hike: Falls Creek Falls
Stunning Falls Creek Falls is the highlight of this loop hike that combines an easy hike alongside a mossy creek in old-growth forest with an upper ridge trail and canyon views.
- Trailhead: Falls Creek
- Distance: 6.3 miles (roundtrip)
- Elevation gain: 1,150 ft.
- Difficulty: moderate
- Hike type: loop
- Typically open: April 1 to Nov. 30
- Features: waterfall, creeks, canyon view
- Fees/permits: NW Forest Pass
- Agency: Mount Adams Ranger District, Gifford Pinchot National Forest
- Trail info: USFS; Oregon Hikers
- Drive time from Portland: 1 hour 30 minutes
Since the 2-mile road to the trailhead is gated starting on Dec. 1 each year, I wanted to do this hike before then. We’ve had a super rainy month, so the water levels were higher than normal in the creeks and waterfall. It’s been too long since I’d been here (over 7 years), and I’m glad I finally made it back. I love rainforest hikes, especially when they include cascading creeks and waterfalls.
Following Falls Creek, after the first half-mile cross a cable suspension bridge which spans the creek at a narrow gorge. From here, the trail enters an old-growth forest of western red cedar and Douglas fir. In autumn the understory of vine maples turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red.
Alongside the trail, there are several areas where you can explore the creek up close. Continuing along the trail, it begins to climb higher above the creek. Continue past a connector trail to the Upper Falls Creek trail. To do the loop, you’ll track back to this junction. For now, head straight on the trail.
Soon after, you will begin to hear the roar of Falls Creek Falls (200 ft.). The upper tier of the three-tier waterfall is visible through the trees. At the base of the falls, only the bottom two tiers are visible. Large boulders in an open wooded area provide plenty of seating to soak in the views.
To continue the full loop, go back about 0.3 miles to the junction with the upper trail and head up the steep trail for 0.2 miles, then turn right on the Upper Falls Creek trail. The upper trail is open to equestrians and continues east for about four more miles to the Falls Creek Horse Camp at Forest Road 65.
After hiking a little over half a mile along this forested ridge-trail high above the creek, begin looking for faint side trails to the right. Several of these lead to cliff-edge views of the Falls Creek canyon and limited views of the waterfall.
After exploring the side trails, turn around and return the same way, passing the junction trail and continuing on the gently declining trail for just over 1.5 miles to the trail leading to a bridge over Falls Creek. Turn left here and go another 0.6 miles to return to the parking lot.