Initial weather forecasts for this weekend were sunny and warm; so earlier this week, we planned to spend Saturday outside enjoying the fall weather. Unfortunately, Friday ended up being foggy – a thick fog without an ounce of sunshine sneaking through – and forecasts for Saturday were for the same. We knew if we wanted to enjoy any sunshine we needed to get out of the Willamette valley.
Saturday morning, with my cup of coffee in hand, I scanned my hiking books and a few select web sites. There are tons of options around here for getting east, up into the Cascades and away from the fog. We picked Moon Falls, about a 45 minute drive from Cottage Grove, and at 3,000 foot elevation, sure to be above the fog line.
We were in luck as we started to shake off the fog at Culp Creek (about 20 minutes from Cottage Grove) and our drive through the mountains was sunny and beautiful. The fall colors are gone as most of the leaves from the deciduous trees have fallen, this means the views have opened up and the sun is able to shine through to the road.
When we pulled into the tiny trailhead parking lot for Moon Falls we were greeted by a grouse and a chipmunk. Chickadees kept us company throughout our .5 mile hike to the waterfall. Unlike the trail to the nearby Spirit Falls which is dark and mossy, I was surprised at how open the forests are here, and I enjoyed seeing the trees towering into the blue sky. The short trail was lined with vine maples and I suspect it was gorgeous about 3 or 4 weeks ago.
At about 100’ tall, Moon Falls was sunny at the top and dark down near the trail, making it difficult to get a decent photograph, and at this time of the year, not much water was flowing in Alex Creek. It would be fun to go back in the early spring to see this waterfall at maximum water flow.
While named “Moonfalls” on the trailhead sign, all other signs and web sites use “Moon Falls” as its name. Moon Falls is near Spirit Falls and Pinard Falls, making it easy to do two or more waterfalls in a trip.
Logistics: To get to Moon Falls (in the Umpqua National Forest), head out of Cottage Grove east on Row River Road for 19 miles to Layng Creek Road. Turn left (northeast) on Layng Creek Road (Road #17) and continue for 8.8 miles. This is a narrow, road which is primarily paved.
Veer right on #1790 (which is gravel), travel for 0.2 miles, and turn left on road 1702. This road is gravel, steep, and narrow. Continue on for 2.7 miles, and then fork right on road 728 (which is basically two tire tracks) for .3 miles to the parking lot.
You’ll find a picnic table at the trailhead and another at the waterfall.
It is important to note that this is part of the Layng Creek Watershed (which provides drinking water to the Row River Community), and so it is very important to keep things clean here, meaning no swimming and no camping.
When we drove through on Saturday, there was obviously work happening on road 17 (starting at about mile post 7) and road 1702.