About Drift Creek Falls
Drift Creek Falls was a very popular waterfall dropping some 66ft on Horner Creek beneath a 240ft bouncy suspension bridge spanning the gorge carved out by Drift Creek.
I suspect it’s that Indiana Jones-like feel of this suspension bridge that made this place quite popular, especially with the attention-seeking fiends on social media platforms like Instagram.
Moreover, the popularity that we witnessed on our early April 2021 visit may have also been exacerbated by the Drift Creek Trail’s closure for maintenance last Summer (bringing visitors back in force when it re-opened earlier in 2021).
It was during that closure time when a giant slab of rock chunked off the cliff face supporting Drift Creek Falls ultimately giving the waterfall a more bare appearance as shown in the photo above.
Not surprisingly, Drift Creek Falls was reached on a relatively easy hike to both the suspension bridge over Drift Creek and the end of the trail at Drift Creek itself.
According to my GPS logs, the trail to the suspension bridge was 1.5 miles (3 miles round-trip), and it was another 1/4-mile (or 3.5 miles round-trip) to the bottom.
There was also an option to extend the hike an additional 3/4-mile (or 4.25-5 miles in total) by taking the North Loop instead of the direct route.
Trail Description – The Direct Route to the Drift Creek Suspension Bridge
From the well-signed paved parking lot for Drift Creek Falls (see directions below), we followed a well-signed path as it descended a switchback then hugged the slopes of a forested ravine cut forth by Horner Creek.
At about the 3/4-mile point, we encountered a trail junction where we kept to our right to continue descending towards Drift Creek Falls.
The path on the left would also get to Drift Creek Falls, but it would do so in a more roundabout manner on a path called the North Loop Trail, which I’ll describe later in this write-up.
That said, on our early April 2021 visit, we did encounter a pair of joksters who tried to troll us by saying we were going the wrong way to the way and should have taken the North Loop Trail on the left.
However, I knew better since I was armed with my Gaia GPS app, and we were observant enough to see that the vast majority of visitors didn’t take the North Loop Trail.
Anyways, after another quarter-mile past the trail fork, it eventually reached a signposted trail junction near Horner Creek.
Going right at this junction, we then followed Horner Creek downstream before crossing a muddy footbridge traversing the creek.
Beyond the Horner Creek bridge, we went another 0.4-mile before the trail finally descended towards one end of the famous Drift Creek Suspension Bridge.
As we crossed the bridge (trying not to mind the heights and bounciness of the bridge), we could see the profile of Drift Creek Falls down below.
At the other end of this 240ft bridge we had the option of turning back here or continuing on the trail down to the bottom.
By the way, despite its name, my maps have shown that Drift Creek Falls actually flowed on Horner Creek before feeding Drift Creek at the waterfall’s base.
So it’s not clear to me why the falls wasn’t called Horner Creek Falls instead.
Trail Description – The Base of Drift Creek Falls
Immediately beneath and to the left of the suspension bridge, there was a somewhat muddy viewing area directly across from the Drift Creek Falls.
However, in continuing on the descending trail for another quarter-mile, the path made one switchback before ending up at a numbered signpost just above the banks of Drift Creek.
It was from here that I was able to see both Drift Creek Falls and the suspension bridge running above it (in a view that reminded me of a smaller version of Stuibenfall in Austria).
In any case, I had the option to just chill out here and enjoy the view, but I did notice some people boulder scramble their way onto the giant slab that had fallen off from the cliff on which Drift Creek Falls fell from.
By the way, those fallen rocks illustrate the inherent dangers of doing such scrambles, especially since you don’t really know when the next chunk will flake off.
This spot was strangely quieter than the suspension bridge area, which led me to believe that most people were content with just going to the bridge before turning back.
Regardless, after having my fill of the bottom of Drift Creek Falls, I then backtracked my way back up to the suspension bridge, and then backtracked to the signed trail junction near the bridge over Horner Creek.
It was from that trail junction that I had the option of returning via the direct trail (for a round-trip distance of 3 miles), or I could take the longer North Loop Trail back to the trailhead, which would add an additional 3/4-mile to the overall distance.
Trail Description – The North Loop Option
You may wonder what the benefit of doing the North Loop Trail would be if it’s going to involve hiking an additional 3/4-mile.
Well, to be honest, I didn’t think the scenery of the North Loop was any better than the direct trail.
However, I did find myself alone on it during my early April 2021 visit so I was able to breathe freely and not through my facial mask during my time on this extended part of the hike.
Indeed, given the high volume of visitors on the direct trail, I constantly found myself flipping my mask on and off in the presence of other people, especially since many of them didn’t wear masks during our visit.
Anyways, as far as the scenery was concerned, the North Loop seemed to be slightly more open due to the presence of thinner trees.
It might also be just a little drier than the forest flanking the direct trail.
Nevertheless, in my mind, it really wasn’t necessary to do the North Loop unless you’re trying to get away from too many people.
So overall, I wound up doing the 4.25-mile loop hike by going directly to the end of the trail, and then taking the longer loop back, which consumed about 2.5 hours at a leisurely pace with lots of stops.
However, Julie and Tahia did the direct trail in both directions and didn’t go to the bottom so they only hiked for a grand total of about 3 miles round trip.
Drift Creek Falls resides in the Siuslaw National Forest near Lincoln City in Lincoln County, Oregon. It is administered by the National Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Even though there were two main ways to reach Drift Creek Falls, the western route from Lincoln City was closed during our early April 2021 visit.
So we’ll just describe the northern route from the OR 18 starting from Cannon Beach.
From Cannon Beach, we’d drive south on the US101 for about 78 miles towards the OR 18 at the Otis Junction.
Then, we’d drive east on the OR 18 for almost 5 miles before turning right onto Bear Creek Road (I recalled there was a Drift Creek Covered Bridge sign directing us to turn right).
We then followed the mostly-paved Bear Creek Road for about 4 miles before keeping left at a signed junction directing us to go onto the NF-17 Road.
Then, for the final 4 miles, we took the narrow road to the well-signed Drift Creek Falls Trailhead Parking on the left.
Overall, this drive would take us roughly 2.5 hours.
For some geographical context, Lincoln City was 68 miles (1.5 hours drive) south of Nehalem, 84 miles (2 hours drive) south of Cannon Beach, 92 miles (2 hours drive) south of Seaside, 87 miles (under 2 hours drive) southwest of Portland, and 74 miles (over 1.5 hours drive) north of Florence.
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