Here are some basic trail details:
- The distance is 2.6 miles
- The elevation is 462 feet
- The trail type is out-and-back
- Easy to moderate difficulty
If you're looking for an amazing and fairly easy, kid friendly hike on the Oregon Coast, you'll definitely want to check out the Drift Creek Falls near Lincoln City. The drive is not bad at all, and if you're coming from Portland you're looking at just over 2 hours to get here.
Driving the narrow road to the trailhead will be slow-going, so keep this in mind. You may even encounter snow on the drive to the trailhead during particularly cold periods. Considering the road won't be plowed, you're better off avoiding the area in snowy weather unless you're in a car with all-wheel drive (and tire chains in case you encounter icy road conditions).
Discovering the Majestic Drift Creek Falls Trailhead
Drift Creek Falls is a picturesque waterfall located in the Pacific Northwest region of Oregon, USA. This stunning waterfall is situated amidst the lush greenery of the Siuslaw National Forest and is a popular destination for nature lovers and hikers alike.
The trail leading to the waterfall is approximately three miles long and offers a moderate level of difficulty with an elevation gain of about 500 feet. The only drawback may be its backward elevation gain; you walk down; then you climb back out; although the trail is well-graded, the climb is fairly straightforward.
Visitors can enjoy the beauty of the surrounding forest as they hike towards the waterfall, which is one of the tallest in the Pacific Northwest, standing at a height of around 80 feet.
The journey towards Drift Creek Falls is as rewarding as the destination itself. Visitors can experience breathtaking views of the Oregon Coast Range and the lush temperate rainforest along the trail.
The elevation gain is gradual, making the hike suitable for hikers of all skill levels. The trail is well-maintained and offers several viewing areas where visitors can stop to take in the stunning views of the waterfall and its surroundings.
Drift Creek Falls is a must-visit destination for those looking to experience the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and enjoy a moderate hiking trail with a rewarding waterfall at the end.
There is plenty of parking once you reach the spot and the trail is generally not that busy, especially during the colder seasons. The hike features a waterfall, suspension bridge, and lush Coast Range forest scenery.
The gorgeous bridge at Drift Creek Falls
The coolest part about this hike, in my opinion, is the huge suspension bridge. The 240 foot long bridge spans across Drift Creek and is suspended about 100 feet in the air.
Two 29 foot towers support the bridge, which is anchored by bolts planted in rock on one side and concrete on the other. When crossing you will enjoy the beautiful view about 80 feet down to Drift Creek Falls.
History of Drift Creek Falls
A trail builder known by Scott Paul, who was with the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest died in a tragic rigging accident. Paul was the construction foreman on the early Forest Service portion of the construction, and the bridge has been dedicated to him. A firm known as Sahale, which specializes in trail bridge construction completed the beautiful bridge.
The Drift Creek Bridge has a unique quasi-stiffening truss in the deck and is anchored in rock on one side of the gorge, with concrete deadmen on the other. Sahale made various design changes during construction, including anchor systems, tower configuration, truss assembly, wind cable connections, and railing system. Materials were airlifted to the site, and the mainspan was erected from over 100 feet above the canyon floor.
For those who have a fear of heights, this may not be the hike for you. Being 100 feet above the canyon, it may make your stomach drop. Keep in mind, you can still enjoy a great view without crossing.
With that said, we can assure you the bridge is more than safe and is built to support over 150,000 pounds. Alder trees, ferns, and vine maple surround this gorgeous area in the rain-drenched Siuslaw National Forest.
The hike itself is considered moderate, at only 2.6 miles out and back. Before arriving, you will pass through a historic restored covered bridge, which has been here since 1914.
This bridge was actually considered the oldest remaining covered bridge in Oregon. This bridge once served traffic on a main north-south route along the Oregon coast. Since then, new roads and highways have been built, thus diverting most of the traffic from the now remote site.
Drift Creek Falls is open year-round, and not only great for hiking, but for running and fishing as well. For all pet lovers, this hike is dog friendly, and as long as your pup is on a leash it is completely ok.
How to Access the Foot of the Waterfall
While many visitors scramble down a muddy hill to reach the base of the falls, there is actually a better and easier route to take. In this article, we’ll explore how to get to the base of the falls and the best way to navigate the path.
Firstly, it's important to note that the muddy hill route is unnecessarily difficult and messy. Instead, once you hop off the suspension bridge, continue straight, walking parallel to the canyon. This will lead you to an actual path that gradually winds its way down to the base of the falls. This route is much easier and less muddy than the alternative.
This easier route to the waterfall has a downside: accessing the rocks requires hugging the opposite hillside, scrambling over wet rocks, and ducking under logs, which may need mild flexibility and shoes with good grip to avoid slipping.
If you do decide to take this route, be very careful and take your time. While it may be more challenging, the views from the base of the falls are breathtaking and well worth the effort. Just remember to stay safe and enjoy the stunning beauty of Drift Creek Falls.
Map to Drift Creek Falls
From Salem, take Highway 22 west toward Lincoln City, then merge onto Highway 18. Continue for 18 miles after passing Grande Ronde / Spirit Mountain Casino. Turn left on Bear Creek County Road near Rose Lodge and drive 3.5 miles. The trailhead can be reached by continuing straight seven miles on Forest Service Road 17.
From Highway 101 on the south end of Lincoln City, turn east on Drift Creek Road, then turn right on South Drift Creek Road about a quarter mile later. Follow Forest Service Road 17 approximately 10 miles to the trailhead.
Due to the lack of phone service out in the forest, GPS isn't reliable, so we encourage visitors to bring a map or download a Google Map before heading to the trailhead.
Love hiking in Oregon? Hit the link here to read about 5 more of the best hiking trails on the Northern Oregon Coast, not too far from Drift Creek Falls.
Frequently Asked Questions About Drift Creek Falls
Q. When is the best time to visit Drift Creek Falls?
A. When traveling to popular destinations, the majority of visitors tend to arrive around 10am. Drift Creek Falls is no exception, and if you want to avoid the crowds, it's best to arrive earlier. However, if you arrive too early, the dense forest may block out much of the light, making it difficult to enjoy the scenery.
A good time to arrive is around 8:30am, giving you plenty of time to explore before the bulk of visitors arrive. By 9:00am, you should be at the suspension bridge, ready to start your adventure. At this time, there will be enough light in the canyon to capture stunning photographs without the harsh glare of the sun.
By arriving early, you'll be able to enjoy the serene beauty of the waterfall without feeling rushed or overwhelmed by the crowds.
Q. Do I need a pass for Drift Creek Falls?
A. Visitors to Drift Creek Falls must pay a $5 parking fee per vehicle, which goes towards maintaining the trails. Payment is only accepted in cash, and credit card forms are not available at the trailhead.
However, there are options to avoid the parking fee. One option is to visit on one of the free days, such as National Public Lands Day, which waives the fee. Another option is to purchase a National Forest Recreation Pass online for $5, which provides access to several National Forests in Oregon and Washington.
By planning ahead and utilizing these options, visitors can avoid the parking fee and enjoy the trails at Drift Creek Falls.
Does Drift Creek Falls have a paved road?
A. The road is paved all the way from Lincoln City, so follow the pavement when in doubt. From Highway 18, there is a short stretch of gravel before it resumes pavement. A hike to the falls takes about one and a half miles from the trailhead.