Adventures with Kids: Crater Lake and Central Oregon Waterfalls

If you know Tyson and I, you know that we love the outdoors and we love to camp. I think, for most parents, traveling (and especially camping/hiking) is a little intimidating because kids can be so unpredictable. We actually didn’t travel or camp a lot when Holden was a baby (the last time we went camping was when Holden was 1.5), but since our house has been done, we’ve really wanted to make a push toward traveling more.

Coven was born in April, and we had a big road trip to Crater Lake planned for the end of June. I was a little nervous about it, having a baby that was only 2 months old, but I have learned that with kids, it’s best to just wing it and don’t have ANY expectations for what it might be like. And then you should, most likely, be pleasantly surprised every time 🙂

I’m so thankful for my partner-in-crime husband, because he was so diligent in planning this trip. I was a little checked out from planning ANYTHING at this point after Coven was born, so I’m so glad Tyson was so passionate about it. He had a very detailed and helpful itinerary for us, and for the most part, we were able to stick to it!

Before our trip, I made sure I had a few items for H to help with the long car ride. We got this awesome lap tray so that H could color and play with some of his flash cards and toys easily in his carseat. I love how many pockets this one has for all his stuff too! I also made sure his Kids Fire Tablet was fully charged and we also packed a few DVDs for the car ride. And of course, good car snacks were a necessity too.

Day 1: Union Creek Campground

Our first day on the road, we drove to the first place we’d be camping at, which was Union Creek Campground – a very nice campground right along the Rogue River, and about 30 minutes from Crater Lake National Park. On the way there, we made a stop at the picturesque Salt Creek Falls. It’s the second highest waterfall in Oregon! Unfortunately, it was pouring rain when we arrived, and continued to rain the entire time we were there. So, instead of doing the 5.4 mile loop, we decided to just do the quick .5 mile out-and-back to the lookout. It was still so beautiful!

When we got to our campsite later that day, we were blown away by how nice it was! We had the perfect little spot, which was hidden from the main campground road. We even had private access to the creek (which Tyson was very happy about). We set up our camp, and settled in for the night. Holden is getting to the age where he’s a little scared of the dark, so we brought along this really cool rope light that we got Tyson for Father’s Day to put up in our tent. Both boys did amazing during the night, and although it was super cold outside, we stayed nice and warm inside the tent! We camped here for two nights, so we didn’t bring a ton of stuff – just the necessities. Here are the main items and supplies that we were sure to pack:

Furniture/Bedding

  • Coleman tent (we have a 6-person dome tent like this one)
  • Tarps (for under tent and for shelter just in case it rains)
  • Folding chairs
  • Hammock
  • Heavy blankets and comforters (easier for kids and a nursing baby)
  • Air mattress
  • Mattress cover

Lighting

  • Lanters (2-3)
  • Rope light for tent or cooking area
  • Batteries
  • Wood/kindling/lighter for fire pit

Kitchen

  • Fold-up stove top (we have this one)
  • Camping pots/pans, plates, cups, mugs, utensils
  • TONS of food + snacks (I also prepped a bunch of food ahead of time. Check out what I made here)
  • Condiments, salt and pepper
  • Garbage bags & ziploc bags
  • Coolers

For fun

  • Fishing poles
  • Holden’s toys and bike (he likes to bring his bulldozer and backhoe to scoop dirt!)
  • Cards

Miscellaneous

  • Storage bins to put everything in! We buy these from Home Depot.
  • Citronella candles (I found these cool ones from World Market!)
  • Warm fleece onesies for Coven

 

Day 2: Crater Lake National Park

You guys. If you haven’t been to Crater Lake yet, you need to go! Believe it or not, neither Tyson nor I had ever been, so it made it that much cooler for us when we all got to see it together for the first time. When we were planning this trip, we read that the entire rim loop wasn’t open yet (they open it in sections due to snow). HOWEVER! It literally opened all the way the same day we got there! It was such an awesome surprise to be able to drive all the way around. I didn’t even know the history of Crater Lake or how it was formed until we got there. For those of you still in the dark, before there was a lake, there was actually a 12,000 ft volcano called Mount Mazama about 8,000 years ago. The volcano erupted an collapsed which is how the crater we know today was formed. Another thing I learned was that, the island that its within the crater – Wizard Island – was actually formed from the lava flow. Now the huge crater (which is 1,950 feet deep and 7.5 miles across), sits there in all its bright-blue glory for us to witness. Geology is so cool.

