Tuesday, July 31, 2018

University Falls

Time to play catch up!

I've been hiking lots over the past couple of months, exploring many beautiful "new to me" trails around home.  Hopefully I'll be able to share some of these adventures without getting too far behind (but no guarantees!)

Spring forest

When my kids were little I used to have a tradition of taking the family hiking on Mother's Day.  However, now that both kids are grown and moved away, the past few Mother's Days have been spent hiking by myself (or doing other things).  So when my daughter offered to visit the weekend before M-day and accompany me on the activity of my choice, you know what I decided to do.

Not a pretty trailhead

University Falls Trail in the Oregon Coast Range was a hike that'd been on my radar for a few years.  A mere 40-minute drive from home, with the advantage of avoiding Portland and it's congested freeways to get there!  It was a nice 8-mile forested loop, plus I'd heard the waterfall was quite striking.

Devils Lake Fork of the Wilson River

Armed with instructions from a 10-year old hiking book, my daughter and I set out one warm morning in early May.  After locating the designated parking area, we wandered along the shoulder of Hwy 6 with traffic whizzing by, trying to find the trailhead.  (Yes, sometimes it's not good to rely on old directions.)  We finally stumbled upon a gravel access road leading to an off-road vehicle staging area.  A nearby sign announced the Gravelle Brothers Trail, which according to the guidebook was our return route.  But since the designated trailhead was not apparent, my daughter and I made a snap decision to hike the loop in reverse.

My daughter on the footbridge

Although the first portion of our path led around an ugly highway maintenance yard, it soon dived into a lovely forest, full of newly-unfurled green leaves.  A mile later we crossed the scenic Devils Lake Fork of the Wilson River via a sturdy wooden footbridge.

Bleeding heart flowers were everywhere!

On the other side our path was lined with hundreds of bleeding heart flowers.  Their cheery pink colors  brightened the forest and made a steep climb out of the creek's drainage much more bearable.

Old, gnarled trees

We then entered an older forest, full of large, mossy trees.  Vegetation grew thick here, shading the sunny sky.  The forest floor was carpeted with bright green oxalis.

This tree was covered with moss

Oregon's coast range is far from pristine wilderness.  Heavily logged for years, it's become a playground for hunters, target shooters, and off-road vehicle enthusiasts.  So it shouldn't have been a surprise when the trail opened up to cross a huge clear cut.  But it was quite alarming just the same.  Not a happy sight to see when your goal is to get up close with Nature.

The trail went through this ugly clearcut

Past the ugly clear cut, we plunged back into the cool green forest.  Another half mile had us descending again along another creek.  We began to hear rushing water.  A cute homemade sign at the trail junction informed us we'd arrived at our destination.

We reach the falls!

University Falls was indeed a lovely cascade!  Spilling 100 feet from it's source, the water tumbled down a basalt cliff, fanning out as it hit the rocky surface.

University Falls was prettier than I expected

My daughter enjoyed a quick rest and snack, while I prowled around with my camera, attempting to capture the beauty.  Although I didn't bring my tripod, a few of my hand held shots didn't turn out too badly.

Salmonberry flower

Of course, sometimes it's fun to capture a waterfall using fast shutter speeds too.

One final falls photo

My daughter and I finally tore ourselves away from the beauty, and headed back to the junction.  We still had quite a bit of trail to cover and couldn't stick around all day.  The loop's continuation climbed steeply up another hill before wandering through more thick forest.

Loved the homemade sign

Throughout our hike, my daughter insisted that I lead.  At first, I thought she was just letting me navigate (since I had the map), but after walking through several dozen spider webs and freaking out every time (much to my daughter's amusement) I realized she was really using me as a web-breaker.  Smart kid, huh?


Our trail frequently intersected with old logging roads, now used by off-roading vehicles.  We heard and saw a few trucks, atvs, and motorcycles roaring through the bumpy gravel.

Deyoe Creek view

After a quick snack break atop a forested knoll, our path descended through a few boggy patches until it was level with cute, burbling Deyoe Creek.

Skipping rocks

We scrambled down to it's banks to check out the water.  A picturesque slow-moving stream, Deyoe Creek was a perfect place to skip rocks and contemplate nature (and far enough away from roads to minimize motor vehicle noises).  My daughter spotted a small waterfall splashing down the nearby bank and jokingly dubbed it "High School Falls."

Lovely striped flower

The flowers were blooming here - trillium, yellow violets and an unknown beautiful pink striped bloom.

Another view of Deyoe Creek

We ended up missing a trail junction, so had to backtrack a bit, climbing steeply up the opposite side of Deyoe Creek (which my daughter didn't like at all) to reach our missed connection.


By now the early afternoon sun had warmed things up considerably.  Luckily, we passed through more nice shaded forest that kept the temps at bay.

Climbing high above the creek

With only a mile left to go, we both were tiring, and looking forward to a cold drink and shower at home.  However, our trail cruelly popped back out onto another clearcut, and this one was all uphill in the hot sun.

A hot uphill trek through another clear cut

Not a fun way to end a hike!  But we survived.  As a reward, a bunch of lovely pink flowering currant bushes adorned the top of the hill and gave us something to admire while catching our breath.

Currant flowers

Now climbing down a steep grade, our trail popped out onto the off-road vehicle parking lot, where, lo and behold, was the trailhead we'd been searching for that morning.  Oh well, hiking the loop in reverse had worked out just fine (except for that hot climb at the very end......)

Cell phone selfie

There's no better Mother's Day gift than spending time with your children!  So glad my daughter was able to visit, and better yet, willing to brave a hike with her old mom.

Stats:  8.5 miles, round trip, 1200 feet elevation gain


  1. Hello, what a nice Mother's Day outing with your daughter. I enjoyed the hike and wildflowers. The clear cut is sad but the waterfalls is gorgeous. I prefer seeing the pretty moss covered trees. LOL, I let my hubby catch the spider's webs. Great photos. Enjoy your day and week ahead.

  2. Uma bela caminhada com paisagens fantásticas e fico sempre triste quando vejo árvores cortadas.
    Um abraço e continuação de boa semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
    O prazer dos livros

  3. ...now this is where I'd like to go to school. I've seen those clear cuts while in Oregon, they sure are UGLY!

  4. Nice to reconnect with yet another Oregon waterfall!

  5. Lots of variety on this hike, looks like a great workout! Mothers Day with one of your kids is awesome!

  6. It looks like another amazing hike - love the waterfall.

  7. Looks like a nice hike. And I love the spring green! Maybe one day I will stop on my way to the coast and hike...at least put it on the list.

  8. Beautiful falls! The clearcuts are ugly but they can help stop a fire. Your bridge picture reminds me of many I have taken. It's hard to resist the perspective of a footbridge.

  9. Wonder why they are called University Falls when they are in a remote spot? Did some kind of university exist there at one point or just named by students? Got red currant flowers and bleeding hearts in my garden, just slightly different cultivated varieties.

  10. This place looks amazing to check out! Beautiful falls and trails to follow, hope you guys had a nice hike. Thanks for the share, have a fantastic rest of your day. Keep up the posts.
    World of Animals

  11. Can’t see my daughter ever joining me or my wife fora Mother’s/Father’s day hike, but I can live in hope! 😀

  12. How wonderful to relive an old tradition of a Mother's Day hike with your daughter! I laughed when you said you were the spider web breaker. :) That waterfall was gorgeous!

  13. A shame about the clearcuts but what a special hike with your daughter.


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