A Local’s Guide to Visiting Abiqua Falls Oregon

Abiqua Falls blog cover image.  Abiqua Falls and Abiqua Creek as seen from the trail approaching the waterfall with morning light spilling in from above.

Just a short 1.5 hours from Portland, a day trip to Abiqua Falls is the perfect city escape. Watching the 92ft cascade tumble into a pool of turquoise water, one could be forgiven for thinking they’ve been transported to Fern Gully or Avatar!

Abiqua Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Oregon. Surrounded by a basalt rock amphitheater adorned with verdant mosses, lichen, and ferns, Abiqua Falls has a paradisical feel to it.

While you are in the area, consider pairing it with a visit to nearby Silver Falls State Park to hike the Trail of Ten Falls for the ultimate waterfall adventure!

Abiqua Falls Overview

Side view of Abiqua Falls in Oregon
Side view of Abiqua Falls in Oregon.

Tucked away on private land owned by Mount Angel Abbey, this majestic waterfall is something of an adventure to reach. The reward, however, is absolutely worth the effort!

Public access to the falls is permitted, and we’d love to keep it that way. Please be respectful and follow leave no trace principles when you visit to ensure this natural treasure remains open.

The first thing to note is that most sources will tell you that the hike to Abiqua Falls is only 0.7 miles (1.1km) from the trailhead. However, only rugged vehicles with 4WD and high clearance are actually able to reach the Abiqua Falls trailhead!

For most, the hike will be closer to 2.2 miles (3.5km) each way. More on that to come.

Reaching the falls regardless of starting point requires a steep, rough hike with some scrambling over rocks and logs involved. In wet conditions it can be particularly treacherous and caution is recommended.

Despite the somewhat difficult access, Abiqua Falls is recognized as one of the best waterfalls in Oregon. Arrive early to enjoy the falls to yourself!

Abiqua Falls Quick Facts

Sunlight pours in over Abiqua Falls early in the morning.
Abiqua Falls in the early morning light.
  • Location: Santiam State Forest Park, Oregon
  • GPS Coordinates: 44.926289, -122.567263
  • Height: 92ft (28m)
  • Avg Width: 20ft (6m)
  • Seasonality: A perennial waterfall, flowing year round.
  • Viewing Angles: Front and base access with approximately 150° viewing. No access to top-down or right-side views.
  • Services: There are no facilities.

Abiqua Falls Directions

A girl in a red dress standing on a rock in front of Abiqua Falls

Driving Directions

Abiqua Falls is located near Scotts Mills, 50 miles south of Portland. From Portland, take either the I-5 and Highway 211 or the US-99 and Highway 213 to Scotts Mills.

From Scotts Mills: Turn south onto Crooked Finger Road. Continue on Crooked Finger Road for 10.8 miles. Turn right onto an unmarked road (CF300 Road). This is approximately 1.3 miles past the end of the pavement and you should see a sign for Crooked Finger OHV area. Continue downhill along this road, going straight and downhill at any junctions.

If traveling by four-wheel drive, you can continue the full 2.1 miles to reach a gate at the end of the road and the parking area near the trailhead beside a locked gate.

However, the road is rough and vehicles with low clearance will have difficulty getting that far. For those without a four-wheel drive, you will find a parking area on the right after 0.9 miles. This is the Crooked Finger OHV parking area.

The road conditions deteriorate quickly after this point. However, there are a few pull offs along the way if you feel confident driving further. The further you can get, the more you will reduce your hike time.

Hiking Directions

Long exposure photo of Abiqua Falls in Oregon

Quick Overview

  • Start point: Abiqua Falls Trailhead (with 4×4 vehicle) / Dirt Road off Crooked Finger Road (without 4×4 vehicle)
  • End Point: Abiqua Falls
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: Minimum 1.4 miles to Maximum 5 miles (2.3km – 8km) round trip depending on starting point.
  • Elevation Gain: 180ft – 950ft (55m – 290m)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year-round except during extreme weather conditions
  • Family Friendly: No. The trail is steep and often treacherous.

While the trail officially starts at the Abiqua Falls Trailhead and is only a short hike from here, the majority of visitors will need to walk much further. As mentioned above, the trailhead is located at the end of a rough dirt road that is only accessible with four wheel drive and clearance. If you do not have a vehicle that can reach the trailhead, you can expect to add at least an extra mile each way to your journey, plus an increased elevation gain.

Additionally, there are two trails, one of which is significantly more difficult than the other. Therefore, you’ll need to ensure you know where to go ahead of time. We have included links to Google Maps with the exact coordinates to help ensure you can navigate your way there. We recommend downloading offline maps as you will most likely not have cell service here and there are not trail markers.

