2.2 miles round trip
350 feet elevation gain
Moderate (all trails)
5.2 miles round trip
650 feet elevation gain
Left: Sweet Creek Falls.
Below: Catwalk in Punchbowl Falls canyon.
This sleepy Coast Range valley, with its beautiful cascading creek, was settled in 1879 by the Zarah T. Sweets, a family of Oregon Trail pioneers. Portions of an early wagon road have been incorporated in a dramatic trail past a dozen falls. Four trailheads along the route make it easy to hike the path in segments.
Start by driving Highway 126 to the Siuslaw River Bridge in Mapleton (15 miles east of Florence or 46 miles west of Eugene). Cross the bridge from town and immediately turn west on Sweet Creek Road for 10.2 paved miles. Then take a paved turnoff to the right to the Homestead Trailhead turnaround.
From here a graveled path heads upstream past a split, 10-foot waterfall. Later, the trail hugs a cliff through a canyon full of punchbowl-shaped falls. Four-foot-thick Douglas fir trees tower above the creekside alder and bigleaf maple. Black, robin-sized water ouzels fly just above the creek’s surface before plopping underwater to prowl the creek bottom for insect larvae.
After 0.7 mile a path from a second trailhead joins on the left. Continue upstream 0.4 mile to a cliff-edged plunge pool at the base of 20-foot Sweet Creek Falls. A spur trail switchbacks up 150 yards to a viewpoint of an upper falls in a thundering slot. From the lower viewpoint, it’s possible to cross the bridgeless creek on slippery boulders to reach the unmarked continuation of the trail, but the crossing’s tricky in summer and all but impossible in winter, so most hikers will prefer to turn back.
To hike the valley’s upper reaches, drive the paved road 1.3 miles beyond the Homestead Trailhead. Just after a bridge, park at the Wagon Road Trailhead on the left. Across the road, a path heads downstream 0.8 mile to a different viewpoint of Sweet Creek Falls. Just before trail’s end, a spur switchbacks down to the bridgeless creek crossing mentioned above.
The 0.6-mile trail segment to Beaver Creek Falls is particularly nice. From the Wagon Road Trailhead, walk across the road’s bridge to find a Sweet Creek Trail sign on the right. This portion of the path heads upstream to the base of a fan-shaped waterfall where Beaver Creek and Sweet Creek merge. Although the trail ends here without a bridge, it’s not hard to hop the creek. On the far side, a 40-foot scramble up a slippery slope brings you to a railed viewpoint at the end of a very short trail from gravel Road 939. To drive here from the Wagon Road Trailhead, simply continue along the paved road 0.2 mile and take the first fork left for 0.5 mile to a parking area.
This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range.