Water is abundant in the Columbia River Gorge and especially in Skamania County. And when it is in the form of waterfalls, it is a lovely spectacle to behold. Hiking to these hidden jewels is part of the fun and listed below are five suggested waterfall hikes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, just north of Carson, Washington. To access all of them, travel north of Highway 14 on Highway 30 (also known as Wind River Highway) through Carson.
Big Creek Falls
Just off the road on the way to Lower Lewis River Falls, this is a flat, short and safe trail that could accommodate strollers or wheelchairs. It is a tall waterfall that plunges into a mossy bowl. The view from the rim of this natural gorge is breathtaking as Big Creek plummets 125 feet into an obscured pool. 8.8 miles east of the Eagle Cliff Bridge off of Lewis River Road No. 90.
Curly Creek Falls
After the long and winding drive to this point, the small sign pointing to Curly Creek Falls feels like a beacon to take a break. But it is better than just a rest stop. Despite its modest size, the natural arch that has been formed between the tiers of its 50- to 75-foot drop puts Curly Creek Falls on everyone’s must-see list.
Travel north of Carson Highway 30 and follow the signs for Curly Creek Road. Turn left on Forest Road No. 9039, which turns to gravel. There is a one-lane bridge and a parking area at the bottom of the hill. The unmarked trailhead is on the left side of the road, just after crossing the bridge.
Falls Creek Falls
A pleasant 1.7 mile hike ends in a classic fantasy setting … a clearing surrounded by trees, dominated by a 250-foot waterfall with three tiers. Falls Creek Falls is one of the elite natural attractions in the Pacific Northwest. It starts with the thundering roar that can be heard several minutes before reaching the waterfall. Trail is flat and safe for children, under close supervision. Flat rocks and open space make a phenomenal setting for a picnic.
Take State Highway 14 east to Carson. Go through the town and continue north on Wind River Road No. 30, past Panther Creek to Forest Road No. 32062-057. Turn right and follow the signs to Lower Falls Creek Trail No. 152A.
Panther Creek Falls
This hidden spectacle, not far from Falls Creek Falls, is a segmented wonder at the intersection of Panther and Big Creeks. Meaning it looks like several distinct waterfalls, 50 to 75 feet in height, all pouring into the same basin. Tricky to find but definitely worth the trek. The trail is short and easy leading to an observation deck.
North of Carson, on Wind River Road No. 30, take a right onto the northernmost (or second) entrance to Old State Road. Almost immediately, take a left (north) onto Panther Creek Road No. 65. At 7.4 miles up, there is an umarked turnout on the right hand side, at the base of a hill covered with medium-sized rocks. Park there and then walk back down the hill about 100 yards to an umarked gravel path on the other side of the road.
Lower Lewis River Falls
Almost as dynamic as Fall Creek Falls, only with a much shorter hike, swimming and wading areas and public park amenities such as restrooms. Water crashes over a broad expanse of the Lewis River in an especially scenic block form. Some believe these falls are even more beautiful than Multnomah Falls.
From Highway 30, take the Curly Creek cutoff and turn north on Lewis River Road No. 90. Follow the signs to the Lewis River Campground.