Moss grows atop a stump on the Porter Falls trail, one of the few mildly scenic sights along the trail. Work has been done to make the trail passable, but it hasn’t yet been cleared to the falls at its terminus.
Porter Creek flows by the Porter Creek Campground near the trailhead to Porter Falls.
The road and trail to Porter Falls is much improved since last I tried to hike it. However, the trail itself needs more work before it’s easily hiked and recommendable. A couple years ago, I first decided to hike it when in search of a short hike on the west side of the Capitol State Forest. With a waterfall at its end and an easy-to-find campground trailhead, the trail seemed to fit the bill.
However, the map didn’t show that the road was out of service at the time. Though the blocking boulders at the top had been moved aside, giving us false hope that the road was safe to traverse, once we were on it and descending to the creek, it became clear that this wasn’t a safe road to drive — much of it had sloughed away into the steep river canyon. On my latest foray into Capital State Forest, I fully expected the road to be closed and intended to hike another trail in the forest. However, upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised to see that the road had been rebuilt into a good, gravel forest thoroughfare. I changed my plans and decided to see how things were at the trail that had stymied me before.
My wife and I parked at the campground — so far, so good — and found the unmarked Porter Falls trailhead (it heads uphill from the road next to a water pump). Signs of recent brushing were evident on the trail. Apparently, volunteers had been clipping away at the overgrowth that made the trail nearly impassable on our last foray (after reaching the bottom of the road and finding it blocked by berms, we had gotten out and made the rest of the way on foot on our last visit). The trail heads uphill from the campground: Not too steep, but a steady upward grade. Though the brush had been clipped back, the trail surface still left something to be desired: in places it was nearly non-existant, having slipped down the steep gully that dropped off between switchbacks.
At the top of the rise is a decaying bench. It likely had a decent view of the creek valley when installed, but in the intervening decades the surrounding trees grew, obscuring all views. Pretty much the only thing one sees along the trail are second-growth trees and underbrush.
The trail is pretty level through a dense thicket of second-growth Douglas fir before dropping down towards the creek after a few hundred relatively level yards. This is about as far as the trail brushing reached. Soon we were wading through a dense thicket of bramble that covered the trail. A large alder had fallen across the trail in two places. Even our dog, Dodge, was having a difficult go of things. We made it nearly to the creek — we could see it and the newly rebuilt road just across the creek — before deciding to turn back. We still haven’t made it to the falls indicated on the map to determine if the effort is rewarded by a view of value enough to warrant the trouble. As a consolation prize, we found a nice knife dropped on the trail on our way back to the truck.