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Dry Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Dry Creek in the spring (Cheryl Hill)
Big cedar, Dry Creek Trail (bobcat)
Twin giants, Dry Creek Trail (bobcat)
The relatively flat walk along Dry Creek (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo


Hike Description

NOTICE: The trail was affected by the 2020 Big Hollow Fire but was reopened in August 2021.

It’s not easy to find hikes in the national forest in the depths of winter, but this trail, adjacent to the Trapper Creek Wilderness, offers one of the best options. The hike is easy and, especially at the upper end of the trail near Bourbon Creek, you will encounter some massive Douglas-firs. The leafy maple bottoms are spectacular in the fall, which is also a good time to go mushroom spotting on this trail. Dry Creek, a tributary of the Wind River, runs clear and wide and is often close to the trail: watch for beaver activity as well as deer, elk, and coyote sign. And yes, the creek may run dry in a couple of spots - at least on the surface - in the late summer/early fall. The first three miles of the trail were unaffected by the Big Hollow Fire, but you will begin to note fire scars as you approach Bourbon Creek. Between Bourbon Creek and the junction with the Big Hollow Trail, there was a more complete crown fire. Note also that Bourbon Creek may necessitate a ford after the rains begin in the fall.

The Dry Dreek Trail can be combined with other trails to make a long loop that includes Howe Ridge in the Trapper Creek Wilderness. Hike Dry Creek and then ascend to the ridge crest via the Big Hollow Trail. Go left on the Observation Trail, soon detouring to visit Observation Peak, before making the long descent to the Trapper Creek Trail, where you'll turn left to exit the wilderness. The loop is about 16 miles, with most of the serious elevation gain on the Big Hollow leg only.

Walk past the information kiosk at the trailhead and enter a mossy woodland. After 70 yards, come to the Trapper Creek-Dry Creek Trail Junction, and go right on the latter trail. Hike through a carpet of Oregon grape under a secondary growth of Douglas-fir, western red-cedar, grand fir, western hemlock, and big-leaf maple. Note the large stumps with springboard notches in them. Soon arrive at a bottomland shaded by maple trees cloaked in a thick wrapping of moss. Reenter coniferous forest. A spur trail leads to Dry Creek on the right.

The trail rises up a slope – look up to see some impressive old growth Douglas-firs. Cross a small slide area and then drop into secondary forest again. Spurs lead to a rocky narrows on the creek. Soon find yourself hiking along a flat, mossy road bed. The trail reaches Dry Creek at a wide gravel bar and turns away from the water to contour above a maple bottom. Come to the creek again at a wide bend. Note some of the clear, deep pools here and look for beaver-damaged maples. Keep close to the creek as the trail passes below a steep mossy slope to reach another bottomland of maple, alder, and cottonwood with a dense undergrowth of salmonberry. Dry Creek braids around a large alder gravel bar here.

Pass around the edge of another vast maple bowl and hike up a slope. The trail uses another road bed here as you encounter some big Douglas-firs. Leave the road bed to pass more large Douglas-firs as you descend to cross a creek on a footbridge. Cross another footbridge over a dry gully and reach a bluff above Dry Creek. (The two footbridges were funded under the 2010 American Recovery and Reinvestment - 'the Stimulus' - Act.) Drop to a bottom which supports a few large cedars and hike along the base of a slope.

Reach wide, always flowing Bourbon Creek. There’s no bridge here, and the crossing can be tricky if you want to keep your feet dry (a supple vine maple might provide a ‘bridge’); otherwise, ford the creek and continue past two monster Douglas-firs to the Big Hollow-Dry Creek Trail Junction. Go right to the bank of Big Hollow Creek, where you can sit and have lunch near the slippery log crossing.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Wind River, WA #397
  • Trapper Creek Wilderness (USFS)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Adams Wilderness, Indian Heaven Wilderness, Trapper Creek Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Adams Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount St. Helens - Mt. Adams

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required at trailhead
  • Self-issued Wilderness Permit
  • $2 toll at the Bridge of the Gods

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Washington's Mount Adams Country by Fred Barstad
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano

More Links


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.