When we arrived to the park, we made our first stop at a quick hike at Sun Notch Trail (just under one mile RT). There are a lot of hikes that you can do along the rim, but we were anxious to see the lake so we wanted to do quick hike to the viewpoint! One minor downfall about this area in general, is that the mosquitos were pretty thick this time of year. I’m not sure if it’s like that all summer, but I would guess that since it was just starting to warm up in that area, that maybe the bugs were a little worse than they would be later in the summer. (Snow can fall all the way through June!)

Due to having the kids with us, we didn’t do any other hikes. There were a couple of longer ones we looked at, but there was actually still a little bit of snow on the trails and we weren’t ready for that. Plus, there was a little bit of road construction while we were there, so we decided that it would just be cool to drive around the rim and make a few stops at viewpoints. We also made a stop at cafe and gift shop for a quick lunch and to shop a little. I hate saying this, but we would have rather packed our own lunches and ate that instead of the ridiculously-priced sub sandwiches we got. They were pre-made deli sandwiches on a cheap hoagie bun that tasted like saran wrap for $10. (!!!) I was expecting something a little nicer and better, but hey, you live and you learn. The gift shop, however, had some really cute stuff! (We bought Holden a shirt that he is still obsessed with, for the same price as that stupid sandwich).

I’d be curious to go back to the park later in the summer like in August, because I think it wouldn’t feel as dead as it was. We would also love to go back and stay in the lodge because it was so beautiful!

Later that day, we also made a stop in Prospect, Oregon, at a hidden trailhead which leads to Mill Creek Falls and Barr Creek Falls. You can’t get very close to these two but they make for some good views regardless. Go back toward the trailhead and head the other direction, and you’ll arrive at this awesome place called Avenue of the Giant Boulders. (Yup, that’s really the name!) These boulders were actually thrown from the eruption of Mount Mazama – 57 miles apart! These boulders aren’t kidding around either. We did a little fishing and exploring here, and then headed back to our campsite for our last night in the campground.

Day 3: Clearwater, Watson, Toketee, and Whitehorse Falls

Tuesday morning, we got up early and packed up our camp. We had a big day of hiking ahead of us! For hiking, we brought our Deuter kid pack so Tyson could wear Holden when he got too tired to hike. I wore the good ol’ Ergo that I used hiking with Holden too! It’s like one of the oldest models and it was a hand-me-down to us, but it lives on and we love it. We packed some PB&Js, cliff bars, and some cashews and we headed out! Also, bug spray is an absolute must in all of these areas. Basically the only time we didn’t have to worry about mosquitos was when we were at our camp with a fire going! I packed my homemade bug spray (like this one), and it seemed to work pretty well. We still got a few bites but it could have been worse!

As we made our way toward Remond, we stopped at a quick and easy Clearwater Falls. You can actually see these falls right from the parking lot, so it would be a great spot to stop for lunch or to fish! These falls were so beautiful and it was actually crazy how the water just seems to come right out of a rock wall!

The next stop was a pretty easy trail but with a quick climb. But getting up to Watson Falls made the hard work totally worth it! The trail is a 0.6 mile loop which includes some stairs and overall, a very nice trail. You can go right up to the side of the waterfall and there’s even a bench there to sit and enjoy the view. This was Holden’s favorite waterfall 🙂

Our next stop was the beautiful Toketee Falls. This trail was another easy trek (0.8 miles) but included a lot of stairs. The trailhead parking lot includes the huge Toketee Pipeline which is 12′ in diameter. The pipeline actually diverts much of the water of the North Umpqua River to a powerhouse downstream! I think this was personally my favorite of the day, but you don’t get very close to the falls. I really liked the treehouse viewpoint!

Our last waterfall stop of the day was Whitehorse Falls. This was kind of a last-minute decision after we decided we just wanted to do a quicker one so we could make the drive to Redmond. This was another one that you could see from the parking lot and was more of just a rest area, but the falls were still beautiful!

