Soda Creek Falls (or Lower Soda Falls, there are two of them after all), is a short but steep hike located in Cascadia State Park near Sweet Home. While the falls can dwindle down to a trickle in the summer and fall, if you time your hike right in the wetter months, the three-tiered, 134-foot drop can be quite impressive and is definitely worth the side trip if you are in the area.
The history of Cascadia is interesting in itself. Founded in 1895, it was originally built as a resort hotel around a mineral spring. All the buildings were in a state of disrepair when the state purchased in the in 1940, and were subsequently removed. The mineral spring has since been capped, but the park is a beautiful place to enjoy the lush forest along the banks of the South Santiam River.
Begin your hike to Soda Creek Falls from the picnic area as you first enter the park. Follow the road that veers slightly to the right toward the group camp and watch for the trailhead for Soda Creek Falls. Once you find it, start your slow march up the valley towards the falls. You will find yourself engulfed in a forest of Douglas Fir, Hemlocks, and Cedar. You will also pass several side trails at first that will lead back to the campground, but just keep heading up the creek and you will be fine.
The trail climbs pretty continuously throughout the hike as you gain almost 400 feet in pretty short order. Before you know it, though, but soon, you will find yourself big-stepping (scrambling if you have short legs) onto a boulder with a perfect viewpoint of the falls ahead of you. The waterfall cascades down through a series of cracks before jettisoning out over the final spill. It is a difficult waterfall to fully observe because of the way it twists through the rocks and its size, but the mossy amphitheater is a beautiful place to grab a quick snack.
Cascadia State Park is located 14 miles east of Sweet Home on Highway 20. Watch for the signs directing you to Cascadia State Park and head North, over the river, into the park. After crossing the bridge, bear right and park in the picnic parking area you first come to.
Passes: No passes are required
Dogs: Dogs are allowed and must be on leash or under voice control at all times.
Open Season: All year but the flows over the falls will be best in winter and early spring.