About Curly Creek Falls and Miller Creek Falls
Curly Creek Falls was supposed to be the famed waterfall that had the rare distinction of having natural bridges spanning its falling watercourse.
That alone made this waterfall pretty unique, and perhaps its proximity to Mt St Helens in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest hinted at the kind of volcanic heritage required to have such a coupling of geological oddities.
Unfortunately, seeing this spectacle required some timing because it ultimately took us three tries (spanning 12 years) before we finally got to see it properly as you can see in the photo above.
Timing A Visit To Curly Creek Falls
Indeed, when we first came here in late March 2009, the National Forest roads to the Curly Creek Trailhead (see directions) was blocked by snow so we didn’t even get started with visiting the Curly Creek Falls.
When we came back nearly a half-year later in late August 2009, the falls was nowhere to be seen (i.e. dry).
To make matters worse, the natural bridges were hard to make out due to the harsh mid-day lighting under sunny skies.
We suspect the apparent shortened season of the Curly Creek watercourse would be limited to noticeable flows up to June or perhaps July (depending on the snow pack and thaw).
However, it’s quite possible that the pair of severe winter snowstorms in 2008 and 2009 might have also obstructed the watercourse with debris thereby choking off the flow to the falls.
We’re not totally sure though a local we met here said they were flowing the year before our visit in 2009.
Finally, when we made a Spring Break visit in early April 2021, that was when we ultimately got the satisfactory experience with Curly Creek Falls that we had haunted us for the better part of 12 years.
Indeed, we got lucky on that visit as there was just enough thaw to allow trailhead access while at the same time feeding Curly Creek with enough water to see it through its curious natural bridges.
Hiking To Curly Creek Falls
From the Curly Creek Trailhead (labeled 31A in the local Forest Service system), we took an obvious well-shaded forested trail that headed towards the Lewis River.
After about 300ft, the footpath reached an unsigned intersection (which I’d imagine was part of a longer Lewis River Trail), and we kept right to continue going in the downstream direction.
Then, about another 350ft further on the trail, we reached an overlook as indicated by some wooden railings oriented in the direction of Curly Creek Falls across the Lewis River.
While the 50-75ft waterfall was attractive and interesting, we noticed that this overlook seemed to be on the verge of being overgrown by the surrounding foliage (threatening to obstruct the view).
At the same time, I learned that Curly Creek Falls might also be a better overcast (or even rainy-day) waterfall so the shadows that inevitably come with sunny days wouldn’t adversely affect the visual impact.
Continuing To Miller Creek Falls
Curly Creek Falls was merely the first of two waterfalls to see on the Curly Creek Trail.
Indeed, the trail continued another 600ft or so before reaching another overlook fronted by wooden railings.
This time, through an opening in the vegetation, we looked across the Lewis River and gazed upon a plunging 40-60ft Miller Creek Falls feeding the river itself.
Like with Curly Creek Falls, I found this waterfall to be best seen under overcast skies to shadows or shade become less of a liability to the overall viewing experience.
Anyways, the Miller Creek Falls overlook was our turnaround point of this short 3/4-mile round-trip out-and-back hike (more like a stroll).
I did do a little more exploring of the continuation of the Lewis River Trail in the upstream direction (the other fork of that unsigned trail junction we encountered earlier on).
However, after hiking about a half-mile along that narrow ledge-hugging trail, I turned back when I figured out that it was going to take at least another half-mile to reach the road bridge that we had driven over to get to the Curly Creek Trailhead.
So if the Curly Creek Trailhead might be too busy, I suppose the road bridge over the Lewis River might act as an alternate starting point for a bit of a longer hike.
Curly Creek Falls resides in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Carson in Skamania County, Washington. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Even though there’s a toll to cross the Columbia River at the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks or from Hood River, I like how being around the Columbia River and its waterfalls so I generally don’t mind paying the fee.
Thus, I’ll describe the directions from there.
So from Carson, we drove north for 14 miles along the Wind River Road before turning right onto the continuation of the Wind River Road via NF-30 for the next 13 miles.
Then, we turned left onto Curly Creek Road, and followed it for 5 miles to its junction with the NF-90 Road.
Next, we turned right onto NF-90 Road and followed it for just under a mile before turning left onto the NF-9039 Road (there should be signs pointing the way to the Lewis River and Curly Creek Trailhead at this point).
Finally, we’d then drive the remaining mile over the unpaved road (crossing a bridge over the Lewis River about 3/4-mile en route) before reaching the trailhead on our left.
Overall, this drive would take about an hour, but it might be good to check with the National Forest Service about road conditions so you don’t waste time (like we did) driving to an impassable roadblock.
For geographical context, Carson, Washington, was 9 miles (roughly 15 minutes drive) east of Cascade Locks, Oregon, 20 miles (about 30 minutes drive) west of Hood River, Oregon, 54 miles (about an hour drive) east of Portland, and 49 miles (an hour drive) east of Vancouver, Washington.
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