Kentucky Falls from NF of Smith River
I was not successful in reaching the Kentucky Falls when I attempted this trip back in February. This effort on April 19-20 was a perfect trip.
The weather was perfect, the trail was relatively dry and the Kentucky Falls were amazing. This hike is one of the best River hikes in Oregon, however, getting to the trailheads is a real pain. No matter which direction you approach from the last hour is a difficult one lane road with many possible problems. I found that coming from the north access via Mapleton is a safe bet. Access over the coastal mountains from the east is more scenic but snow can be an issue.
The Lower Kentucky Twin Falls are 6.5 miles with the Upper Falls at about 7.5 miles. These are impressive water falls which can be accessed from the Kentucky Falls Trailhead, but that option is for day hikers, access from the North Fork of the Smith River Trailhead makes for a great overnight backpacking trip.
The trail is in excellent shape except for some of the less travelled portion from about 5-6 miles. Two new bridges across the Smith make this trail from the downstream trailhead a great overnighter, or you could setup a shuttle between the trailheads.
The first bridge is at 1.7 miles and the second at 3.2. After the second bridge you climb up the south side crossing various small streams. This portion of the trail will need some maintenance to shore it up and remove a few trees. No real problems but some hassles. However, this portion of the trail is extremely beautiful. A few little water falls before you get to the big ones. And a few campsites about a mile before the big falls which are important to note since there is only one real campsite above the lower Kentucky Falls.
Once you approach the lower falls you first see the less visible falls on the left and then you the falls on the right. I arrived around 5:00 pm so the sun from the west was perfectly lighting the falls.