Finally, Abiqua Falls hike is considered a moderate hike. There are ropes along some parts, where the unmaintained trail requires scrambling. It can be particularly treacherous in wet weather as it is steep and muddy in places, with wet, mossy rocks to scramble over in others.

Abiqua Falls Trailhead

Map of the trail to Abiqua Falls
Map of the trail to Abiqua Falls

The map above shows the route from Crooked Finger OHV Area. You can find an interactive version of the map here or by above on the image below.

The trail for Abiqua Falls starts at the unsigned Abiqua Falls Trailhead. If parked at the Abiqua Falls parking lot, the trailhead will be the second trailhead on your right, approximately 100ft from the parking lot. The other trailhead is significantly steeper and more difficult, so ensure you take the correct one. You can find the coordinates for the trailhead here.

Those unable to reach the parking lot will need to follow the road down to the trailhead. From the Crooked Finger OHV parking area it is a 1.5 mile (2.5km) hike to the trailhead, which will be the first of the two trailheads on your left.

The walk from the parking area to the trailhead is all downhill. The elevation drop is 650ft (200m) which feels a lot tougher on the way back up!

The Trail to Abiqua Falls

Fallen logs and ropes guide you along the trail to Abiqua Creek.
Fallen logs and ropes guide you along the trail.

Despite being only 0.7 miles (1.1km) from the trailhead to Abiqua Falls, the hike can be a challenging one. Once you’ve located the trailhead, the trail itself is easy to follow.

While I read online prior to visiting that the trail had many deviations and could be tough to follow, this was not my experience. Despite not being signed, the trail seemed clear and it would be tough to get lost!

Logs and ropes on the unmaintained hiking trail to Abiqua Falls
Hiking back up the trail from Abiqua Falls.

You will traverse down through the forest and follow several fallen logs with ropes along them to aid you down. The trail is typically muddy and slick, but the steepest parts all have ropes for support.

Hiking trail to Abiqua Falls along the Abiqua Creek
Follow Abiqua Creek upstream along the rocky, unmaintained trail to reach Abiqua Falls.

The first 0.2 miles is the steepest as you head down to Abiqua Creek. Once you reach the river, follow it upstream for 0.5 miles to reach Abiqua Falls. You will be walking across rocks near the river bed, some of which are very slick so tread carefully. When the river is higher, you will need to walk further up the rocks. This can be a little more challenging.

Abiqua Falls Photography Tips

A girl spinning in a red dress in front of Abiqua Falls

If you are just planning to photograph Abiqua Falls with your iPhone, the one recommendation we have is to use the Live Mode option. This will allow you to set the photo to a long exposure creating soft, dreamlike water.

While it is possible to capture some great long exposure waterfall photos with smartphones, we are passionate about photography and use a bit more gear! Below you’ll find the key items we use for our photography and why we recommend them.

  • Camera: We use the Sony a7riii and love it. However, for beginners you may wish to consider an entry level DSLR. This will allow you to start getting to grips with manual settings and decide whether photography is something you enjoy enough to invest in.
  • Lens: The lens we use most frequently is the Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS as the zoom lens allows for the most diversity. We also often use the Laowa 15mm F2 for shots that require a wider angle. We used both of these lenses for our photos of Abiqua Falls.
  • Tripod: A tripod is essential if you want to create a long exposure waterfall image. When traveling, we use the Manfrotto Be Free as it’s lightweight and easy to carry on longer hikes. For times when I require something more stable, we use the Artcise Carbon Fiber Tripod.
Equipping our PolarPro Circular Polarizer, an essential for waterfall photography.
Equipping our PolarPro Circular Polarizer, an essential for waterfall photography.
  • Filters: A Circular Polarizing (CPL) filter or Neutral Density (ND) filter are very useful for allowing slower shutter speeds, enhancing colors, and for cutting glare on the water. The best CPL and ND filters I have found are the Quartzline from Polar Pro. All the photos in this blog were taken with a CPL which was essential for cutting the glare and bringing out the color in the scene.
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths: You will want to bring plenty of dry microfiber cloths to clean your lens between shots. Expect a lot of spray at Abiqua Falls! We were constantly having to wipe our lens between shots.
  • Rain cover: You may also want to consider a rain cover for your camera to protect it from both rain and spray. Another simpler, and great option, is a colorful umbrella… not only does it provide protection for you and your gear from the rain but can add a pop of color to photos!

