A hike into Spirit Falls is a hike into shadowy, moss-covered woods. Moss drips from the trees, clings to the rock around the waterfall, and covers the forest floor along the trail. The hike itself is relatively simple – a .35 mile walk which is mostly flat until you approach the falls, although it can be muddy and slippery in places.
The 40 foot falls are located on Alex Creek roughly 30 miles east of Cottage Grove. Surprisingly, the falls were not discovered until 1978, when a US Forest Service employee cataloging the Layng Creek watershed found it. The trail to the falls was built in the early 1980s by a Boy Scout troop. It is well marked and takes you through a lush forest full of wildflowers – when we were there the trilliums were in bloom and the oxalis were about to follow.
The drive to the trailhead is relatively easy, and at 1900 foot elevation, snow will not usually be a factor. We followed directions provided by the Forest Service and found them to be accurate, I have modified them slightly here:
- From Cottage Grove Exit 174 on Interstate 5, take Row River Road, east 19 miles to Layng Creek Road (Road #17).
- 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) and travel for 0.1-mile to the trailhead, a small turnout located on the right (west) side of the road.
There are no facilities at this trail – no drinking water, restrooms, or garbage collection. Although I think we should keep all areas clean, as this is part of the Layng Creek Watershed (which provides drinking water to the Row River Community), it is especially important here. There is a newly constructed restroom on Road #17 right where you turn onto Road #1790 (about .1 mile before you reach the trailhead).