Nothing cures a bout of cabin fever better than getting out for a good hike, especially after the holidays which always seem to involve too much eating and more sitting around than I typically like. When the opportunity came up recently for a post-holiday hike, I knew I wanted to get out and see some waterfalls which would be flowing full this time of year.
There are a lot of waterfalls within easy driving distance of Cottage Grove, but we chose to explore Parker Falls off Brice Creek. I love Brice Creek but we had yet to explore Parker Falls.
The Parker Falls Trailhead is well signed, just over 10 miles from where Brice Creek Road spurs off from Row River Road and about 2 miles past the more popular Upper Trestle Creek Trail. The day we visited, we were right about the snow line when we reached the trailhead, though the trail was mostly snow free for our hike.
You’ll notice at the trailhead sign that the distance to the falls is controversial, and it definitely feels longer than the .5 miles listed on the sign. The Forest Service website says it is .6 miles to the spur for the lower falls, then an additional .25 miles to the upper falls, and that seems about right.
The trail follows along Parker Creek which will bubble and roll below you — at least in the winter. BLM rates the trail as “difficult.” As casual, weekend hikers we did not have any problems, though the trail can be a little steep, narrower than many trails, and sometimes a little rocky. We also sometimes had a little snow to hike through, especially higher up near the Upper Falls.
By far, the lower falls are the most spectacular and the easiest to take photos of. The trail to the upper falls just ends abruptly on Parker Creek above the falls and views aren’t nearly as remarkable, but if you’re going to be up here, you might as well take in the upper falls as well. I notice summer-time photographers got significantly closer to the falls and water than we did (see for example, this photo), which is the trade-off of hiking in the winter — the waterfalls are full, but exploring the river banks isn’t as nearly as attractive when it is icy and the water is runny high!
Getting There: From Cottage Grove, drive east, out Row River Road for 19 miles to the junction of Layng Creek Road and Brice Creek Road. Stay right on Brice Creek Road and travel for another 10.8 miles. The trail (#1415) is well marked and there is a wide spot along the road to park.