Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,356.00 ft (413.31 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
3.00 mi (4.83 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The South Fork Clackamas and Memaloose Falls hike offers more than enough special features to offset any trouble you may have finding the trailhead. Once you navigate NF-45 to the destination, you will be welcomed by rope-assisted descents and climbs, waterfalls, and the ruins of waterworks efforts that include an old log bridge and tunnels up to 100 yards long. 

This adventure begins with a leisurely path through the woods that may lull you into thinking this is a simple 3-mile, there-and-back hike. However, after a short distance into the hike you'll reach a steep hillside that will likely be muddy. Luckily, you can navigate up and down the steep area using ropes that past hikers have tied to sturdy trees along the route. You'll find a photographer's paradise once descend into the Memaloose Creek canyon, including a log-jammed river, an amazing amount of moss, three separate waterfalls that have drops of up to 120 feet, and the relics along the route from past tunneling and waterworks development efforts. 

These efforts began in 1915, when the South Fork Water Board started routing water from Memaloose Creek and South Fork Clackamas to Oregon City and West Linn. The project was expanded years later with help from the Works Progress Administration, and the main intake was moved upstream above the falls in 1939. The project involved miles of pipe and the construction of the tunnels you see today.

The area is remote, and you'll likely find that to be a good thing. While you won't find restrooms or a charging station for your phone, you will certainly find secluded campsites, innumerable angles for waterfall photos, and lots of peace and quiet. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Pros

Multiple waterfalls. Riverside camp sites. Solitude.

Cons

Trails can be muddy with loose footing

Trailhead Elevation

1,380.00 ft (420.62 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Historically significant
Mine
Waterfalls
Old-growth forest

Typically multi-day

No

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Oregon, Mt. Hood + Clackamas River Area
Mt. Hood + Clackamas River Area, Oregon
Mt. Hood + Clackamas River Area, Oregon

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Mt. Hood + Clackamas River Area, Oregon
Mt. Hood + Clackamas River Area, Oregon
Mt. Hood + Clackamas River Area, Oregon

Comments

Hikers looking to do this hike should factor in the 1.4 mile walk up the NR-45 as the road is still closed. Just beyond the gate down a footpath to the left there us an unkempt day use area with rocky/pebbly access to the river. Back on the road, you'll have a steady climb to the trailhead - a nice warm up. It's hard to see the wooden trail head sign from the road but keep an eye out for a white mile post on the right with "TH" written on it, accompanied by some stickers. I didn't have enough time to complete the whole hike because I'd headed out there rather spontaneously at 5pm and wanted to be back before dark. Hikers coming out while I was on my way in offered observations including:
-"There is a ton of scotchbroom in bloom!"
-"It's really muddy!"
-"Gloves are a good idea for the ropes!"

I'll definitely be going back this summer to complete the whole hike. Thanks Outdoor Project for the info about a remote hike that's really accessible for SE Portlanders!
03/22/2019
I had no trouble finding the trailhead, but somehow I never saw Memaloos Falls. I saw South Fork Clackamas Falls and Lower South Fork Clackamas Falls. I see on the map that it is next to the first tunnel encountered when descending into the canyon, but I never found any obvious path to view the falls. You don't have to cross the logs on the way to Southfork Clackamas Falls as there is a small path around them on the hillside. Absolutely a blast even without the third water fall.
Shannon, you can just park on the shoulder of Hwy 224. Enjoy!
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