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Duncan Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

This page is marked as a Lost Hike. The "trail" may be dangerous and hard to follow and is not recommended for beginning hikers without an experienced leader. Carry detailed maps of the whole area and/or a GPS unit and compass.
Apron Falls on the East Fork of Duncan Creek (bobcat)
Looking across the footbridge on the West Fork of Duncan Creek (bobcat)
Part of the Nellie Corser Cascades, East Fork of Duncan Creek (bobcat)
Quad Falls on the East Fork of Duncan Creek (bobcat)
The route up the East Fork of Duncan Creek, passing several waterfalls (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start point: Duncan Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Railcar Falls
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 4.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1100 feet
  • High Point: 2,050 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Spring through fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

Duncan Creek is one of the hidden marvels of the Washington Gorge, a lush, rushing stream of tumbling cascades and plunging waterfalls which increase in size as you ascend the creek. The hike takes you up the East Fork Duncan Creek on State of Washington, Gifford Pinchot, and Friends of the Gorge Land Trust property to a logging road on Longview Timberlands territory. The trail is rooty and steep in places, not your conventional three-foot wide gently graded standard. However, it is usually easy to follow, and there should be flagging in place as a further aid. To see the lower end of the East Fork Duncan Creek from a different perspective, add the short Nellie Corser Loop Hike as part of the outing.

From the turnaround, walk back down the road to cross over the road bridge on Duncan Creek. Walk around the crash barrier on the north side of the bridge, and then walk back towards the creek to pick up an obvious boot path leading up the creek. About 25 yards from the road, you’ll see a side trail branching off to the left and leading up the bluff. Hike a short distance atop the bluff, and then turn right to pass between two large cedars. The route drops down the bluff through a patch of devil’s club to a log with a makeshift plank railing astride the West Fork Duncan Creek. Once across the log, head upstream a short distance, and then angle up the slope to your right through the sword ferns.

Reach the ridge crest under tall Douglas-firs and spreading vine maples. Keep rising through an Oregon grape carpet, and then shift eastward to drop to a campsite above the East Fork Duncan Creek. A user trail heads a short distance down the creek from the campsite for views of the Nellie Corser Cascades. Then hike upstream. You can see across the creek the rusting remains of a water intake facility, once powered by a waterwheel, that serviced the Corser homestead in what is now a State Wildlife Area. Continuing upstream, you’ll notice a 2017 clearcut across the creek. The trail has been cleared through a tangle of blowdown and passes above a narrow defile. Above this is a wider waterfall, part of the Lower Quad Falls complex.

The trail drops and then rises to a spur with a view to Quad Falls as it roars down a narrow gorge. Cross an old road bed, and hike up to get a view of the highest tier of Quad Falls. Now you will begin to notice huge old snags from the 1902 Yacolt Burn. Pass a marker on a tree denoting the lower boundary of the Friends of the Gorge Land Trust property known as Good’s Woods. This 50-acre parcel was donated to the Land Trust in 2018 by the daughter of the previous owners, Vern and Virginia Good, in their honor. The gradient becomes less steep, and the East Fork Duncan Creek runs to your right in a more sedate manner. Pass a wide shallow slide over smooth bedrock. Exit Good’s Woods at another Land Trust marker, and squeeze between two burn snags with a group of hemlocks sending down roots from one of them. Ahead, you’ll see the wide cascade of Apron Falls, called Slide Falls by canyoneers. Step over a couple of mossy logs, and pass the flagged junction with a trail that was worked on by Gorge legend Russ Jolley; this trail heads east towards Archer Mountain. A spur leads right for a closer view of Apron Falls, which fills the channel in the wet season but becomes a mere splashing trickle in summer.

On the main trail, traverse right through salmonberry and vine maple, and then switchback left. From this switchback, you can make out the log-choked lower cascades of Railcar Falls, the biggest waterfall on this hike. It is not very profitable trying to bushwhack across this steep and thorny slope of salmonberry and devil’s club, so stay on the path and wind up steeply into a clearcut tangled with native blackberry and black raspberry. Once on the level, hike to the right along the edge of the clearcut. As you near a logging road, a track leads right to a rocky rim and a view of the upper tier of Railcar Falls, about the best view you’re going to get of this waterfall. Hike out to the logging road, and go right to the bridge over the East Fork Duncan Creek. You can see the lip of Railcar Falls from here, but also duck under the bridge to see why they got their unofficial name: The bridge itself is a repurposed railcar! Walking a little farther along the road (You are now on Longview Timberlands property), will get you wide-ranging views to the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.


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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.