- Location: Carson, Washington
- Google map: Don’t even try it, see directions below.
- Drive time from Portland: 1h25m +/-
- Permit: n/a
- Intensity: To viewpoint – Easy (Beginner Level: Doable). A few well-graded, switchbacks to overlook platform. To foot of falls – Challenging. About 500 feet of steep, sketchy scrambling.
- Open: April – November
- Pair with: Falls Creek Falls, anything in the Gorge as it’s only a half hour or so in from WA-14
It took me three attempts over the last year or so to find this waterfall. It’s not that it’s So Hard To Find, I just made shitty choices. The first time, I went out blindly because I was in the area and was told it was just off the road. Couldn’t find it. The second time, my girlfriend and I decided to go when it was terribly snowed in for some romantic frozen waterfall drama. After getting stuck in the snow, twice, for over an hour, I finally gave in to the fact that my tiny Toyota Corolla has no business being anywhere in snow. This third and last time, was a success and it is, indeed, right off of the road, but not at all obvious.
The tiny trail to the viewing platform is suitable for anyone who can walk for short distances on an incline and decline. It isn’t terribly steep, but steep enough for it to be noted. The view from the platform is incredible, gorgeous, and it is so worth driving out there for. However, it doesn’t show the entirety of the falls. After stumbling around the area for a path down, I found a few, all rather difficult, but I’m pretty sure I found the best one. I would not recommend this for beginners, people who have a hard time lifting their body repeatedly or those who don’t feel sure-footed on steep climbs.
So this sucks, but I have to mention it: someone recently died here after trying to go down to the falls on a rope. The rope is still there. I’ve seen people use it successfully. I thought it looked terrifying, so I didn’t even try it. The path I indicated does not need it. Regardless, be safe. Being a little scared is one thing, but don’t ever do shit that is so beyond your comfort zone that you are ignoring your instincts. Even if your instincts are telling you something is fine, mistakes happen. Be exceedingly careful.
To viewing platform: From the parking area (see directions below), backtrack about 50-100 feet where you’ll find a path on the opposite side of the road. It is sometimes signed, but apparently locals take the sign down from time to time. I think that means they don’t want you being a dick in this beautiful place, so don’t. The path is pretty obvious once you spot it and it dips down into the trees immediately.
To foot of falls: From the parking area, backtrack a hundred or so yards to a path that sort of goes up a tiny hump and then steeply down into the trees. The first part of this scramble path is the worst and I imagine nearly impossible in heavy rain or snow. There are quite a few roots and small trees for handholds and footing (rock climbers would tell you this is terrible information). I scooted on my butt at a couple of parts. It wasn’t very difficult for me, though I was sore the next day from the climb out.
Directions to Panther Creek Falls:
- On WA-14E, 5.9 miles east of the Bridge of the Gods, turn left onto Sprague-Landing Rd – 200 feet
- Continue onto Wind River Hwy – 5.7 miles
- Turn right onto Old State Rd and immediately turn left onto Panther Creek Rd – 7.4 miles (NOTE: Old State Rd is a loop rd off of Wind River Hwy, meaning it begins and ends off of the hwy. You will be driving past the first entrance to this road.)
- Park at large rock quarry pullout on right.
- paths to viewing platform and/or foot of the falls are on the opposite side of the road as noted above.