In February, 2016, Oregon Field Guide aired their expedition to a beautiful and lush hidden river canyon deep in the folds of the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, revealing what were a series of previously unexplored waterfalls. The episode, titled Discovering Valhalla, gave an unofficial name to the inner canyon of the South Fork of the North Fork Breitenbush River. The inner canyon and gorge is only accessible by experienced canyoneers with a healthy appetite for adventure.
Getting to the top of two of the most spectacular waterfalls in the area, together nicknamed Shangri-La Falls by the expedition crew, is somewhat less challenging than the Gates of Valhalla Hike, but the hike should not be taken lightly. The approach takes a long day of bushwhacking and off-trail travel to reach the top of the falls. The hike offers a vista of the newly discovered waterfall and a glimpse of the lush Shangri-La cove below. Interestingly, the Oregon Field Guide team learned of a group exploring the area in 2006 that came across the falls and had called it "Dinah-Mo Falls," in honor of the local old growth forest activist Dinah-mo Ross.
The falls can only be reached in warmer months when Forest Service Road 4220 is open and free of snow; the road is closed by a gate from December through April. Park on Forest Road 4220 adjacent to Spinning Lake and head south through the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. The route is entirely off trail and requires wayfinding through dense woods. Hikers who are not experienced in off-trail travel through forested terrain should not attempt this hike.
The route follows ridges and a forest bench down to the South Fork of the North Fork Breitenbush River, which you'll follow northwest until you hear the waterfalls below. Known by the Valhalla crew as the Topside Route, it will take between one and two hours for an experienced bushwhacker to hike the steep 1.25-mile route. Scampering down the even steeper cliff to see Shangri-La Falls from below may sound tempting, but given the difficulty of rescue and the lack of fixed anchors for rappelling gear, further exploration of the falls from above is a highly dangerous endeavor and is not advised.
The canyon is on land designated as wilderness, so the placing of permanent bolts is prohibited, and Leave No Trace practices should be very strictly followed.
Oregon Field Guide is OPB's long-running local weekly TV series. The program covers natural resources, ecological issues, outdoor recreation and travel destinations across the Northwest region. This award-winning show is one of the most-watched local productions in the public broadcasting system.
Oregon Field Guide also extends the work it does in the field for the television series across radio and the Web, providing a greater degree of coverage.
Oregon Field Guide airs Thursday evenings at 8:30 p.m. and repeats Sundays at 1:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. In the Mountain Time zone of Eastern Oregon, the program airs at 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, and at 7:30 p.m. Sundays.