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Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
7.50 mi (12.07 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.

In February, 2016, Oregon Field Guide aired their expedition to a beautiful and lush hidden river canyon, revealing what were a series of previously unexplored waterfalls within a deep gorge. The episode, titled Discovering Valhalla, gave an unofficial name to the inner canyon of the South Fork of the North Fork Breitenbush River. The canyon's rugged inner gorge is only accessible by experienced canyoneers with a healthy appetite for adventure.

Just getting to the entrance of the inner gorge's slot canyon, nicknamed the "Gates of Valhalla" by the expedition team, is a three-day round-trip trek up the river. It ends with an arduous trip through the inner gorge to the Gates of Valhalla and Jared Falls. This is an off-trail route demanding rugged travel, bushwhacking and surmounting logjams.

Start the hike at the end of Forest Road 4600013. The route starts along the base of a scree field adjacent to the parking area. The river reaches the rocks halfway across the scree field. From here, continue your journey headed southeast along with river, which you will continue to follow for the remainder of the trek. The river is your trail. You will have to spend a considerable amount of time walking up the riverbed itself, while at other times there is sufficient room to pick your way along the shore that is sometimes heavily littered with the debris of fallen logs. The river is cold, and in a high water year the water volume may be too heavy to continue the hike. If you are unprepared for long, cold and wet travel conditions and you don't have the proper gear, do not try to make this hike. There is no cellular service in the river canyon, and rescue operations would be highly constrained by the steep and rugged conditions.

Eventually the canyon becomes exceedingly narrow, and parties will run out of camping options. The best place to camp is at the confluence of the North Fork and the South Fork of the North Fork Breitenbush River. Here you will find a forest shelf where people can find just enough room for a couple of tents. This spot is only 3 miles up the river from the trailhead, but it can take well over seven hours to reach this spot given the terrain hazards involved. This location can serve as a base camp for further exploration into the inner gorge.

This base camp is less than a mile away from the Gates of Valhalla, which references the entrance to the slot canyon, but to navigate this short distance takes an experienced team at least three hours. From here the path is blocked by a waterfall that the Oregon Field Guide expedition crew nicknamed "Jared Falls." To go further requires technical climbing gear, canyoneering experience, and the right conditions. Heavy water volumes will make any further exploration impossible, making this trek only doable by a very small subset of adventurers during a small window of time on a very dry year.

But reaching the Gates of Valhalla and Jared Falls is adventure enough. The three days of travel to get in and back out are three days spent wading through frigid waters, climbing over boulders and old-growth snags, and avoiding an understory overgrown with devil's club, a plant with spines that irritate when they contact the skin. This area is on land designated as wilderness, so the placing of permanent bolts is prohibited, and Leave No Trace practices should be strictly followed.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Hidden waterfalls. Remote slot canyon.

Cons

Off-trail travel. Treacherous river crossings. Bushwhacking through unforgiving understory.

Trailhead Elevation

2,800.00 ft (853.44 m)

Net Elevation Gain

650.00 ft (198.12 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Rock climbing
Waterfalls
Old-growth forest

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

02/06/2016
Matt,

Thank you for your comments and I wanted to take a moment to respond. It was with a lot of deliberation that we decided to publish this adventure and map to Outdoor Project. We agree with all of your stated concerns. However, we don’t see this as a matter of good or bad taste, but more a question of judgment, both for our members and for the general public that may want to visit this area.

Oregon Field Guide is a long time partner of ours at Outdoor Project and when they decided to air their recent episode featuring the exploration of this amazing, fragile, and dangerous area, they realized that people would want to go here and see it. In airing their episode, which will be featured on this adventure shortly, they opened the public’s eyes to this place and were very concerned for the safety of anyone who might decide to venture into the canyon. They asked us to help them build a featured guide into the top and bottom of the canyon, the sections you can reach without needing advanced canyoneering experience.

That being said, accessing this area remains very dangerous. Water levels much of the year, and for the entire year in high water years, will make reaching the Gates of Valhalla impossible. Likewise, the route to the top of the Shangri-La is the safest known route. By publishing these routes, we have an opportunity to share a lot of information on how dangerous attempting to reach Valhalla is. We also added precautionary information redundantly, and your comment and this response allows us to continue to reinforce that this is not a weekend hike, but a route that requires a lot of preparation and second thought if you choose to attempt it. Venturing into the slot canyon itself, which took a highly experienced team three days to safely navigate, is highly unadvised.

However, in a digital age, people will figure out where this is now that the episode on Oregon Field Guide has been aired, and we hope with our information it’ll convince most casual outdoors enthusiasts not to attempt the journey. For the experienced off-trail explorer, this information will help reduce the likelihood of mistaken routes and the need for rescue, injury, or worse.

Thank you again for your comment, and hopefully this additional explanation of our decision will change your opinion that what was published was in bad taste and should be removed.
You should NOT give people directions to this place. It's a remote, fragile area that does not have a trail and can be very hazardous to reach. This river runs very high much of the year and the risk is very high.

Frankly, I find this in extremely poor taste and I hope you will remove this immediately.
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