RIVER TRAIL
    (Sahalie Falls to Koosah Falls, to Tamolitch “Blue” Pool)

    1. Hike distance: 9.5 miles out-and-back
    2. Difficulty: Easy (trail is well-pathed with little incline if you stay on the trail)
    3. Things to note:
      1. If you’re a photographer looking to get “the” angle for these sites, expect to do some climbing off the trail for all three sites. Bring waterproof shoes, pants and a rain jacket (even if it isn’t raining–these waterfalls will spray you hard the closer you get). For all three of these places, I had to either run through mud, or climb up slick rock walls–none of which I’d ever do in sneakers or jeans.
      2. All three of these waterfalls have a shorter version of the hike in case you just want to see the sights and not necessarily do the entire hike, but… don’t suck the fun out of it 😉

The Hot Springs

  1. BIGELOW HOT SPRING
    (Also known as “Deer Creek Hot Spring”)

    1. Hike distance: a few hundred feet…
    2. Difficulty: SUPER Easy
    3. Things to note:
      1. After you pass the bridge, there will be a small parking lot to the right. Park there and then walk back to the bridge and take the lower path that hugs the river. There is only ONE hot spring here, so be prepared to share it.
      2. When the river is swollen, the hot spring floods and becomes cold. May want to skip this stop if it recently rained a lot. 🙁
      3. Don’t forget your towel.
      4. If you’re traveling alone (especially if you’re a girl) just be careful. This isn’t a major trail, and there aren’t going to be many rangers in the area. I had two guys (separately) walk up behind me out of nowhere while I was alone in the spring, and it was pretty terrifying. Luckily nothing happened obviously, but I did pack up and book it back to my car right after they left.

If the timing is right…

  1. PROXY FALLS
    It killed me that the road was closed off when I tried to get to the trailhead of the ONE waterfall I really wanted to see–Proxy Falls, a unique, and massive waterfall that spills dozens of little cascades of water like a white wedding veil against a wide cap of brilliant green moss-covered rocks[See here]. It’s currently closed because of the snow, but will most likely open again in April…if you’re reading this and thinking of going to Eugene–go here for me 🙁
  2. COUGAR HOT SPRINGS
    (Also known as “Tirwilliger Hot Springs”)
    I read online that this place was closed, but it’s one of the most popular and photogenic hot springs in the area. It was damaged by forest fires last year, plagued with bacteria and is supposed to be closed until July 2019, but with the government shutdown–the park website admits it won’t be updating regularly, so it could be open now (I tried asking around online, but with the lack of response–I’m assuming not many people have went lately). I decided not to take my chances and didn’t stop by, but if you here during the Spring or Summer–this is one of the most popular and prettiest natural hot springs you’ll find in Central Oregon.

[ Bigelow Hot Springs ]

Final thoughts

There’s so much left to explore in Central Oregon (like Bandon Beach, the entire coastline that’s just over an hour drive out West of the city, the famous Abiqua Falls a few hours up North, and dozens of other hot springs and waterfalls), so I know I’ll be back. If you have a favorite spot in Central Oregon I didn’t cover in my map–I’d love to hear about them in the comments! 🙂

Again–all of the address and locations of the stops I mentioned in this post are part of my map if you’re wondering how to find them. Hope that helps!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Love, Jennie

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