Dry Creek Falls is a popular and relatively easily accessed waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge, located just off the Pacific Crest Trail in Cascade Locks near the Bridge of the Gods. The trail to reach it is shaded, mildly graded, and open year-round, making this a great destination for just about any hiker at any time of the year.
Most guides will have you start this hike at the PCT Bridge of the Gods Trailhead. You can do this if you’d like, too — it adds just 0.4 mile to the roundtrip and you may feel safer leaving your car in a place with more people around (break-ins are becoming sadly more common at easily-accessed trailheads these days). Otherwise, you can use the new, paved PCT lot on Harvey Road, which is also used to access the Gorge Trail #400.
Display your Northwest Forest or Interagency Pass, then cross the street heading toward the PCT South.
This area of the forest was burned in the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, which burned nearly 50,000 acres in three months. Thankfully, much of the forest here looks like it’s rebounding, with fast-growing bigleaf and vine maples filling in the cleared understory. You will still definitely be able to see evidence of the fire in charred tree trunks, though.
There is still a very good amount of shade on this trail, and hiking in the early morning hours provides some truly beautiful dappled light effects as the trail heads south, then turns sharply east at about the 0.5 mile mark
At around the mile mark, the trail passes underneath some power lines where the remnants of an old access road run. It can be easy to shift onto this path but you want to stay on the narrow trail you’re on and just cross beneath the power lines.
The trail remains at a nice, even elevation. At 1.8 miles, keep right at the junction to leave the PCT and hop on a short stretch of the Dry Creek Falls Trail, which climbs on a relatively wide, rocky footpath to the base of Dry Creek Falls.
Before you reach the bottom of the falls, you will come upon some old pipes and cementwork, as well as a small dam.
From 1896 to 1937, water from this creek was used to power the gates at Cascade Locks, which were built on the Columbia River to provide safe passage around the Cascades of the Columbia River. Passengers would disembark at the locks as their ships were raised or lowered around the obstacle, and that’s where the town of Cascade Locks grew as well. When the water from this creek was being used to power the gates, the flow of the creek would dry up, giving it its name.
In 1937, the larger Bonneville Dam was built downstream, flooding both the original locks and the Cascades and rendering the equipment you’ll see here obsolete. But that now means the creek is running all year long again, and it’s an impressive and peaceful waterfall, too.
Enjoy some time sitting at the base of the falls, then head back the way you came.
For more on the history of Cascade Locks and its connection with navigation on the Columbia River, it’s definitely worth adding a quick stop to the Bonneville Lock and Dam site just downstream, too!