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Watson Falls | Hiking To The Towering Waterfall in Oregon

Watson Falls in Umpqua National Forest Oregon.

Watson Falls is Oregon’s third tallest waterfall standing at an impressive 294 feet.  The water pours over the top of massive basalt lava cliffs and into a lush green bowl below.  Located in the Umpqua River Valley, Watson Falls is definitely worth a stop or a day-trip if you are nearby.  In a state full of beautiful waterfalls, Watson Falls definitely is one of the most impressive and memorable ones.  This post shares the info you need to hike to this incredible sight.

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Getting To Watson Falls

Watson Falls is located just off North Umpqua Highway (138) in southern Oregon.  The turn is on National Forest Rd 37 and the parking lot is immediately on your right.  There is a medium-sized parking lot that can easily fill up on a busy summer day or weekend.  The parking lot has bathrooms, picnic tables, and trash cans for your convenience.  There are also several information signs that share some history and geology about the area.

Best Time to Visit Watson Falls

Watson Falls is best experienced from April to November.  But the water flow is strongest in spring and early summer. The waterfall faces pretty much straight north, so photography can be tough in the middle of the day.  The sun is often backlighting the scene, leaving the falls in shadow.  Visiting in the morning or evening can help provide a more consistent lighting for photographing the falls.

Hiking The Trail to the Falls

If you look up from the Information Signs in the parking lot, you can already see the very top of Watson Falls.  The trail begins at the top of the parking lot, just across NF 37.  The total length is only about one mile round-trip, give or take depending on if you hike to the upper viewpoint.

The trail is almost entirely uphill, climbing 524 feet.  It’s well maintained with various stone steps to help with the incline.  The trail climbs parallel to Watson Creek, offering several small cascading waterfalls that are beautiful in their own right (or just a good place to stop and catch your breath).

Watson Falls viewed from lower down the trail.

Next, there is a bridge that crosses Watson Creek and offers the first great view of Watson Falls.

The bridge on Watson Falls Trail.

If you continue past this point you can follow the trail up to the upper viewpoint.  It’s just one big switchback, and then you’re there.  I highly recommend going to the upper viewpoint.  It’s proximity to this nearly 300 foot waterfall really lets you feel and experience the power and size up close!

The Two Roaming Souls at Watson Falls.

But be prepared to get wet.  The waterfall puts out a constant mist that slowly but surely soaks everything in it’s range.  And the trail gets muddy towards the very top.

The other path to take after you cross the bridge is an unmaintained trail to the bottom of the falls.  This unmaintained section will also be slippery and muddy.  And it also involves some scrambling over wet rocks.

Don’t trample any moss or other vegetation if you choose to explore this unmaintained section.  And also don’t go too close to the falls, because water isn’t the only thing that comes falling down from 300 feet above.

Watson Falls viewed from the upper viewpoint.

What To Wear And What To Bring

The trail can be muddy and slippery in spots, so a good pair of hiking boots with good traction is important.  Especially if you are the type who always has to explore to the tippy top of the trail.

A rain jacket can also be nice if the weather is colder and you want to stay dry near the falls.

It’s totally possible to photograph Watson Falls without getting wet.  But if you want to photograph from the upper viewpoint or near the bottom of the falls your camera will get wet.  A waterproof camera like a GoPro or similar is your safest bet.

The falls is also so large that a wide-angle lens may be necessary for capturing the entire falls up close.

Other than that, you can never go wrong packing our top 8 essentials for hiking.

Takeaway | Watson Falls

An aerial drone photo of Watson Falls.

From our entire month-long road trip in Oregon, Watson Falls was definitely one of the most memorable destinations.  The waterfall is so striking because of the sheer size and power.  The massive basalt cliffs and super lush bowl below set the dramatic scene.  And the green moss and vegetation is so vivid in contrast to the dark rocks surrounding.  For a short hike that is easily accessed from the highway, Watson Falls is a true gem.

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Watson Falls Oregon

The Ultimate Oregon Road Trip - 10 Day Itinerary - tworoamingsouls

Monday 17th of January 2022

[…] Watson Falls is a 1 mile hike with 524 ft elevation change. It is a bit of a climb but along a well-maintained trail. You can get a good view from below, but you can also continue the climb up to the falls and feel the mist of the water. Which we personally recommend if you have good hiking shoes with good traction.  […]