Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Winter trekking through Oregon's Trail of Ten Falls

Share this Post:
Photos by Lindsey Anderson
Photos by Lindsey Anderson

Anyone who has spent a consecutive 12 months living in Seattle knows that the winters can feel dreary. For 90 days, Seattleites trudge to and from work under dark, gray clouds and a constant drizzle. The chance to escape the cold for a warmer destination is often the goal of those with the means, but for people like me, who find travel expensive and daunting, there are still fun ways to escape the city and spruce up the winter.

During the "best" month for seasonal depression, February, I took a chance and booked a stay at Smith Creek Village. Just south of Portland and nestled along the famed Trail of Ten Falls, the site felt like a hidden gem, with grounds that included acres of pet-friendly hills, creeks, and sprawling mossy trees.

Though the weather matched the wet and cold of Seattle I'd been hoping to escape, there was a serenity to the rain. Sleeping in a wood cabin with no Wi-fi but only the sounds of trickling raindrops hitting the tin roof felt like a meditation practice. My dogs, usually content in our one-bedroom apartment, were overjoyed with the freedom to stomp around in puddles and slick grass without the limits of a leash and or concrete sidewalks.

The moment I stepped out of the car at Smith Village, a layer of mud coated my boots. Throughout my weekend stay, the mud crept up my hiking pants and eventually crusted in my hair. Winter camping is not an activity for those who enjoy cleanliness, but the mud was a small price to pay for the peace and adventure I found hidden among the Pacific Northwest woods.

Out and about
On our first day at the property, my partner Izy and I took our two dogs on a hike along the Trail of Ten Falls. We made it as far as we could before the winter sun began to set far too early. Though we hadn't yet stumbled upon any of the famed falls, we were delighted by the views of amber forests shimmering through the fog. It felt like taking a trip into the Twilight movies, and we laughed as we attempted to re-create some of the most cringy scenes we could remember.

The evening stroll was long enough to tire out my old Chihuahua, Petey. Luckily for us, our cabin, secured with a lock, had a comfy couch for him to rest on while we found food. Smith Creek Village is nestled in the wilderness — far from any Burger Kings or Denny's. However, the lodge provided a small café with vegan options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The café was a friendly dining experience. Inside, we mingled with other camping groups, mostly families, who were also hoping to grab a bite. We enjoyed large burgers and fries while playing a rousing game of checkers from the free game library.

After our meal, Izy and I hiked back to our cabin. As novice winter campers, we didn't consider how scary the trail to our cabin would be in the dark. From all angles, spindly branches reached out for us. With nothing more than our iPhone flashlights and a pocket knife, we scurried on the path as fast as we could. In the dark, the charming moss-covered trees resembled Samara Morgan from The Ring.

Despite our frightening walk back, we survived the night and woke up refreshed for a full day of hiking. Tired from the day before, Petey elected to stay behind in the cabin while Izy, our puppy Benji, and I headed out for an ambitious 5.5-mile hike along the Rim Trail.

Not all hiking trails are dog-friendly at Ten Falls, and unfortunately, the one that leads hikers underneath a gorgeous waterfall isn't. However, we still found stunning views as we explored the perimeter of the state park.

The first falls we came across were a half mile into the route. A beautiful viewing point gave us a glimpse of cascading water through evergreen trees. The trail then led us to a hidden red beach. Had it not been 40 degrees, Benji would have loved to dip in the crysta-clear waters, but due to the frigid temperatures, he was satisfied with just enjoying the red sand.

We passed gorgeous rock formations that hid smaller falls inside, narrow bridges, and plenty of muddy puddles before finally coming to the turnaround point at the top of one of the trail's most iconic falls.

Much to my terror, as I fished my phone out of my pocket for a photo of the raging waterfall, my adventurous puppy decided to jump onto the ledge separating the vertical current from the general public. Somehow, I managed to grab him before he had a chance to attempt a swim in the waterfall. Sometimes, hiking with a puppy is even scarier than hiking in the dark.

Our winter trip to the Trail of Ten Falls left me, Izy, and our dogs exhausted in the best way. As we drove back to Seattle, we had a newfound appreciation for the beauty and power behind the water that makes our region so iconic.