I had heard about these falls a while ago, but a recent side-trip to them by the Ashland Hiking Group finally motivated me to go see them for myself (while The LovedOne was busy with library duty). These 80-foot tall falls (also called Bybee Falls or Lost Falls or Secret Falls) are located in a 150 to 200-foot deep canyon about 0.8 miles upstream from Lost Lake. There are 19 “Lost” lakes in Oregon and this is one of them. It is not, however, the immensely popular (and accessible) Lost Lake near Mount Hood, nor is it Lost Creek Lake, the huge reservoir on the nearby Rogue River. No, it’s just a small, hard-to-reach lake that was formed thousands of years ago by a landslide that obstructed the natural flow of Lost Creek. Today it, and the falls, sit within the Lost Lake Research Natural Area (RNA) administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The hike to the falls is trivial compared to the drive to the trailhead. In short, I headed for Grizzly Peak but stayed on the paved Shale City Road past the turn-off to the peak for 2.5 miles, then made a sharp left turn on to gravel BLM Road 38-E-11 and followed that for 1.7 miles before bearing left on gravel BLM Road 37-2E-13 which I followed for a mile to a small parking spot on the left (the road is closed by a yellow gate not far ahead). From this unsigned, informal trailhead, I followed an obvious use trail down along Lost Creek,
through a forest streaming with moss,
for just 0.75 miles before reaching a park-like area,
from where I could get a great look at the falls in the deep canyon below.
The falls drop some 80 feet into a huge pool,
where the waters gather before pouring over another cascade of some 40+ feet.
I worked my way around the head of the falls, just to get a look at its other side.
I found a use trail that took me down to the creek a little distance below from the falls.
I suppose you could work your way from here through brush and water to the actual base of the falls. However, the faint voice of common sense argued against solo hiking over wet, slippery rocks and plants on the edge of fast-moving water, so I made do with enjoying the falls from above. After more than a few moments of aquatic introspection, I headed uphill across a gently sloping open area carpeted with grasses and mosses (which, as is too often the case with these “natural” areas, was torn-up by OHV-riding douchebags – beyond sad).
At the top of the open area, the use trail resumed and took me out to a rocky viewpoint, where I could look down on Lost Lake. In theory, I could get down to it from here but that seemed like a lot of bushwhacking in both directions. I’d like to see the lake close-up but figure I can get to it via another, less masochistic (or not) route.
Rather than retrace my steps back up along the creek, I turned uphill from the viewpoint and followed the ridge cross-country, past some rocky outcrops,
to a large, open meadow. The RNA boundary is on the far side of this meadow.
From the meadow, it was another short bit of cross-country to the end of old BLM Road 37-2E-36.2, which I followed to some other old and still in use BLM roads that took me back to where I’d parked. An easy (4.2 miles; 950 feet of elevation gain) loop to a wonderful waterfall and a nice view of the lake, across some interesting and varied terrain. If you can figure out the roads, Lost Creek Falls is a truly worthy destination!