Dry Creek Falls is an easy waterfall adventure from downtown Cascade Locks

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It’s not that Dry Creek Falls isn’t a popular hiking destination – it definitely is – but compared to all the other amazing sights around it, the Columbia Gorge waterfall can still feel like an undiscovered gem.

A beautiful waterfall located just off the famous Pacific Crest Trail, just two miles from the legendary Bridge of the Gods, Dry Creek Falls is a perfect day hike for those visiting Cascade Locks, especially hikers who have visited the most popular places nearby.

As the winter snow begins to melt in the Columbia River Gorge, crowds will once again flock to the usual waterfall destinations: Multnomah Falls, Wahclella Falls, Horsetail Falls and the many waterfalls along from the Eagle Creek Trail, to name a few. The sheer number of falls in the gorge means that lesser-known spots can hide in plain sight, providing relatively quieter experiences for those who time their trips correctly.

Dry Creek Falls is one of those places, overshadowed not only by other nearby waterfalls, but also by other city attractions.

Ask people the best things to do in Cascade Locks and they’ll likely discover the Bridge of the Gods and the Pacific Crest Trail, plus Thunder Island and Gorges Breweries, not to mention the traditional smoked salmon at Brigham Fish Market. or the milkshakes at Eastwind Drive-in. And if it’s waterfalls you’re looking for, you might as well head a few miles west of town to Eagle Creek or Wahclella, which offer some of the best waterfalls in the area.

Anywhere else, Dry Creek Falls might be the star attraction, but in this oversaturated market, it plays second fiddle at best.

A sign at the Bridge of the Gods trailhead in Cascade Locks directs hikers to the Pacific Crest Trail or into town. Jamie Hale / The Oregonian

Hike to Dry Creek Falls

Snow covers a section of burnt forest along the Pacific Crest Trail near Cascade Locks on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. Jamie Hale / The Oregonian

Hike to Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek is blanketed in snow along the Pacific Crest Trail on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. Jamie Hale / The Oregonian

Hike to Dry Creek Falls

Views from the Pacific Crest Trail near Cascade Locks on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. Jamie Hale / The Oregonian

With a main plunge that’s 74 feet high (additional tiers bring the total height to 230 feet), Dry Creek Falls is an awe-inspiring site, cascading into a pool at the base of a basalt amphitheater in the woods. The area was scorched by the Eagle Creek Fire, but much of the forest remains intact, creating a lush setting any time of the year.

The waterfall is at the end of a short trail that starts from the Pacific Crest Trail at a bridge over Dry Creek. From the Bridge of the Gods trailhead in downtown Cascade Locks, it’s about a 4.4-mile round trip, with just 725 feet of elevation gain, according to an Oregon trail Hikers Field Guide.

It’s a fairly easy hike with no major obstacles and only a few gradual climbs. The snow on the trail can be slippery in places, but the trail is at a low enough elevation that it won’t get much accumulation and traveled far enough that the snow will be trampled on when it falls.

Dry Creek Falls pairs perfectly with the many places to eat and drink in Cascade Locks, whether you’re craving fresh salmon, a pint of craft beer, or a burger and milkshake. Don’t be surprised if the restaurants and the trailhead are crowded; just know that this is par for the course in the Columbia River Gorge, even in “overgrown” spots like these.

Hike to Dry Creek Falls

A footbridge leads over Dry Creek on the Pacific Crest Trail near Cascade Locks on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. Jamie Hale / The Oregonian

HIKE TO DRY CREEK FALLS

Distance: 4.4 miles out and back

Difficulty: moderately easy

Approvals: toilets at the trailhead

This hike is rated “moderately easy” for total distance and some gradual climbs.

There are a few places to start a hike to Dry Creek Falls, but your best bet is the established trailhead on the Oregon side of the Bridge of the Gods.

From Portland, take Interstate 84 to Exit 44 for Cascade Locks and turn quickly right following signs for Bridge of the Gods. The trailhead parking lot is in the center of the bridge access ramp. If there is no parking available, look for parking on Wa Na Pa Street and return to the trailhead (NOTE: There is no sidewalk on the ramp to the bridge, so be careful to traffic).

From the trailhead parking lot, cross the street and look for signs for the Pacific Crest trailhead. Follow the path uphill a little and pass under the highway. Turn right on Neighborhood Street across the overpass (Southwest Moody Avenue), and stay right at the fork. On the left side of the road is another trailhead for the Pacific Crest Trail. Turn left and follow her into the woods.

From there, the Pacific Crest Trail stretches for about 1.7 miles until it reaches a footbridge over Dry Creek. Instead of crossing the bridge, look for the sign for Dry Creek Falls and turn right. In about 0.2 miles you will reach the waterfall.

Once you’ve had enough, turn around and go back the way you came.

-Jamie Hale; [email protected]; 503-294-4077; @HaleJamesB

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