Brice Creek. Photo by Chandra LeGue.

Enjoying Old Growth

Climate action begins with a hike at Brice Creek 

Come for the waterfalls or swimming holes, to camp or to hike. Come to explore one of the nicest streams and most accessible ancient forests near Eugene. Just 30 minutes outside of Cottage Grove, Brice Creek is a wonderful low-elevation destination all year long.  

The forests that surround this streamside trail were spared the extensive logging and road building that has plagued nearby parts of the Umpqua National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands for decades. That means that the mix of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, western redcedar, Pacific yew, incense cedar and madrone that grow on the fertile soils along Brice Creek and on the warm hillslopes that rise above it have been growing naturally for hundreds of years. Much of the forest originated after a fire 200(-ish) years ago, but in places you can find huge, fire-scarred Douglas-fir trees that survived from centuries before. 

Forests like these are rare and offer a million reasons we might want to protect them. They filter clean water; provide homes for myriad wildlife on the ground, in the water and in the trees; and, perhaps most importantly, they also happen to be one of the most effective climate solutions available to us, soaking up and storing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it for centuries — if they are allowed to continue living. Other than general guidance to protect habitat and streams, there are no specific protections from logging in this forest area. Without such durable protections here and in other old forests, these important ecosystems may still be at risk.

There are plenty of hike options from the two trailheads — the lower one at Cedar Creek Campground trailhead, and the upper at the Champion Creek Trailhead. To get there from Eugene, drive I-5 south to Cottage Grove exit 174. Head east on Row River Road, staying on the south side of Dorena Lake. About 17 miles from the freeway, stay right at a Y intersection onto Brice Creek Road (Forest Road 22) and proceed another 4.5 miles to find the lower trailhead. The upper trailhead is another 3.5 miles past Cedar Creek, with a parking area on the left. The trail starts on the left just over the bridge.

Option 1: Out and back from Cedar Creek trailhead (up to 5 miles)

Cross the footbridge over Brice Creek and turn right on the trail. Amble as far as you like: It’s 2.5 miles from here to one of the nicest stands of old forest, and along the way are some of the best known swimming holes and rock formations, if swimming beckons.

Option 2: Out and back from Champion Creek trailhead and to Lower Trestle Creek Falls (3 to 4 miles)

Turn left on the trail to follow Brice Creek downstream through the lush forest. Just past a bridge over Trestle Creek, take the side trail to the right to go to Lower Trestle Creek Falls. This 0.3-mile trail gains a bit of elevation as it goes up a lush canyon to the hundred-foot waterfall nestled in its recesses.

On the main trail, continue downstream through a beautiful cathedral-like old-growth forest grove. A half mile from the Lower Trail, you’ll intersect the Upper Trestle Creek Falls Trail. (See Option 3) Pass this trail and continue another half mile or so to another section of stellar old growth, or turn around at any point.

Option 3: Upper Trestle Creek Falls loop (3.5 miles)

Start in the same way as Option 2, but turn right on the Upper Trestle Creek Falls trail to do the loop. This gains some elevation, making it more difficult, but you are rewarded with a dryer forested hillslope and a walk-behind waterfall in a mossy grotto before descending back to the upper trailhead.

Option 4: Shuttle hike (if you’ve got more than one car) from the upper to lower trailheads (4.5 miles one way, or add on either waterfall)

Forests like these need your support so they can continue to serve as a natural climate solution, filter water and make Oregon such a great place to live and enjoy. Whatever hike option you choose, please take a moment to add your voice of support for protections for the few remaining mature and old-growth forests and pristine rivers — like these — on our public lands. The Biden administration is currently offering a momentous opportunity to comment on policy to protect old forests across the country. More at

Chandra LeGue of Eugene is the author of the book Oregon’s Ancient Forests: A hiking guide and is the senior conservation advocate at Oregon Wild.

Comments are closed.