For some Portlanders the Coast Range slips under the radar. They eagerly drive right through it on their way to enjoy the riches of the Oregon Coast. While I can understand, I don’t necessarily condone. There are some things hidden off the beaten path or tucked away from the major thoroughfares that are worth a trip all by themselves. At the very least you could tag one of these side trips onto your next coastal excursion. If you’re on the way to Lincoln City from Portland, you’ll want to build in some extra time to visit Drift Creek Falls.
Drift Creek Falls is a 75 foot cascade that is part of a great little 3-mile out-and-back, 340-foot elevation gain hike. But there’s more to this trek than just another pretty waterfall. The first part of the hike is in pleasant 2nd growth forest, but once you cross a creek bridge the path leads through some very lush old growth. Then you get to the really exciting stuff. First up is a 240-foot suspension bridge that is an absolute thrill for the kids, and more often than not adults as well. From the bridge you get the first view of the new-look waterfall. That’s right, new look. As of two summers ago, Drift Creek Falls looks considerably different than it had for the last who knows how many hundreds of years. Sometime in August 2010, the face of the basalt wall that the falls tumble over crumbled and fell away in a massive rock slide. The once tranquil pool at the bottom of the waterfall is now a garden of house sized boulders and mini-waterfalls – a place that is just sitting there begging to be climbed around.
Right now there might not be a better spot in the area to take in the ever-changing Northwest; whether that change is caused by man or by force of nature. From logging to erosion and even human engineering, the hike to Drift Creek Falls puts change on literal and explorable display.
From Portland, take Highway 18 toward the coast. Just after milepost 5 (5 miles from Highway 101) turn left onto Bear Creek Road and drive 9 miles to the trailhead. The road turns into the 17 along the way and any questionable junctions are well signed. Parking requires a $5 fee or Northwest Forest Pass.