Lately I’ve be searching for hikes hidden in swaths of wilderness. Sometimes a road trip in a new direction, or a stay in a remote town, needs these out-in-the-wilds side-adventures. They’re away from crowds, require you to unplug and unwind, and add an outdoorsy flavor to otherwise civilization-bound stays.
Drift Creek Falls is one of these hikes. It’s located deep in the coastal range outside of Lincoln City, yet the trailhead can be reached in about 9 to 12 miles (depending on the direction you’re driving in). The trail offers a bit of everything, from windy forest paths to a waterfall.
The trailhead leads east through a timbered forest with about 50 years of regrowth. The mix of old and new Douglas and grand fir alongside nearby clear cuts tell the story of an ecosystem healing itself. The path leads up a ridge, then rounds it and curves back into a small side canyon. You’ll cross a few bridged creeks as the trail makes a U-turn and the trail loops back down the other side of the valley.
Past the curve of the turn you’ll see a small junction – take this shortcut if you’d like, but the main trail leads to the same place. This side trail is less maintained, but offers more abrupt elevation gain if you want to make the walk up a workout. Meanwhile, the main trail will continue around the ridge, and drop down to cross a larger stream.
Down in this valley the vegetation will turn marshy, and it can be somewhat overgrown in the summertime. Watch out for stinging nettles! This is where the junction trail rejoins the main trail, and the path winds on to another bridge, before passing through a patch of forest.
Right beyond this, you’ll abruptly approach the waterfall, as Drift Creek plunges 75 feet into the canyon below. Spanning the canyon and water feature is a 100-foot suspension bridge, hanging from cables. Cross the canyon via the bridge, admire the rushing ribbon of water, and then follow the path to the other side where you will find a picnic table. You can also fallow the trail down the base of the falls, although be warned that it gets slippery after rains.
Directions from Highway 101 south of Lincoln City, north of Salishan:
Travel east on Drift Creek Road, then take a right on South Drift Creek Road. Stay straight until you see Forest Service Road 17, then take a left. The marked trailhead is about 10 miles down.
Directions from Highway 101/Highway 18:
At the junction of these highways, take Hwy 18 until you hit Bear Creek County Road. Take this about 4 miles, then turn on Forest Service Road 17 to find the trailhead.