Memaloose and Clackamas Falls Hike
All of the hikes I have been on so far in the Pacific Northwest have been more traditional. Places where, in general, I see other hikers and there is a very clear path to follow.; nothing too intense. The Memaloose and Clackamas Falls Hike veers from that pattern by offering a remote scramble complete with a ropes course (about five lengths to get you to the bottom of the gorge), several bat caves, and a chasm crossing via 2 downed trees. There are two waterfalls that can be visited though this post only covers Clackamas Falls.
The Outdoor Project has a great post about this hike you should check out before coming and helped fill in some of the knowledge gaps I had about why all these tunnels/caves and piping were here in the first place. It dates back to a plan from 1915 that picked up further momentum in the 1930s to bring water to Oregon City and West Linn.
We parked at the old weigh station about 1/4 mile before the bridge seen below (that is now closed). The first 1.5 miles is up the old logging road until you hopefully spot the unmarked trailhead. Total roundtrip is about 5.7 miles if you don’t plan to head to the lower falls (see Alltrails).
Once on the trail itself and no longer on the unmaintained tarmac road, there are a lot of overgrown bushes and logs in the way. Wear pants if you don’t want to get scratched up. Before long you’ll get to the ropes that you can use to descend to the rivers edge. There are a number of very narrow ledges that must be carefully maneuvered and plenty of muddy spots. The first cave is very easy to get through without needing a light. As you keep pressing on, you’ll eventually get to the river where an old bridge make the crossing easy. From there we headed left where we would encounter 3 more cave/tunnels. The last one heads uphill and is very wet, so a light was definitely needed.
The craziest thing by far on this hike was the log bridge crossing. You don’t want to lose your footing here. Each of our party of five took turns one at a time, many of us crawling on all fours, to ensure a safe crossing. But you can also just skip that part and feel like you were able to see the falls as it is visible from here.
Next time I want to get lower down into the water to explore and shoot the falls while also be sure I get to head right at the t junction across the bridge and check out the other waterfalls.