Along with the well-known hiking areas described in this travel guide, the nearby Coast Range has some hidden gems, thanks, paradoxically, to such extractive industries as logging and gravel. The industrial “cat” trails that once cut swaths through these forests are today maintained (and sometimes paved over) by the Forest Service for access to natural wonders. One such place is Kentucky Falls.
Picturesque Kentucky Falls (www.fs.fed.us/r6/siuslaw) is set in an old-growth forest on the upper slopes of the Coast Range. From downtown Eugene, drive 35 miles west on Route 126 to the Whittaker Creek Recreation Area on the south side of the road, approximately six miles west of the Walton Store and post office. The route to Kentucky Falls winds through the clear-cut lower slopes of 3,700-foot-high Roman Nose Mountain.
From Whittaker Creek Recreation Area, drive one mile south and make a right turn. After one mile, bear left on Dunn Ridge Road (Forest Service Rd. 18-8-28). After about seven miles the pavement ends, and you’ll turn left on Knowles Creek Road; go 2.7 miles. Make a right onto Forest Service Road 23 (gravel) and proceed 1.6 miles until you make a right onto Forest Service Road 919. Continue for 2.6 miles to the Kentucky Falls trailhead, marked by a sign on the left side of the road.
An old-growth Douglas fir forest on gently rolling hills for the first 0.5 miles gives way to a steep descent into a lush canyon. The upper waterfall is visible a little more than a mile down the trail. You’ll hear the water before you actually get a full cross-section of a broad cascade pouring over the rim of the green canyon.
On your drive back to Route 126, retrace your route carefully to avoid veering off on a hair-raising spur route to Mapleton.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel