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Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
2.50 mi (4.02 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 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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Hidden waterfall. Off-trail forest travel.

Cons

Arduous off-trail approach. Bushwhacking. Dangerous travel.

Trailhead Elevation

5,000.00 ft (1,524.00 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,150.00 ft (350.52 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Waterfalls
Old-growth forest

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Mt. Jefferson + Metolius River Area, Oregon
Oregon, Mt. Jefferson + Metolius River Area
Oregon, Mt. Jefferson + Metolius River Area

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 directions on how to get there. Please. This is in very bad taste, and this is an exceptionally dangerous place. Most people will not be able to get there, but many who try will get into trouble and require rescue.

Please remove this.
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Oregon Field Guide

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.

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