Mill Creek Falls (Oregon) 12-May-2017

Mill Creek Falls Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Well, after three gloriously warm and sunny days, we were pitched yet again into the damp gloom of either a late winter or an early spring, but certainly not an early summer.  One of the old jokes about Oregon is that summer doesn’t really start until the 4th of July and this year that might not be a joke (if it ever was).  But, on the upside, all this sky water has made our local waterfalls really, really energetic.  So, rather than lament our moist meteorological fate, we decided to explore part of the trail connecting the Upper Rogue River Trail (USFS #1034) with Lost Creek Lake and simultaneously visit two local waterfalls – 173-foot Mill Creek Falls and 240-foot Barr Creek Falls – conveniently located within a quarter mile of one another.

From Interstate 5, we drove north on State Highway 62 (Crater Lake Highway) for some 40 miles, turned right on to Prospect Access Road, then left on to Mill Creek Road for less than a mile to a small paved parking lot on the right. The giant wooden map jutting twelve feet into the air above the lot is the sure sign that you’re at the right trailhead. It had rained during the drive but managed to stop doing that (mostly) once we left the trailhead. The trail down to the viewpoints starts at the south end of the lot. There are numerous use trails around here, but the main trail is wide and obvious. Signage is limited and rustic but after a short hike we came to a choice: left to the Avenue of the Giant Boulders or right to the viewpoints for the falls.

Mill Creek Falls Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

The point of decision

We opted for right and walked a short distance further to the viewpoint for Mill Creek Falls, which, as expected, was shooting over the cliff into a very fast-moving and turbulent Upper Rogue River.

Mill Creek Falls Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Mill Creek Falls, Oregon (173 feet)

Mill Creek Falls Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Mill Creek Falls, Oregon (173 feet)

Another very short walk brought us to the viewpoint for the higher, and more complex, Barr Creek Falls, which totals 240 feet in three drops, the tallest and last drop being 150 feet.

Mill Creek Falls Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Barr Creek Falls, Oregon (240 feet)

Mill Creek Falls Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Barr Creek Falls, Oregon (240 feet)

There’s a use trail down to the base of Mill Creek Falls but conditions were already wet and slick, and who knew when the rain would start again. So we went over to visit the Avenue of the Giant Boulders, stopping to admire some plant life along the way.

Mill Creek Falls Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Damp dogwood

Mill Creek Falls Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Damp leaf

These giant (and they are that) boulders were thrown all the way from Mount Mazama- more than 20 miles distant – when it erupted 7,700 years ago to create the caldera now known as Crater Lake. Today it was mostly submerged boulders.

Mill Creek Falls Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Avenue of the Giant Boulders in flood

Mill Creek Falls Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Avenue of the Giant Boulders in flood

Clambering around on treacherously slick basalt next to a raging river lost its appeal just about the time the rain decided we’d been dry long enough. So, with nature stacked against us, we retreated (but in a dignified manner) to the trailhead and drove home (in the rain). More of a stroll (2 miles roundtrip; 200 feet of elevation gain) than a hike but the falls were very impressive, as was the river crashing over the giant boulders.

Mill Creek Falls Upper Rogue River Trail Oregon

Our short stroll at Mill Creek Falls

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