Gorton Creek Falls
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
It’s probably not fair to say that Gorton Creek Falls is my favorite waterfall in Oregon because I haven’t seen them all — yet. However, I’ve seen quite a few falls in the beaver state and so far this one steals my heart.♥
I learned about this falls in an awesome book called Curious Gorge by Scott Cook (specifically the 2013 update, though he has since published a 2017 new and improved model). The author is entertaining and adventurous, and happens to write some damn good and detailed guides to exploring (and pokin’) around Oregon and Washington. Seriously, if you’re looking for excellent hiking ideas and generally neat things to see and do, check out his reads. (He also has a blog!) Cook describes this particular hike as a scramble. (If you’re not sure what a scramble is, look it up before you go, especially if you’re a wuss.) Bob actually finds scrambling much more fun and entertaining than the typical hike, and I have to agree.
If it means anything to you, Northwest Waterfall Survey gives Gorton Creek Falls a rating of 46.07. Honestly, I have no idea what that even means, but it scores a 10 out of 10 on my scale. The total height of this magnificent falls is 148 feet, the tallest and most majestic of the two drops towering at 99 ft.
I’ll tell you why I love Gorton Creek Falls so much. For starters, it’s GORGEous!!! In the words of Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs, “LOOK AT IT!!!” It’s just beautiful. It’s tall and double-tiered, flows strong year-round, has a nice mix of downed trees, mosses and surrounding greenery, and includes plenty of rocks to perch on — including one at the base of the falls you can sit on like a mermaid!
The pool area is just a rad place to chill (packing a picnic or some beers is highly encouraged). You can reach the base of the falls by hiking along the left side of the creek. You’ll need to climb over or under some logs and through the stream to reach mermaid rock. If you’re afraid to make the final scramble to the top, at least go chill behind the big rock to the right of the falls.
A huge bonus is the amount of privacy up here. Although the trailhead originates from a campground, the spur trail to this spot is nearly hidden. I’ve hiked to Gorton at least three times, never seeing more than a few groups of hikers using the trail – always on weekends, always at peak hiking times, NEVER busy. Each trip we’ve had a good amount of time (10 minutes or more) chilling at the bottom of the falls by ourselves. Shockingly it’s not crowded for Columbia River Gorge standards, especially considering it’s location on the outskirts of popular “Waterfall Alley.”
The hike to the falls itself is not only scenic and worthy of your stops for photos, the scramble to get there is a challenging and fun workout! The hike is only about 1.2 miles out and back, but count on it taking a bit longer than your typical mile stroll, as you’ll eventually shoot off-trail and find yourself climbing up the streambed to reach the ultimate prize.
I don’t feel that I need to provide detailed directions to the falls, as they can be found with a quick internet search. I want some of this experience to be a mystery until you get there! (Hint hint, see links above.) The trailhead begins in the Wyeth Campground. At some point it will appear like the trail just ends—nope! Continue hiking up the left side of the creek and scramble your way to Shangri-La!
Due to the 2017 Eagle Creek Fires there’s a chance this trail could be closed. It appears online that Wyeth Campground is open, which leads me to believe the trail may still be accessible. I can’t find anything definitive online that says the trail to Gorton Creek Falls is closed, but I’ll be sure to update this when I find out.
In future blog posts I’ll delve into more under-appreciated waterfalls of the gorge, including: Fairy Falls, Weisendanger Falls and more!
Happy trails! ♥Nicole