Fun Trail Facts
County & State
Marion County, Oregon
Cascades | Western Cascades Montane Highlands
Santiam State Forest
Latitude & Longitude (DEC)
Really tough, but doable with my 4-year-old
Moderate [some steeper ascents and descents, challenging terrain in parts of the trail]
~ 1 Mile
Out and Back
Access to Trailhead
Brutally rough gravel road, NOT recommended for passenger cars that you care about
With noon approaching on a Saturday afternoon, it was time to scramble and collect our gear. Everything was in order. I just wish the same could have been said for most every other decision I made afterward.
I rarely depend on Google Maps or GPS for directions to trailheads, but for some insane reason I chose this trip to begin with such a folly. The directions landed us on some logged mountainsides' forest roads, and we decided that some some wandering around on the nearby land was in order. According to the GPS, we were 1.3 kilometers away from Abiqua Falls, just on the bloody wrong side of the canyon. Trotting through that much private land and terrain changes has no appeal to me, so we took pictures of our current situation, took a few moments of silence around a roadside memorial, and returned to the car.
Whipping the car back down to Silverton and over to Scotts Mills, we hit a favorite road of ours, Crooked Finger Road, and followed the directions I should have utilized in the first place. After the pavement ended and we took the right at CF300, the road got a little rough as we cruised downhill.
Well, yes, it could be done. That does not imply it should be done, but we did it anyway. That road truly eats passenger cars for breakfast, as evident by the blown out bits of rubber every half-mile or so. Luckily, we made it safely.
I recalled that you walk back from where you park and cruise down the trail. What I conveniently forgot was the part about ignoring the first trail down and taking the second that was 50-100 feet further down the road. With the boy on my shoulders, we began traversing our way straight down the mountainside toward Abiqua Creek. The trail all but ended, and we hung tight with the slope. I never felt worried about the lad's safety during our descent, but my legs were nowhere near as accepting.
My boy was having a blast throughout all of this. There was only one spot that scared him, and that was when I slipped on a lone rock and drove my knee and elbow into the ground while keeping him stabilized. Despite being shaken up for that brief moment, he was ready to throw rocks into the creek once we were at the water. The moment was taken to wash my wounds and let him skip some stones. A few sips of water, and we were trucking along the creek and heading upstream toward the falls.
When you hear the falls just ahead, it does not prepare you for the grandeur that awaits. To turn the corner around the creek and land in the most perfect basaltic amphitheater, with Abiqua Falls crashing down in the center, a sense of absolute wonder overtook both of us. I hooted, he hollered. Hours were spent down there, playing with rocks, talking about basaltic columns, algae and moss, erosion, and a million other things that need to be discussed when you're a four-year-old.
We got back to my car, and the parking area was as empty when we left as it was when we arrived. After making it back over the hellacious road up the mountain without a flat tire or broken suspension, we enjoyed a beautiful drive through the backroads of the valley.
Even with the botched initial directions, boulder-dodging on the road, and poor trail choice on the way down, I would do this again and again the same way if need be. Abiqua Falls may be one of my absolutely favorite spots in all of Oregon now. Many thanks to the Mount Angel Abbey for letting us enjoy such splendor on their land.