Post Summary: What To Expect Hiking to Marion Falls and Gatch Falls in Oregon
Do you know those places that feel like you transported yourself to another planet? Thinking “…this place can POSSIBLY be this beautiful!”
That’s exactly how we felt when setting eyes on Marion Falls and Gatch Falls for the very first time.
We could already hear the rumbling of the falls before even setting eyes on them. After emerging from the trees, the mist hit our faces and our jaws hit the floor as we saw these stunning Oregon waterfalls show themselves in all their glory.
This place easily became one of our favorite hikes in Oregon, and we want you to experience it too.
Keep scrolling for driving directions, permit instructions (yes, you need a day permit!), trail details, and more to plan your own magical trip to Marion Falls and Gatch Falls in the Central Oregon Cascades!
How To Reach The Mystical Marion and Gatch Falls in the Willamette National Forest (Oregon)
Marion Falls and Gatch Falls Trail Details
- Distance: 5.0 miles out-and back trail
- Elevation Gain: 1,100 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead Coordinates: 44.5768899, -121.8964229
History of Marion Falls
Marion Falls and Gatch Falls are in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area in the Central Cascades of Oregon. The wilderness area covers 104,523 total acres and is the second most used Oregon wilderness area right behind the Three Sisters Wilderness Area.
This area is commonly used for day hiking, backpacking, camping, mountain-climbing, wildlife watching, and cross-country skiing. There are 160+ miles of trails in the Mt Jefferson Wilderness area, including 40 miles of the iconic Pacific Crest Trail.
Marion Falls and Gatch Falls are a surprising treat for backpackers who camp at Lake Ann. The falls are not too far away from the lake’s edge. Following a small unmarked trail, hikers are greeted with a pair of the most beautiful waterfalls in Oregon!
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What Makes Marion Falls So Special?
Marion Falls and Gatch Falls is one of at least four major Oregon waterfalls that can be found along Marion Creek. (Others nearby are Gooch Falls and Lower Gooch Falls)
If you aren’t going SPECIFICALLY to see the falls, they can be very confusing to find. Everywhere from the trailhead name, adjoining trails, and signs don’t indicate waterfalls features, and it’s up to you to be prepared ahead of time if you want to reach them.
Since this place requires a bit more knowledge and preparation beforehand, reaching Marion Falls and Gatch Falls feels like a special reward, only for those who are truly seeking them!
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Best Time To Visit Marion Falls and Gatch Falls
The best time to visit Marion Falls and Gatch Falls is during the summer and early fall. This is when the trail will generally be the driest, with lush trees and foliage in bloom along the trail. Summer runoff from the Cascade Mountains will feed the waterfalls thus creating a dramatic flow!
If you come during the off-season (late fall to late spring) come prepared to get wet. Not only does this area receive a lot of rain, but the mist from the falls will get you soaked!
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What To Bring To Marion Falls and Gatch Falls
Sturdy Hiking Shoes
There are various terrains to cross on the trail to Marion Falls and Gatch Falls. These include rocky hillsides, root-crossed trails, and climbing over fallen trees and logs. Make sure you have hiking boots with great ankle support, to keep your feet safe and stable on the trail.
Waterproof Layer / Rain Jacket
If you are visiting during the rainy season (late fall, winter, early spring), like we stated earlier, come prepared to get wet. Not only will you get wet from the rain, but the mist from the falls with surely soak you to the bone!
Come with a waterproof jacket to slip on as you approach the falls. This will keep you warm and dry on the way back to the car too.
Insect Repellent and Sun Protection
If you are coming in the late summer, the mosquitoes near Lake Ann and Marion Lake can be savage. We recently bought mosquito nets to use on longer day hikes like this, but bug spray will suffice in a pinch too.
There are plenty of sections of the trail with prolonged sun exposure too, so keep your skin safe and lather up with this hypoallergenic sunscreen from Badger.
Hiking poles will definitely help on the gradual include to Lake Ann and Marion Lake. However, they can be especially helpful on the steep sections near Marion Falls and Gatch Falls!
Marion Falls Entrance Fees (Permit Required!)
Because of the increasing popularity of the Central Cascades in Oregon, the Forest Service has now issued a permit system for several day hiking trails in the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Sisters Wilderness areas.
Permits are required between the first Friday after Memorial Day and the last Friday in September. This permit system is in place to prevent overcrowding trails and help in the management of these areas.
In our experience, we purchased a permit for Mt Jefferson – Marion Lake Trailhead on the Recreation.gov website for $1.00 each. It was incredibly easy to do, and the permit was issued immediately! There are 40 slots available per day, and we went during the middle of the week, so we had no trouble snagging two permits.