As you can guess, we were pretty tired after all of this exploring! The boys did so amazing though. Holden has hiked so much that he is always just excited to see some waterfalls. Coven was only 2 months old so he still just slept a lot! We feel pretty lucky to have such easy-going kiddos.

Day 4: Rest in Redmond

We finally got into Redmond and checked into the Best Western. Nothing fancy at all, but those beds and a hot shower felt like heaven. We all got cleaned up and went out for a gourmet dinner to Dairy Queen. 🙂

After a wonderful night’s sleep in a comfy bed, we got up and had breakfast at the hotel and then headed over to Cline Falls State Park to hang out on the Deschutes. This park is a great spot to hang out for the day. Swimming, fishing, eating, playing games in the large grass area, and it also has nice restrooms and lots of parking spots. We hung out here for a while and then headed to Sisters to explore that town a bit. We made an obvious stop at one of our favorite coffee shops, Sisters Coffee, shopped around in all the cute stores, and had a really good lunch at Los Agaves. We made it back into Redmond just in time for a movie, and then we went to the COOLEST park for an evening park date. You absolutely need to check out Sam Johnson Park if you’re ever in the Redmond area! We headed back to the hotel for another relaxing night (we had a lot of laundry to do, too!)

Day 5: Headed Home

On our last day, we packed up our hotel room and loaded back up into the car. This ended up being our favorite day of hiking. We stopped at Sahalie Falls right along the McKenzie River (east of Eugene). This trail includes a few awesome sights: Sahalie Falls, Koosah Falls, and Carmen Reservoir. The loop is 2.6 miles, which might feel a little long but it’s a relatively easy hike (unless you’re like us and accidentally go off-trailing…Keep reading). You can see Sahalie Falls right from the parking lot pretty much, but we had a pretty amazing perspective of Sahalie later on in this hike that I’ll get to.

The trail is right long the river the whole time, so Tyson also got some good fishing in. About a 1/2 mile past Sahalie, you get to Koosah Falls, which was equally just as amazing. We kept on going and ended up at Carmen Reservoir, which was SO beautiful. Ice Cap Campground is also right next to the reservoir, which seems like a great place to camp. We crossed the bridge and continued on the loop, or so we thought. We cut back into the wooded area a little too soon (if we would have kept going, we would have seen the marked trail). We ended up scaling the mountain side a bit, came to a few dead ends, but after about 5-8 minutes of questionable hiking, we finally made it back to the trail (and Tyson and I both breathed a sigh of relief). This part of the loop just takes you back on the other side of the river, which takes you away from the water the bit (and also a bit higher up), but it is still a great trail.

We finally made it to the other side of Sahalie Falls, but we had to do a little more off-trailing in order to see the falls. This ended up being probably the coolest part of our trip. With Holden on Tyson’s back and Coven on me, we climbed up a few rock walls, and we soon saw Sahalie from a completely different advantage point…and it was glorious. The cool mist from the powerful falls felt so refreshing, and we all of the sudden felt so alive and energized. It really was so amazing.

We started back on the trail, which would lead us past Sahalie the other way for about another mile before we crossed a very cool wooden bridge and made our way back to the parking lot. We were tired, but this trail was SO worth it. We still talk about that hike all the time.

We got in the car for a bit longer before we made our last stop of the trip – Silver Falls State Park. If you didn’t already know, this state park includes the Trail of Ten Falls Loop, which takes you in front of and behind 10 beautiful falls. We didn’t do this, as it’s 8.7 miles RT, but we have it on our list for another day. Instead, we went to the popular South Falls, which is also known as the one that you walk behind. It was a super way to end this whole trip. We would love to go back to Silver Falls to explore more and check out the lodge and the day-use areas (the lodge had just closed when we got there). We were able to go into the store for a little, (and I also came across a nice surprise and some of the labels I designed for a client – Abiqua Naturals!) It’d defiantly be easy to spend the day here.

We got in the car one more time for our last stretch home, and we were already dreaming about our next road trip adventure! (Maybe a coastal camping trip up the Oregon coast?) All in all, it was such a great experience, and we are so happy to be raising our boys with a love for the exploring our beautiful state!

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