Oregon is rich with waterfalls—there’s a reason the state’s major mountain range is called the Cascades. And southern Oregon in particular, with its abundance of rivers, lakes and streams, is home to some of the most beautiful falls imaginable. There are a lot of choices, but one must-do in the Medford area is Prospect Scenic Viewpoint, formerly known as Mill Creek Falls Scenic Area. A series of short trails on both sides of the North Fork of the Rogue River (aka Upper Rogue) lead you to three splendid, uniquely different cascades, and down to a geologic feature known as the Avenue of the Boulders.
Prospect Scenic Viewpoint is near the small town of Prospect, which dates back to 1870, when it was the site of a sawmill. About midway between Medford and Crater Lake National Park, Prospect today is surrounded by excellent outdoor recreation opportunities. The viewpoint was once a private hiking area owned by timber/logging companies. There are still huge Doug firs, oak and maple stands. And the trails are open year-round and the falls are beautiful in any season, though spring is the best time for full-throttle gushes. Water aside, there are plenty of birdwatching opportunities as well, and in the spring, an abundance of wildflowers tucked into carpets of fern and moss.
There are two great, established trails; one on either side of the Rogue River Canyon. The first is a short, half-mile trail (on the west, river-right rim of the canyon) to the Mill Creek and Barr Creek Falls overlooks, which provide full top-down views of both falls across the river as they tumble and crash into the mighty Rogue. The path to the viewpoint is well-maintained, but there are exposed sections and steep drops, so keep kids and dogs close. From the trailhead (take a phone-pic of the trail map there), hike down a quarter-mile to where the trail forks. Stay right for the Mill Creek Falls overlook and continue on 0.125 miles to the Barr Creek Falls overlook. On your way back to the car, you can take the other fork (the Mill Creek Spur Trail), which runs north a quarter-mile (upriver) to the Avenue of the Boulders.
Mill Creek Falls has a classic, unimpeded 174-foot drop. The mist from the falls makes the end of the overlook hike feel like you’ve been transported through a portal into a magical world. Keep walking south a few hundred yards and you’ll see Barr Creek Falls, a three-drop, 240-foot waterfall with one a freefalling 150-foot plunge.