Snowshoeing to Salt Creek Falls Sno-Park
I also participated in the Lane County Experience Holiday Challenge (read about our first adventure here) at the Convention & Visitors Association of Lane County Oregon. For this assignment, we were challenged to experience something in our region we had never done before. With all of the crazy weather turning our northern cousins from Salem to Portland into winter wonderlands, I knew that I had to take advantage of this opportunity to find some snow of my own.
What snow activities hadn’t I done before? What’s relatively inexpensive and requires little preparation? What’s easy to learn on your own? Where could I see beautiful sites without finding myself miles from the car? Considering all of these questions, I decided to go snowshoeing at Salt Creek Falls near Willamette Pass Ski Resort east of Oakridge.
The night before our snowshoeing experiment, my boyfriend, Zane, and I ran down to REI in Eugene to rent the appropriate gear. Snowshoes for the both of us only set me back $14 as an REI member – phew, that was easy! I also had to rent boots, but any relatively waterproof and comfortable boots will work fine with snowshoes. After a quick stop for a Sno-Park permit and lunch fixings, we packed and were ready for the morning.
We left at the crack of noon from Eugene and headed east on Highway 58. As we passed the town of Lowell and Lookout Point Reservoir, slushy snow falling out of the trees hit our windshield like elephant sized drops of water. I hoped the snow would be drier and fluffier at higher elevations.
Finally it started snowing after we passed Oakridge, home of Mountain Bike Oregon and my favorite new brewery, Brewers Union Local 180. We put on our chains (okay, Zane put on the chains) and we made our way up into the new Salt Creek Falls Sno-Park, about a mile past the highway tunnel, at milepost 57.
I guess the road used to be plowed all of the way to the parking lot right beside the falls, but this year the plowed route veers south to a new Sno-Park with a better hill for sledders. This makes the half-mile trip to the falls a great first-timer snowshoe experience.
We tromped around for a while, but I didn’t know how to access the falls from the new Sno-Park. A fellow snowshoer directed us back towards the highway 0.2 mile, over Salt Creek, and to the left to find the half-mile road to the falls.
The wide, snowed-over road was easy to follow. Someone made the trek before us, which made our voyage through the deep snow much easier, but we didn’t see anyone else on the road. The pristine wonderland lay still before us as we made our way to the 286-foot cascade, where giant icicles clung to the basalt cliffs around the falls.
Returning to the car, I felt accomplished. The hike was just long enough to get my blood pumping and satisfy my need for real winter weather, but not too long to wipe me out.
Back in Eugene, Zane and I completed our amazing adventure with a deliciously filling dinner at Ratatouille, a new restaurant at 15th and Willamette featuring vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes. My vegetarian lasagna really was the best I’ve ever had (sorry mom).
Editor’s Note: Be prepared to drive in inclement weather when heading to Oregon’s sno-parks and trails! Before you go, please check: weather conditions, read our winter driving safety tips and don’t forget to purchase a Sno-Park permit ($3 per day/$20 a season).