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Five Marvelous Hikes for Nature Viewing/Photography in Oregon

1. Lemolo Falls (Umpqua National Forest). Located near Lemolo and Diamond Lakes in the Umpqua National Forest, off of Highway 138 to Forest Road 840, in southern Oregon (and just north of crater Lake National Park). Lemolo Falls is both the tallest and most powerful waterfall along the North Umpqua River, breaking over a contorted cliff of columnar basalt and plummets more than 150+ feet into a large pool. The waterfall is fairly consistent (except during snow melt off), as the Lemolo Lake Dam a few miles upstream draws off the vast majority of the North Umpqua River, allowing a fixed amount of water to continue to the falls at all times. The trail is only 3.5 miles roundtrip, but it is steep descent... but you will be rewarded with wildflowers, lush green, and, of course, the falls. Best June through September. Find a great Forest Service campground that has amazing views of mount Bailey and Mount Thielsen located on the east shore of the mile-long Diamond Lake. Or use the Forest service campground on the east shore of Lemolo Lake.

2. Ice Lake (Wallowa Lake State Park). Located just south of Joseph, Oregon, in the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the heart of the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern part of the state, within the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Ice Lake sits at 7,849 feet in elevation, so the hike is a strenuous one. Start the day visiting Wallowa Lake, off Highway 351, and then enter the Wallowa Lake State Park and find the Wallowa Lake Trailhead. The trail is a 16-mile round-trip, so either a full-day hike or a one-way hike with an overnight camping stop before returning the next day. The first 2+ miles follow the West Fork Wallowa River Trail, which is quite pleasant. Once you hit the junction for the Ice Lake Trail, you will hit numerous switchbacks as you climb 2,350 feet in elevation. The rewards are beautiful views of alpine forests, wildflowers, jagged (and often snow-covered) peaks, an amazing waterfall, and, of course, Ice Lake and its incredibly clear blue waters. Numerous side trips off the trail can extend your hike. The Wallowa Mountains are one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon. Best to visit between July and September.

3. McKenzie River Waterfalls Loop Trail (Willamette National Forest). Located off Highway 126 at the Carmen Reservoir in the Cascade Mountains, this trail is part of the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail and offers hikers the opportunity of seeing two major waterfalls. The trail can also be accessed from the Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls Viewpoints. Both the Sahalie and Koosah waterfalls were formed by lava flows from 3,000 years ago, but the Sahalie, which drops about 100 feet, is a segment waterfall (in which the stream diverges into two or three sections as it cascades), while the Koosah, which drops about 70 feet, is a block waterfall (in which it descends in one single wide stream). The actual loop trail is a fairly easy (some stairs) 2.6 mile hike, though one could easily hike farther on the McKenzie River NRT -- and in doing so, possibly visit Tamolitch (Blue) Pool, a gorgeous spring-fed lake that once had a waterfall flowing into it. A worthy side trip is a stop at the clothing-optional Terwilliger (Cougar) Hot Springs, to the west of Cougar Reservoir, a series of six soaking pools (2-3 feet deep) with temperatures ranging from 85 to 122 degrees.

4. Mosier Creek Falls (Mosier Creek Plateau Trail, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area). Not far from the Hood River, in the town of Mosier, this very short (1.4-mile roundtrip) trail begins on the east side of the old bridge on Highway 30 at Mosier Creek. Start in the old pioneer cemetery first, then make your way up to the rim of Mosier Creek Gorge, looking upriver to the falls. The first level of the two-tiered fall drops about 70 feet, while the upper falls is much shorter, with a pool between the falls providing a quaint swimming area. Keep climbing for views of wildflowers, as well as a view of the Mosier Creek Plateau. At the top of the falls is a nice picnic spot. Named for Josiah Mossier, who settled in the area in the 1850s and used the waterfall to power his sawmill. Just to the east, find side trips to Memaloose and Mayer State Parks, as well as the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum, the official interpretative center for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

5. Munson Creek Falls (Munson Creek State Natural Park). Located off Highway 111 in northwestern Oregon, seven miles south of Tillamook (and not far from Tillamook State Forest), this relatively short trail in one of the newest state parks starts through a lush creek bottom woodland to a view point of the falls, which tumble 300+ feet in at least three tiers -- and which cannot been seen in their entirety. The falls is supposedly the tallest waterfall in the Oregon Coast Range. The trail continues up a box canyon along the babbling Munson Creek in the midst of maples, western hemlocks, western red-cedars, red alders, and Sitka spruce. Possible side trips while in this area include Cape Lookout, Cape Meares Lighthouse, Kilchis Point Reserve, and Oswald State Park.


Bonus: Rail-Trails Highlights: Oregon has 21 Rail-Trails totaling about 311 miles. One of the most beautiful is the 22-mile Banks-Vernonia State Trail, which weaves its way between two towns in the foothills of northwest Oregon's Coast Range following an old railway used for the lumber industry, and enveloped by a mix of Douglas Fir, maples, cedars, and alders. Besides the trees, the other highlight is the Buxton Trestle, which spans 735 feet and 80 feet above Mendenhall Creek. The trail also cuts through the middle of the 1,700 acre L. L. Stub Stewart State Park.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.

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