DRIFT CREEK, Ore. — If you spend enough time in the Oregon outdoors, you realize that when it comes to winter weather, luck is a good partner to have by your side.
So it was on a recent streamside stroll into a watershed where the rain is often measured in feet, not inches, and huge surprises waited at the end of the trail.
Drift Creek will carry you away, perhaps where imagination travels, on a wonderful hike alongside a classic pool and drop stream in the Siuslaw National Forest.
Flanked by ferns, alder trees and vine maple, the Drift Creek Trail winds through a classic rain-drenched coast range forest of hemlock and fir.
“You can come out and hike this trail pretty much all year as it’s a pretty gentle downhill with a lot of switchbacks,” said retired USFS Manager, George Buckingham. “It’s only 3 miles round trip and a fairly easy grade so you can bring small children and they do just fine.”
Buckingham and USFS employee J.W. Cleveland were our trail guides for an amazing adventure into a unique area of the forest. It was a hike that offered a marvelous payoff for our time and efforts.
J.W. cautioned, “Rain gear is a necessity this time of year! Be sure to have it in your vehicle and then make the call about taking it when you get to the trailhead. It can get really wet in here so you could need the gear. You want to make sure you’ve got a camera too because you’re going to see some pretty amazing things.”
Photos from Grant's Getaways: Drift Creek Trail
The Drift Creek Trail is amazing until you arrive at something even better and bigger that will take your breath away: a 240-foot long cable suspension bridge!
“The feeling that you have is really a bit like being suspended off the ground.” A hundred feet off the ground, noted Buckingham. “There’s a stream down below you and a waterfall flooding in so it really triggers your auditory senses too. It’s quite a neat experience.”
Anchored by cables and ties that are cemented into opposing bluffs, the bridge holds over a hundred fifty thousand pounds. The bridge is not going anywhere anytime soon.
While the bridge does offer a bit of a bounce, the 30"-wide tread is perfectly safe and the bird’s-eye view will leave you spellbound.
As does Drift Creek Falls, a 75-foot freefall, a whopper of a waterfall that is located immediately below you.
Buckingham said something, “really big happened here not so long ago.”
”A few years ago, the entire rock face of the falls tumbled into the stream below and the stream is actually under the rock now. It goes underground where there used to be a pool.”
George was right! After millions of years of standing tall, more than 150 feet of basalt rock wall dropped into Drift Creek.
“There’s one boulder down there that would fill up most of the parking lot in front of my office,” noted Buckingham with a chuckle. “As you can see, columnar basalt has strong vertical joints but water worked in there over time, probably over thousands of years in this wet climate. Eventually gravity took over and boom, it just slipped off.”
The sound of the crashing rock wall must have been deafening, perhaps even terrifying! Fortunately, no one was in the area when it happened in August 2010.
Nevertheless, it is a thrill to see from way up high and it’s the sort of hiking experience best enjoyed at this time of year.
“Now is the time to get out and view the falls,” added Cleveland. “That’s especially true after a large rain event. If you come here in the summertime when the water flow is lighter, it just isn’t the same.”
“People do love to come here,” added Buckingham. “It is fantastic to provide unique places like this for people to recreate in, get close to a rugged outdoor setting and get some exercise at the same time. It’s well worth your time for a visit.”
Directions to Drift Creek Trail:
From Portland, travel U.S. 99W south, then Oregon 18 west. At Rose Lodge, look for signs and turn left onto Bear Creek County Road. Travel approximately 3.5 miles to the junction with Forest Service Road 17. Follow the sign and continue seven miles to the Drift Creek trailhead and parking area.
From Lincoln City, travel south approximately one mile on U.S. 101. Turn left onto Drift Creek Road, then right onto South Drift Creek Road for a quarter mile. Turn left on Forest Service Road 17 for approximately ten miles to the Drift Creek trailhead and parking area.
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You can also learn more about many of our favorite Oregon travels and adventures in the Grant’s Getaways book series, including “Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures,” “Grant’s Getaways: Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon,” and “Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the Kids.” The collection offers hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promise to engage a kid of any age.
My next book, “Grant’s Getaways: Another 101 Oregon Adventures” will be published in 2022.