Falls Creek Falls: Juggernaut of the Northwest

Prepare to be overwhelmed. Falls Creek Falls is one of the largest and most powerful waterfalls in the entire Pacific Northwest. Fed by an extensive network of springs and streams on the Red Mountain plateau – a product of the same volcanic eruptions that created nearby Big Lava Field – Falls Creek hurtles 335 feet over a massive valley headwall in three steps. The first, and most elusive tier, fans smoothly over a 100 foot basalt cliff.  Shortly after, the creek widens to nearly 100 feet and veils over a high, protruding shelf before funneling into the final 90 foot plunge.

Falls Creek Falls is so huge that it is impossible to see the entire waterfall in one view. However, hikers do get quite an impressive view from the overlook at the end of the Falls Creek Trail. Pick up Falls Creek Trail #152A from the parking lot. After crossing a wooden bridge over tumbling Falls Creek, follow the trail gradually uphill for 1.7 miles through dense evergreen forest. To reach the base of the falls, ignore any trails branching uphill. After rounding a corner next to a towering moss-draped rock slab, the upper tiers of Falls Creek Falls come into view.  

Excitement builds and the thundering roar of the falls grows louder as the trail approaches the overlook. From the overlook, one is treated to a breathtaking head-on view of the towering falls. Exercise caution here as the rocks are slippery. One slip could lead to a long fall into the misty chasm below that none could survive. There are trails here that lead to closer views of the middle tier. Use extreme caution on these paths as they are unmaintained, often exposed, and slippery. After being properly awed by the falls, turn around and follow the same path back to the parking area.

Driving directions: From Portland, take I-80 east to the Cascade Locks exit (exit 44). From here, take WA-14 E over Bridge of the Gods. After crossing the bridge, turn right on WA-14 E and continue 7.7 miles to the Wind River Hwy. Turn left onto the Wind River Hwy. and drive approximately 18 miles to National Forest Road 3062 signed for Falls Creek. Exit here and continue another 2.3 miles to the trailhead.

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