Pro Photography Tip:

Abiqua Falls framed by basalt columns and a rocky outcrop
Use the rocky outcrop and a wide-angle lens to frame Abiqua Falls

Some spray on your lens is inevitable at Abiqua Falls. To help combat this, we recommend that you set your camera up on a tripod and dial in all your settings and composition.

Then, wipe the lens completely clean with a microfiber using your body or umbrella to shield it from further spray. As soon as it’s dry, put the lens cap back on (or use the cloth as a shield) and set a 2-second timer. Last, click the shutter button and remove the lens cap or cloth at the last moment minimizing the time the lens is exposed to the spray.

If you are a beginner wondering how to get that soft water feel, we have written a full guide to long exposure waterfall photography that will be a great help! In it, you will learn everything you need to know regarding filters, settings, equipment, and technique!

Abiqua Falls FAQs

How do I get to Abiqua Falls?

To get to Abiqua Falls, you will need to take a 2.1 mile rough dirt road to the parking area then hike 0.7 miles. Four-wheel drive is required, otherwise, to reach Abiqua Falls you will need to park near Crooked Finger OHV Area and walk 1.5 miles to the trailhead.

How do I get to Abiqua Falls trailhead?
A long exposure image of a girl in front of Abiqua Falls after a long hike.

If you have four-wheel drive, it is possible to drive all the way to the Abiqua Falls Trailhead along the unmaintained gravel road. Otherwise, you will need to park near Crooked Finger OHV Area and walk 1.5 miles to the trailhead.

There are two trails, ensure you keep to the one on the left (south) as this is a much easier trail with ropes. Once you reach the river, continue to walk upstream to get to Abiqua Falls.

Is Abiqua Falls a hard hike?

Abiqua Falls is considered a moderate hike. While being only 0.7 miles from the trailhead, most hikers will have to park about 2 miles away from the trailhead due to the poor road condition.

Additionally, the hike can be treacherous in wet weather and requires support ropes along some parts as well as light scrambling. It is steep and muddy in some places with wet, mossy rocks and logs to scramble over in others.

When is the best time to visit Abiqua Falls?
Wide angle photo of Abiqua Falls in Oregon

Abiqua Falls is beautiful year-round, but winter & summer are considered the best time to visit. In winter, the water level is ideal for photos and there are fewer people, Summer visits mean warm weather for swimming in the falls, but also bring extremely large crowds.

While spring can be a good time for visiting most waterfalls, it is a poor time to visit Abiqua Falls as the trail is often flooded.

Can you visit Abiqua Falls with kids?

Some families with young children are able to reach Abiqua Falls, but it is a challenging and often treacherous hike that is not recommended for young children.

Can you swim at Abiqua Falls?

Yes! Abiqua Falls is a beautiful place to swim in the warmer months, though the water remains cool year-round.

Can dogs go to Abiqua Falls?

Yes, dogs are permitted at Abiqua Falls! They must, however, be kept on a leash.

Additionally, the hike requires some scrambling and is very steep, making it a poor option for dogs with hip dysplasia or other physical ailments.

Is Abiqua Falls open right now?

Yes, Abiqua Falls is open (Feb 2022). Access was closed following the Beachie Creek Fire in summer 2020, but has reopened since.

Why is Abiqua closed?

Abiqua Falls is now open for visitors! (Feb 2022)

It was closed throughout the winter of 2020-21 following the Beachie Creek Fire in summer 2020 which damaged over 16,000 acres of the Santiam State Forest, but has since reopened.

Things to see nearBY

Lower South Falls in Silver Falls State Park in autumn
Visit Lower South Falls in Silver Falls State Park for the ultimate waterfall adventure!

Anyone visiting Abiqua Falls should also include a hike along the Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park on their itinerary.

Although only less than four miles as the crow flies, it does require a 45 minute (23.6 mile) drive from Abiqua Falls to North Falls. The drive is easily worth it for waterfall lovers as Silver Falls SP is considered the “crown jewel’ of the Oregon State Parks.

Butte Creek Falls is another beautiful waterfall in the area, with a campsite for those that want to take longer to explore the area. It is only a 4.5 mile drive to Butte Creek Falls, but expect it to take at least 15-20 minutes due to the road conditions.

The area surrounding Abiqua Falls is also popular for off-highway vehicles (OHV). The Crooked Finger OHV Area provides 6 miles of OHV trail through diverse forest.

Within the area you can also find countless outdoor activities. Some of these include wine tasting, hiking, mountain biking, bicycle riding, kayaking, swimming, skiing, horseback riding, shooting & fishing. 

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