- Rating: Moderate
- Activity: Hike
- Distance: About 1 mile roundtrip
Butte Creek Falls is all treat and no trick for both waterfall and fall foliage lovers. Tucked inside the Santiam State Forest outside of Molalla, the trail here remains virtually unheard of, thanks, in large part, to the immense popularity of nearby waterfall juggernaut Silver Falls State Park (Oregon’s busiest state park). But Butte Creek’s top-secret feel only amps up the appeal of an already astounding natural setting, complete with cathedral-size trees, green pools of water, and not one, but two show-stopping falls. Within minutes from the trailhead, hikers descend to a sheet-like cascade (lower Butte Creek Falls) that spills over a dark basalt-laden grotto set beneath towering firs and golden-hued vine maples. Scope out the cave behind the falls, or soak in autumn rays on piles of smooth white stones ringing the plunge pool, then continue a short distance up the well-maintained path to a rocky outcropping with a stadium-seating perspective of the 70-foot-plus upper falls.
DON'T FORGET: State forest officials typically begin to close access to roads here at the end of October. While the trails here are kid-friendly, the viewing area for the upper falls is lined with precipitous cliff edges—keep the little ones close and pets on a leash.
POST-HIKE WATERING HOLE: Farmstead Restaurant & Pub. Take in fairway views—and frequent live music offerings—at this convivial, wood-toned eatery at the Arrowhead Golf Club. Time a visit for happy hour, and you’ll score pulled pork sliders with ginger hoisin sauce or ahi tuna for less than four bucks. 28313 S Hwy 213, Molalla; 503-829-7427; farmsteaddining.net
TRAILHEAD DIRECTIONS: From Oregon City, take Highway 213 south toward Molalla and follow signs for the town of Scotts Mills (located between Molalla and Silverton). Cross Butte Creek bridge in Scotts Mills and turn south (left) on Crooked Finger Road. After 9.5 miles, Crooked Finger becomes a gravel road. Continue 2 miles to the unsigned CF 400 Road (look for arrows to Rhody and Butte Lakes). Turn left and drive 2 miles, and look for the trailhead and restroom on the left. No fees or permits required.