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National Creek Falls

A short trail on the road to Diamond Lake makes a great place to cool off on a blazing summer day or have a picnic with kids.

The little half-mile trail ends at the base of National Creek Falls, a noisy little cascade that tumbles down over old lava, raising clouds of mist that will quickly make you forget about summer's worst heat.

Ardent hikers wouldn't even consider this little trail a warm-up, but it's a perfect place to take kids, or anyone who enjoys waterfalls, or visitors in search of a quintessential "Oregon" experience. That's because the trail is smack in the middle of some wonderful old-growth Douglas firs and Western hemlocks.

Several giants along the way easily run 5 to 6 feet in diameter and rise 150 feet or more into the sky. People who know how to identify trees will also see grand fir and Western white pine, two conifers that prefer higher-altitude sites.

National Creek originates along the northwest boundary of Crater Lake National Park, just a few miles south of Boundary Springs, the source of the Rogue River. National Creek flows due west while the Rogue River takes a long loop to the north. The creek's name reflects a bit of local history.

In the early part of the 20th century, the National Park Service was lobbying to expand the size of Crater Lake National Park at the expense of what was then called the Crater National Forest.

At that time, four successive creeks in the area were named "Crater," "Lake," "National," and "Park." Park Creek was renamed Hurryon Creek after that maneuver failed and Lake Creek became Bert Creek (after an old Forest Service employee), but Crater Creek and National Creek retained their names.

Jeff Lalande, historian for the Rogue River National Forest, recounts the history of the creek's name in his book, "From Abbott Butte to Zimmerman Burn: A Place Name History and Gazetteer of the Rogue River National Forest.' To reach the trail, take Highway 62 east from Medford to Union Creek, and take Highway 230 north toward Diamond Lake.

Near the Douglas County line, turn right on Forest Road 6530, known to old Forest Service workers as "County Line Road." Stay on Road 6530 for 1.3 miles, and stay left at a fork in the road to stay on 6530. Continue about 2.5 miles on Road 6530 to a junction with Road 300; turn right and drive to the trailhead.

The elevation here is 4,000 feet, so even on hot days it will feel a bit cooler. The trail switches back and forth a few times among the big trees before reaching the top of the falls. Continue down several more switchbacks to the base of the falls and clouds of cool mist.

Pack a lunch and some cool drinks, and enjoy yourself.