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Falls Creek Falls Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Falls Creek Falls (Curtis Barnard)
The suspension bridge over Falls Creek (cfm)
Falls Creek above the suspension bridge (bobcat)
Falls Creek above the upper tier of Falls Creek Falls (bobcat)
Leafy slopes on the Falls Creek Trail (bobcat)
Fluted black elfin saddle (Helvella lacunosa), Falls Creek (bobcat)
The loop hike to Falls Creek Falls and the viewpoints (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start point: Falls Creek Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Falls Creek Falls
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike type: Loop with spurs
  • Distance: 6.3 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 1445 feet
  • High point: 2,370 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: April 1st - Dec 1st
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: On the Falls Creek Falls Trail

Contents

Hike Description

Falls Creek Falls, a triple plunge of 335 total feet, is one of the most scenic waterfall destinations in the Pacific Northwest. The falls are picturesque even during the summer and become an impressive, roaring, and misty cascade during the wet season. While a trip on the Falls Creek Falls Trail #152A to view the lower two tiers of the waterfall is short and also very popular (see the Falls Creek Falls Hike), a longer hike to the rim above the falls gives you glimpses of the upper tier and takes you along the much less traveled Falls Creek Trail #152, which you can also use to make a quiet loop back to the parking area.

A wide trail leads into the forest to the left of the restrooms. After 75 yards, you’ll come to a junction marked for a “horse camp”: this will be your return point to close the loop hike, but to get to the waterfall, keep right. The lower elevation forest here is composed of Douglas-fir, hemlock, and western red-cedar with a carpet of Oregon grape, salal, and red huckleberry. Soon you’ll be hiking along pretty Falls Creek, overhung with deciduous big-leaf maples and alders, as it drops among mossy boulders. The trail proceeds above the narrow gorge carved by the creek. In the fall, you may notice yellowing larch trees among the evergreens: the larch is our only conifer that is deciduous. About 0.4 miles from the trailhead, cross the narrow gorge on a suspension bridge and continue along the north bank of the creek.

The stream is still in view as the trail hugs a steep slope among large Douglas-firs with a number of Pacific yew trees in the understory. Cross a rocky draw and keep rising as the trail moves away from the creek. Pass the junction with the connector trail that will take you up to the Falls Creek Trail after you’ve visited the waterfall. The trail crosses a steel bridge over a gully of mossy boulders and then passes along a steep talus slope held together by vegetation. You’ll hike under a dripping cliff and turn a corner to get your first sighting of Falls Creek Falls. Look for tree casts in the lava outcroppings above. The trail drops and then rises to a bouldery overlook of the falls. The lowest tier of the falls plunges 90 feet into a dark amphitheater. Above them, the pretty middle section splashes in multiple streams down a rock face and cascades below. The very top of the uppermost section of the falls, a 110-foot veil waterfall, is only just visible from this vantage point.

After you’ve had you fill of this majestic scene, return to the junction with the connector trail. This short rooty trail winds steeply up the slope in an understory of vine maple, Oregon grape, and salal. A sign at the junction with the Falls Creek Trail designates it as a “primitive trail” with no horses or bikes permitted.

Turn right at the junction, and gradually traverse up a steep slope of tall Douglas-firs with mossy cliffs above. Vanilla leaf, pipsissewa, and twin flower form the forest carpet. Once the trail levels, look for a path leading right where the trail braids. This will take you out to a rim top viewpoint with a makeshift bench offering a view to the middle and upper tiers of Falls Creek Falls, which are partially screened by trees. South Butte looms across the valley. You can follow a user trail to your right along the cliff edge to get a slightly better view of the upper tier.

Return to the main trail and continue through a quiet Douglas-fir/hemlock forest. In a flat area, look for a path that leads between two trees out to a clifftop viewpoint with a campfire circle that looks down the Falls Creek valley. A steep scramble trail down will take you to the lip of Falls Creek Falls’ upper tier, with a view of the beautiful creek upstream. Back up at the viewpoint, you can take a trail above the creek to rejoin the Falls Creek Trail, turning left to finish the hike. (The Falls Creek Trail continues about another seven miles from here up to the Falls Creek Horse Camp - see the Falls Creek Trail Hike)

This time stay on the Falls Creek Trail when you get to the junction with the connector trail. The trail traverses down the slope, crossing several dry rocky gullies. In places, thimbleberry crowds the trail. Once the slope becomes shallower, you’ll proceed in and out of gullies in a younger forest with a few large old Douglas-firs. A spur leads left for a view of Falls Creek. Hike into a bottomland where Falls Creek braids around cobbled islands of alder. In a carpet of salal and Oregon grape, reach an unmarked junction, you’ll bear left. (The trail leading right goes to an abandoned road.)

Cross a wide footbridge to reach a junction. The trail to the right leads to the old horse trailhead, now at the end of a decommissioned section of road. Keep left to wind through the woods and return to Falls Creek at the alder islands. It’s a short distance from here to the junction with the Falls Creek Falls Trail near the trailhead.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Wind River, WA #397
  • 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
  • Adventure Maps: 44 Trails Area plus the best of the G.P.N.F.

Fees, Facilities, etc.

  • Restroom, picnic tables at trailhead
  • Access road (FR 3062) gated from December 1st to March 31st
  • Share Falls Creek Trail #152 with mountain bikers and horses
  • $2 toll at Bridge of the Gods each way

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Waterfalls in Washington by Roddy Scheer with Adam Sawyer
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A Nelson & Alan L. Bauer
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Hiking Washington’s Mount Adams Country by Fred Barstad
  • 33 Hiking Trails: Southern Washington Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Best Short Hikes in Washington’s South Cascades & Olympics by E.M. Sterling & Ira Spring
  • Washington Hiking by Scott Leonard
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Craig Hill & Matt Wastradowski
  • 95 Virtual Hikes of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument by Northwest Hiker
  • Waterfall Lover’s Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb

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.