Photo by James McArthur

Portland hiking review of the Falls Creek Falls trail

Hiking is one of the best ways to experience and explore the beauty that the Pacific Northwest offers. The Falls Creek Falls trail is a perfect adventure for anyone looking for a short yet beautiful hike. The trailhead is located in southern Washington near the Columbia River Gorge, roughly an hour and a half away from the Lewis & Clark campus. The trail is 6.2 miles long round trip.

The trail begins along the south side of Falls Creek in a young forest of Douglas firs. One hundred yards from the trailhead, you will bear right at a junction markered for Falls Creek Falls. During the first half mile of the hike, you will notice several points where you can walk down to the creek bed. Falls Creek is littered with smooth rocks, so swimming is not recommended. As you continue walking, the trail begins to rise above the creek bed. At this point, Falls Creek begins to funnel through a small carved canyon and roars in the spring. You will reach a suspension bridge above a narrow gorge, which offers a spectacular view of the white water flowing through Falls Creek. Walking across the suspension bridge takes you to the north side of Falls Creek.

Once you have walked across the suspension bridge, you will notice a change in the forest. This part of the forest is more mature and filled with old-growth cedar and fir. A mile upstream and past the signed connector trail to the Upper Falls Creek Trail, you will reach another footbridge and a large bend in the path. At this part of the trail, you begin to hear the roar of the Falls. As you continue along, you reach a front-row view of the thundering waterfall. 

Falls Creek Falls is a stunning and unique double waterfall and provides a prime location for anyone interested in waterfalls and adventure. The base of the waterfall has boulders perfect for resting, viewing the falls and is also an optimal picnic location. It is also possible to walk up to the middle section of the waterfall. To reach the middle part of the waterfall, look to the left side of the waterfall from the base to find the path. This path has a small handguard, which provides some support during the hike. Be careful and aware of the conditions before hiking to the middle of the waterfall. Depending on the time of the season and recent rainfall, it may be too dangerous to transverse.

If you want to reach the top of the waterfall, return to the trail. There will be a well-marked junction to upper Falls Creek Falls. This part of the path is uphill and steep. It is a little over a mile to reach the top of the waterfall. As you walk uphill, lookout for side trails that lead to spectacular viewpoints of Falls Creek. As you approach the top of the waterfall, the path will become flat and provide an excellent view of the top of the waterfall, Falls Creek valley and the mountains beyond.

After exploring the top of the waterfall, you can return to the parking lot by heading out the way you came or continue on the Falls Creek Falls loop. If you chose to walk the loop, walk back to the upper trail (Trail 152). Walk 152 and past the markered junction of the connector trail for 1.5 miles. 

As you descend, you will walk through a beautiful forest and eventually reach a path that leads to a footbridge. If you end up on or near an abandoned road, you have gone too far. After crossing the footbridge bear left and you will reach the parking lot in about half a mile. This hike is 6.2 miles if you walk the loop.

Before embarking on this adventure, I encourage you to bring a map of the trail, plenty of water, food, a trail first aid kit and a camera to take advantage of this photogenic location. Falls Creek is remarkable and the trail is well maintained. Check online beforehand to make sure the trail is open for the season and that the weather has not made the trail dangerous.

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