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Drift Creek Falls Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Drift Creek Falls (Paul Gerald)
Vine maple arbor on the North Loop (bobcat)
Drift Creek Falls from the creek (Greg Lief)
On the suspension bridge (Greg Lief)
The trail system at Drift Creek Falls (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/MapBuilder Topo
  • Start point: Drift Creek Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Drift Creek Falls
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back with a loop
  • Distance: 3.7 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 540 feet
  • High point: 960 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

This hike offers something for everyone, a waterfall, a huge suspension bridge, and a lush experience of the Coast Range forest. The trail, completed in 1997, is wide and well maintained. The only flaw may be that its elevation gain is backwards; you have a nice stroll down; then you need to climb back out although the well-graded trail makes the climb fairly easy. Passing up North Loop option, described below, will reduce your hiking distance by half a mile. The Forest Service has developed an interpretive brochure you can download and use for the hike.

The trail starts by contouring down the forested slope below the trailhead. The route is timbered in 70-year-old regrowth of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and a few Sitka spruce. However, there's a nearby clearcut visible through the trees. Together, they create an interesting study of the forest healing itself. The undergrowth is dominated by salal, red huckleberry, sword fern and Oregon grape. Soon, the trail rounds a gentle ridge and heads back westward into a small side canyon shaded by alders. You may hear voices from across the way and soon you'll see that the trail goes back down the other side of the valley, creating a charming little U turn with a couple of small bridges over trickling, seasonal creeks. Just past the U, there's a trail junction.

Take the uphill trail, the North Loop, which rejoins the main trail in 0.8 miles. It's not as well maintained as the main trail and has more elevation gain, but includes some old growth forest. This trail follows the contours in and out of gullies in dark, secondary forest. You can hear a creek below. Round the nose of a ridge and make a traverse to cross a gully and switchback down twice above another gully. The trail crosses a footbridge and then soon drops into a grove of old growth Douglas-firs and hemlocks. The path winds down through this grove and switchbacks, passing through a salmonberry thicket under mossy vine maples to reach the North Fork of Drift Creek. The trail here is muddy as it passes under big-leaf maples and alders. Cross a footbridge to join the main trail, where you can go left.

The trail follows the North Fork and then crosses it via a footbridge. There's a bench on the opposite side of the stream, and this is a reasonably safe area for kids to wade in the creek. Beyond the footbridge over Drift Creek, the trail passes a few large trees and more recovering forest of young conifers draped in moss and lichens. Soon, you'll abruptly arrive at "the" bridge. Here, the North Fork of Drift Creek suddenly plunges 66 feet into a basalt gorge below the suspension bridge to reach its confluence with Drift Creek. The bridge is certainly sturdy enough to carry you, but it does sway a bit as you cross, so it can be intimidating to those uncomfortable with heights. There's a clearing that serves as a picnic area, but the best view of the falls is about a quarter mile further, where the trail switchbacks down once to a photogenic view of Drift Creek Falls. There's a bench here, and boulders along the stream make for a good resting spot. Note that in 2010, a large chunk of the cliff beside the falls peeled off and crashed down into the creek.

On the way back, you can take the main trail instead of the North Loop. The trail traverses up above the North Fork Drift Creek and then levels in secondary forest. You'll hike above a gully to the upper junction with the North Loop, where you need to stay left to return to your vehicle.


Maps

Fees, Facilities, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required at trailhead
  • Vault toilets, information kiosk at trailhead
  • Picnic tables at Drift Creek Falls

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Urban Hikes Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Oregon Hiking by Matt Wastradowski
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Craig Hill & Matt Wastradowski
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • 120 Hikes on the Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson
  • Best Hikes with Children: Western & Central Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Oregon's North Coast by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hiking the Oregon Coast by Lizann Dunegan
  • 75 Hikes in Oregon's Coast Range and Siskiyous by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • 50 Hikes in Oregon by David L. Anderson
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Coast Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Craig Hill & Matt Wastradowski
  • Waterfall Lover's Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb
  • 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.