Oregon Waterfall Series: Kentucky Falls and North Fork Falls


Wikipedia lists “at least” 238 waterfalls in the state of Oregon (link here). Celebrating our one year anniversary as Oregonians, I say we believe this statement to be correct. This post is the first in a new Oregon Waterfall Series.

In early March we ventured out to the Kentucky Falls Trailhead in search of the Upper and Lower Kentucky Falls and the North Fork Falls at the confluence of Kentucky Creek and the Smith River.

Finding the falls is not an easy feat. Two options are available for vehicles, a route from Eugene or a route from Reedsport. Follow these USDA Forest Service Directions with extreme care: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/siuslaw/recreation/recarea/?recid=42457

Majestic Views

Majestic Views

We drove from Eugene and the journey took us two hours; traveling at speeds around 10mph on a combination of dirt and paved forest service roads with limited viability, steep drop-offs, and ruts and potholes. Read: this drive is not for the faint of heart or fragile of car. I got out of our van to measure the depth of several potholes on the unpaved portion of the journey. We debated turning around, but took it slow and arrived at an empty parking lot.

Tip: You might want to print the driving instructions, as cell reception is spotty at best. Excellent pre-trip planning resources are this page: http://www.eugenecascadescoast.org/listings/Kentucky-Falls/73/, this page: http://www.eugenecascadescoast.org/7-waterfalls/kentucky/, and this blog post: http://visiteugenecascadescoast.org/kentucky-falls-trail/.

Kentucky Falls

Upper Kentucky Falls

From the trailhead, the distance to the Upper Kentucky Falls is 0.75 miles. This portion of the trail is moderate and increases in difficulty and steepness as you descend to the base of Kentucky Creek. If you have the time and stamina, continue an additional 1.3 miles to the confluence of Kentucky Creek and the Smith River. Here you will find the North Fork Falls (left) and Lower Kentucky Falls (right). We visited during a spring surge in rainfall and all three falls were roaring; summertime visitors may have an opportunity to venture beyond the trail/platform and scurry among the rocks.

North Fork Falls

North Fork Falls (left), Lower Kentucky Falls in Feature Photo Above (right)

The Kentucky Falls trail ends at a wooden viewing platform at the base of the lower falls. The hike is out-and-back with a strenuous (but manageable) climb on the return journey. We kept a close eye on our kids and dog, as portions of the trail ran close to a steep drop off, particularly near the Upper Kentucky Falls. In all, we spent two hours on the hike (with a total four hours driving time). Tip: Use the pit toilets at the trailhead or forever hold your pee (bad pun intended).

Exploring Kentucky and North Fork Falls is a full-day adventure you will remember for years to come.

Pin for Later. Happy Trails!

Kentucky Falls Trailhead


About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.