Make sure to print out the QR code for confirmation, or take a screenshot on your phone. You’ll need to have your permit on hand if a park ranger asks to see it!
Grab permits for Marion Falls by looking for “Mt Jefferson – Marion Lake Trailhead” right here at Recreation.gov.
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Directions To Marion Falls
Directions to Marion Falls and Gatch Falls are pretty straightforward and easy. From Salem, Oregon the car ride is 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Type in “Marion Lake Trailhead” on Google Maps and stay on Highway 22 until you turn left onto Marion Creek Road (which is a gravel road). After about 10 minutes on Marion Creek Road, the road terminates into the parking lot. Here, there are pit toilets to use before you depart.
Want more Google Map tricks? Read about the 15 most useful road trip apps to download before your next adventure!
What To Expect On Marion Falls Trail
The trail to Marion Falls (Trail #3436) starts out as any of these classic Pacific Northwest hiking trails – under a dense canopy of trees, made up of Mountain Hemlock, Douglas Fir, and Red Cedar.
Once you reach Lake Ann, the trail goes through a section made up of dark volcanic rock.
Watch your step because these boulders can be quite unstable, especially after heavy rain. Listen carefully too – you might be able to hear the gurgling of the creek that flows right under these rocks!
A little past Lake Ann, you’ll encounter your first trail junction that is marked with a wooden sign. Stay right, towards Marion Outlet Trail #3495.
You won’t be on this trail for long, however, because about 200 yards ahead you’ll reach your next trail turn…
Finding this correct side trail is easy, but only if you know what you’re looking for!
Keep an eye out for a trail to the right blocked with down trees and branches. This is the trail to use! Continue on this unmaintained trail through a maze of more downed trees (some climbing required) and you’ll soon hear the rumble of the falls below.
There is a small landing where you can almost see the falls, but the real views are now just a short distance below. You’ll start to descend on the trail quickly and steeply, so take these sections slowly. Make sure to keep three points of contact at all times as you climb down.
We went when it was dry, but I can imagine this place can be a bit dangerous after heavy rain or with snow or ice on the ground. Be careful!
Marion Falls is first, with Gatch Falls following almost directly after it.
Once we reached the landing, we saw a short, overgrown trail that leads to the plunge pool below the waterfall. We didn’t make it down because the mist would have soaked us!
Instead, we continued our descent down the root-covered, slippy trail for the second landing featuring both Marion and Gatch Falls.
Gatch Falls is wider and shorter, but we liked the view from the Gatch Falls landing best. From here you can see both falls!
We spent quite a bit of time here, soaking in the views and taking a lunch break.
Marion Falls and Gatch Falls have easily become some of our most favorite Oregon waterfalls, and we loved every minute of this beautiful trail!
Accommodations NEAR Marion Falls
Looking to stay nearby? Here are some places to stay near the Willamette National Forest, for close proximity to adventure!
The Independence Hotel. Located in the adorable town of Independence, Oregon, this area is quiet, historic, and perfect for travelers who like to take it a little slower. This hotel provides the perfect amount of luxury and adventure, adorning the walls with local Oregon artists and bike storage in every room.
The Suttle Lodge. The Suttle Lodge is the closest luxury accommodations to Marion and Gatch Falls. This is the perfect place for a Portland weekend getaway for adventure lovers who are seeking cool day trips around the Willamette National Forest and Central Cascades.
FivePine Lodge. FivePine Lodge is an excellent anniversary trip for outdoor lovers, seeking solitude among the pines!
Other Things To Do In The Willamette National Forest
Hike To Sahalie and Koosah Falls: This easy 1-mile loop brings you to not one but two iconic Oregon waterfalls! This is a great stop on an Oregon road trip, driving through Highway 126 on your way to camping and hiking. Come stretch your legs and see them for yourself!
Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park: Nearby Salem, Oregon is a small slice o8f beauty among the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Hike the famous Trail of Ten Falls to see 10 unique waterfalls in one 7.2 mile loop!
A Willamette Valley Weekend Trip In Oregon: Stay nearby in the Willamette Valley to experience Oregon’s Wine Country. Enjoy unique vineyards and tasting rooms, farm-to-table dinners, and adorable towns like Independence Hotel for a relaxing and luxurious getaway from Portland.
Even More Oregon Waterfalls: Can’t get enough of the beautiful waterfalls in Oregon? Discover more nearby! The closest ones to Marion and Gatch Falls are Proxy Falls, Salt Creek Falls, Abiqua Falls, and Diamond Creek Falls.