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Panther Creek Falls Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

At the base of Panther Creek Falls bobcat)
Panther Creek above Panther Creek Falls bobcat)
Panther Creek Falls from the viewing platform bobcat)
The two short trails described (not a GPS track) bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Panther Creek Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Panther Creek Falls
  • Hike Type: In and out (two short approaches)
  • Distance: 0.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 90 feet
  • High Point: 1,820 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable:No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

Panther Creek Falls is one of the most beautiful and complex waterfalls in our area. Pristine Panther Creek plunges over a cliff just below its confluence with Big Huckleberry Creek. Most of the creek's flow is channeled into a deep groove that steers the spate over the drop in a two-tier plunge, while a small portion of the creek avoids the crevasse and drops directly to the pool below. Right across from the viewing platform, adding atmosphere to this scene, is a series of springs that spills rivulets of water 100 feet down a mossy face into the same plunge pool. Just downstream is a 30-foot drop that completes the cascade. A short and well-maintained trail leads to a viewpoint facing the main falls. To reach its base, however, you'll need to take a scramble path that departs from a separate point on the road and leads very steeply down to the creek right above the 30-foot drop and allows you to get a full-frontal view of Panther Creek Falls. Don't attempt this second excursion, however, unless you are prepared to get dirty and can clamber about steep, brushy faces. Also, what ever you do, do NOT attempt a shortcut from the platform to the lower viewpoint: someone died doing this in 2016. Panther Creek Falls is a great stopover on the return from a hike in the Indian Heaven Wilderness.

Walk 40 yards back down the road from the end of the pullout and cross the road. The graveled Panther Creek Falls Trail #137 leads down and switchbacks to a split-rail fence alongside Panther Creek. There’s a nice view up the creek of large-leaved devil’s club shrubs and shady cedar trees. The trail continues to a viewing platform of the Panther Creek Falls. Panther Creek drops almost 70 feet in two torrents: one rather spindly in the summer, with most of the water spilling over on the west side of the creek. Straight ahead is a Ramona Falls-like veil descending 100 feet from a series of springs on the hillside. The two falls combine in the plunge pool, and then the creek flows over a 30-foot drop that you can't see from this vantage point.

To get to the bottom of the fall, return to the road and walk 150 yards down to the bend. A trail leads in and then curves to the right. It drops steeply down along a rock face. There may be a rope here to assist in the descent. Make a traverse below the mossy rock face under Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and vine maple. The user trail drops at a scramble that connects to the viewing platform (You're advised NOT to attempt this shortcut). Head down steeply; a trail to the left leads to views of the lower falls. From the mossy rocks at the creek get frontal views of Panther Creek Falls. To the left is the lip of the lower falls.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • For safety, keep dogs on leash.
  • Steep scramble to reach the bottom of the falls: attempt at your own risk

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest by David L. Anderson

More Links


Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.