Growing up in Portland, we have hiked most of the popular Columbia River Gorge trails more than once. This Memorial Day our family set out to find a new hiking trail that is both family friendly and not too crowded like many of the better known trails have become over the years. While this trail did have a gradual slope, I would classify it as easy for most hikers with the biggest incline at the last 1/4 mile before the falls.
Located in the town of Cascade Locks, Dry Creek Falls is a family friendly hike through forest trails in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. This short hike follows along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and takes you through a beautiful forested area to Herman Creek. It’s the perfect spring hike when the weather is warm in town. The canopy of fir trees keeps the temperatures cool while dappled sun peeking through really highlights the beautiful plant life along the trail. Mossy trees above, and ferns at your feet, this trail is loaded with the lush greenery the Columbia Gorge is known for. At the end of the 2.2 mile hike, you are rewarded with a beautiful 74 foot waterfall surrounded on all sides by a wall of basalt. You can walk up close and feel the spray as it comes down…so refreshing!
One you arrive at the falls, there are plenty of large boulders to sit on and enjoy a well earned picnic lunch with a beautiful view of Dry Creek Falls. Don’t forget to bring along water and treats for your four-legged companion too! I like to bring a collapsible bowl for our dog because it takes up less room in the backpack. *(Be sure to pack out everything you brought with you!)
Before leaving Cascade Locks, you must stop by the Eastwind Drive-in for a soft serve ice cream cone. Seriously don’t miss this place! They are known for their generous portions. A small cone is more like a large and the large is just ridiculous! The Eastwind Drive-in does serve other things on their menu too, but don’t kid yourself, you want to get the ice cream! You can find this local mom and pop diner at 395 Wa-Na-Pa Street, along the main road through Cascade Locks. Look for the neon sign with a penguin holding and ice cream cone. On warm days, expect a line, but it usually goes pretty fast. There is a park nearby with a view of the Columbia River and a play structure for little kids. It’s been a tradition in our family since I was a kid. Once you try the ice cream, it will be a tradition in your family too!
Dry Creek Falls sits nicely in the shade, giving it consistent lighting for most of the day with the exception of mid-day, which does bring in some bright sun along the outer edges. There is a light spray coming off the falls, so be careful to wipe your lens before taking your photo. Camera Settings for the above left image: ISO 100, f10, 1/5. Depending on lighting conditions your camera settings may vary.
- Start point: Bridge of the Gods Trailhead or
- Start point: PCT Winter Trailhead
- End point: Dry Creek Falls
The trickiest part of this hike is finding the trail head. Dry Creek Falls is accessed from the Pacific Crest Trail at Cascade Locks. Park at the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead next to the Bridge of the Gods and follow the trail under Interstate 84. Under the highway the trail intersects a road, walk up the road about 300 feet to the continuation of the trail on the left. About 2 miles from the trailhead the trail crosses Dry Creek. Just before crossing the creek, follow a gravel road uphill for another 1/4 mile to the falls.