Where, I silently wondered while thumbing through a hiking guide, would be a good place to take a short, get-me-off-my butt hike to break up the drive home from Eugene to Klamath Falls.
As if reading my mind, my son-in-law Andy Hamilton asked, “Have you ever gone on the Goodman Creek Trail?”
Nope, I hadn’t.
For years, traveling between Eugene and Klamath Falls on Highway 58, I’d seen and passed the roadside parking area that serves as the Hardesty Mountain Trailhead. What I didn’t know is that there’s another option. Less than quarter-mile from the trailhead, the Goodman Creek Trail forks off from the Hardesty Trail, meandering and undulating through old growth forests and, at times, nearing or overlooking an arm of the Lookout Point Reservoir.
Part of my reluctance from pulling over at the Hardesty tailhead stemmed from reading William Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades.” In it he describes the “arduous” 5-mile, 4,000-foot elevation gain hike up Hardesty as not particularly satisfying, one that ends at an abandoned lookout where overgrown trees prevent any looking out. That translates to a 10-mile roundtrip, an outing that would likely require five or more hours.
And there was added incentive for hiking Goodman Creek. Andy had been part of a volunteer trail crew that a day earlier had cleared the trail of fallen trees and other obstacles for its first two-plus miles, the distance to its waterfall and a creek-crossing bridge.
It seemed a no-brainer, and it proved even better than promised.
From the roadside parking area the trail immediately drops into an old-growth Douglas fir forest. As promised, the Goodman Creek Trail begins less than a quarter-mile away, angling and meandering through lush forests. It’s an up and down trail, with stretches of some brief uphills followed by dipsy downhills. The elevation gain is minimal, only about 500 feet from the trailhead to the creek-crossing log bridge, but the variations increase the actual gain.
Along the way, forest openings offered views of the reservoir and forests. Later, after doubling back, other hikers who made later starts touted the Goodman Creek as their long-time favorite trail, saying it’s become even more enjoyable because of selective logging that’s expanded what were peek-a-boo views to more expansive panoramas.
Even though it’s a small waterfall, it was heard before being seen. An unmarked but well-used side trail passes through a campsite to a spot that drops to the waterfall and creek. On hot summer days its rock-enclosed pool is touted as a place for a refreshing dip or swim. Back on the main trail, it’s only another few hundred yards to the log footbridge and a pebbly beach, reportedly a favorite spot for picnickers or, especially for people with children, turn-around.
The Goodman trail continues across the bridge, passing stands of moss-covered trees alongside the mostly unseen creek often shielded by skunk cabbage. It’s a pleasant, nearly level hike that reportedly goes about 1-1/4 miles until intersecting a gravel road. “Reportedly” because less than mile from the waterfalls a series of hulking, fallen trees blocked the way. Instead of testing my pole vaulting skills, and wanting to get back on the road, I doubled back.
According to Willamette National Forest’s Recreation Opportunity Guide, the Goodman Trail crosses the gravel road, Forest Road 5833, and continues on, passing the Ash Swale Shelter, crossing Eagles Rest Road and, about 4-1/2 miles from the waterfall, tops out at Eagles Nest, 3,022-foot peak that’s about a 2,000-foot elevation gain from the trailhead.
While making the return trip to the parking area, the trail I’d had to myself came alive with hikers — some carrying young children, others accompanied by scampering kids, and many with the family dog — happily making their way to the waterfall and bridge.
Back in the car I thanked Andy for his suggestion. No butts about it, the Goodman Creek Trail is a delight.