Dry Creek Falls

Option 1

  • Level: Easy to Dry Creek Falls (Beginner Level: Challenging)
  • Length: 4.8 miles
  • Elevation: 740+ ft. gain
  • Type: out and back
  • Open: all year

Option 2

  • Level: Difficult
  • Length: 11.2 miles
  • Elevation: 1,600+ ft. gain
  • Type: out and back
  • Open: all year

Further Details

  • Permit: Northwest Forest Pass or, $5-$10 (I keep forgetting to check!)
  • Drive time from Portland: 45min
  • Google map: “Bridge of the Gods trailhead”
  • Features: Columbia River Gorge, waterfalls, Pacific Crest Trail

DryCreekFalls3Dry Creek Falls

It was such a beautiful almost-spring day. No rain with occasional bursts of sunlight glittering the dripping sword ferns. Hiking has taught me not to dread winter or hate the rain, but I can’t deny the hope and promise and possibility that comes with getting caught in a sudden downpour of sunlight. Spring! And then it will be summer! Where we in the Pacific Northwest become our best selves.

Dry Creek Falls is just 2.4 miles in from the Bridge of the Gods trailhead in Cascade Locks, on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a stunning 50-foot plume in a huge moss and lichen crusted basalt amphitheater that tumbles into its small pool as if hitting a sheet of glass. Dry Creek is definitely not dry. It’s a narrow creek with the greenest mossy boulders, water rushing white. Clear signs of fairy life abound.

DryCreekFallsDry Creek Falls

DryCreekFalls2“the old road” to Dry Creek Falls

The hike to the falls makes a solid 4.8-mile round trip trek, but I caught the holy nature spirit, so I continued on toward Herman Creek for more milage and another waterfall. It’s no secret that I love Herman Creek—-wow, did I just say that? I mean, I do really love Herman Creek. I’ve been out there three times in the last few months, but Jesus Christ, do I have to say it like that? Anyway, I had just finished reading Erin Miller’s, Hiker Trash, her memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and I was feeling a little eager to play on the PCT for the day.

PacificCrestTrailAre you there, Spring? It’s me, Jenny.

About 1.8 miles past Dry Creek, I reached Three Spires and just beyond that, Pacific Crest Falls. After my last Herman Creek excursion, someone told me to climb up the ravine that encases the falls, so I did. I don’t exactly recommend it even though it feels good to know I did and the scree flying out from under my feet at every step kept it exciting. The view of the falls from it’s actual base was nice, nothing miraculous. I think it’s actually better from the trail. From there, I continued on another 1.2-miles to my destination, the Herman Creek Bridge. Had lunch and returned the way I came for a cool 11.2-mile total trek.

From under one of the Three Spires -> the base of Pacific Crest Falls.

Disclaimer: I did a lot of this mapping myself looking at various websites and books. The lengths and elevation gains could be slightly different, but I feel like they’re pretty accurate. It feels really fucking cool to know the Gorge so well at this point and I can’t wait to make up more trails soon.

From the trailhead:

Enter the PCT from the Bridge of the Gods parking lot, just past the bathroom and to the left. You’ll soon go under an overpass with all of this cool PCT stuff (Instagram photo below). There’s a mess of signs in this very short area, just follow the ones saying “PCT South.” After 2.1-miles and a hefty elevation gain, you’ll reach Dry Creek. Turn right on the old road for 0.3-mile to Dry Creek Falls. This is the turnaround point for a 4.8-mile trip. If continuing on, get back on the PCT by crossing the bridge over Dry Creek and head east for another 1.8-miles to Three Spires on the left. After another 0.2-mile, you’ll come to Pacific Crest Falls, a good turnaround point for an 8.8-mile trail. If your destination is the Herman Creek Bridge, continue on another 0.4-mile to a junction with the Herman Creek Bridge Trail, turning left for 0.8-mile to the bridge. Return the way you came.

Another option: You could start at the Herman Creek Trailhead or Bridge of the Gods Trailhead and use the Columbia Gorge Trail as a connector to make a loop trail. Haven’t mapped it myself, but I know it’s doable and I imagine it wouldn’t add distance as it basically runs along the highway. Could even be shorter, but don’t hold me to it.

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