Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

Panther Creek Falls Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

At the base of Panther Creek Falls bobcat)
Panther Creek above Panther Creek Falls bobcat)
The newly reconstructed Panther Creek Falls trail splintercat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Panther Creek Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Panther Creek Falls
  • Hike Type: In and out (two short approaches)
  • Distance: 1.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • High Point: 1,820 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable:No
  • Crowded: Summer Weekends

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. The Forest Service recently rebuilt the entire trail system here to mitigate some of the damage that resulted from overuse and people going off-trail for a closer look at the falls. The original viewpoint platform has been removed, and the upper viewpoint has been moved back from the cliff for safety, but this also means that the base of the falls is no longer visible from the upper viewpoint. However, the Forest Service also built an excellent new trail to the base of Panther Creek Falls, replacing a treacherous user path that had resulted in at least one death in recent years. From the new, lower viewpoint you will have a spectacular view of the falls, but please stay within the elaborate rail fences along the trail. The trampled terrain around the falls and several burned trees where careless visitors built a bonfire are reminders of why this area is now so carefully regulated. Panther Creek Falls is a great stopover on the return from a hike in the Indian Heaven Wilderness.

The graveled Panther Creek Falls Trail #137 begins a few yards west of an old quarry, and is marked by a somewhat hard to spot sign where the trail ducks below the road. The trail soon reaches a fork, with the right spur leading down a short switchback lined with rail fencing to the upper viewpoint of the falls. From here, there’s a nice view up the creek of large-leaved devil’s club shrubs and shady cedar trees. Panther Creek Falls 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 reach to the lower viewpoint, follow the left fork at the junction and continue for 1/3 mile past a long switchback and below a wall of cliffs to a set of steps and a couple of short switchbacks that take you to the wall of falling water that is Panther Creek Falls. The lower viewpoint trail passes above the lower tier of Panther Creek Falls, but please admire it from above, as this area is closed for safety and restoration.


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.