Drift Creek Falls

Siuslaw National Forest / Lincoln City, Oregon, USA

About Drift Creek Falls


Hiking Distance: 4.2 miles round-trip (or 5-mile loop)
Suggested Time: about 1.5-2 hours

Date first visited: 2021-04-08
Date last visited: 2021-04-08

Waterfall Latitude: 44.93347
Waterfall Longitude: -123.85066

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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.

Drift_Creek_Falls_057_04082021 - Drift Creek Falls
Drift Creek Falls

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.

Drift_Creek_Falls_099_04082021 - Drift Creek Falls as seen from its base. Notice the huge slabs of rock surrounding its former plunge pool location
Drift Creek Falls as seen from its base. Notice the huge slabs of rock surrounding its former plunge pool location

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.

Drift_Creek_Falls_027_04082021 - Julie and Tahia keeping right at this unsigned trail fork to remain on the direct path to Drift Creek Falls. The narrow trail on the left was the North Loop Trail
Julie and Tahia keeping right at this unsigned trail fork to remain on the direct path to Drift Creek Falls. The narrow trail on the left was the North Loop Trail

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.

Drift_Creek_Falls_038_04082021 - Julie and Tahia crossing this muddy bridge over Horner Creek en route to Drift Creek Falls
Julie and Tahia crossing this muddy bridge over Horner Creek en route to Drift Creek Falls

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.

Drift_Creek_Falls_047_04082021 - Approaching the suspension bridge spanning the gorge carved out by Drift Creek
Approaching the suspension bridge spanning the gorge carved out by Drift Creek

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).

Drift_Creek_Falls_066_04082021 - Context of the Drift Creek Falls Suspension Bridge as well as the Drift Creek Falls with a faint rainbow in its mist
Context of the Drift Creek Falls Suspension Bridge as well as the Drift Creek Falls with a faint rainbow in its mist

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.

Drift_Creek_Falls_117_04082021 - Distant view of Drift Creek Falls from the banks of Drift Creek at the end of the official trail
Distant view of Drift Creek Falls from the banks of Drift Creek at the end of the official trail

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.

Drift_Creek_Falls_141_04082021 - On the return hike, these signs at the trail junction near Horner Creek seemed to try to steer us towards the North Loop Trail instead of going back the way we came
On the return hike, these signs at the trail junction near Horner Creek seemed to try to steer us towards the North Loop Trail instead of going back the way we came

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.

Drift_Creek_Falls_148_04082021 - The type of scenery seen along the North Loop Trail
The type of scenery seen along the North Loop Trail

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.

Authorities

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.

Drift_Creek_Falls_008_04082021 - Tahia starting off on the Drift Creek Falls Trail
Drift_Creek_Falls_012_04082021 - Julie and Tahia hiking among the tall trees surrounding the Drift Creek Falls Trail
Drift_Creek_Falls_016_04082021 - We noticed these numbered signposts, but we didn't find neither a map nor a sign to interpret what these numbered signs were trying to point out along the Drift Creek Trail
Drift_Creek_Falls_021_04082021 - Julie and Tahia passing by some rest benches along the Drift Creek Falls Trail
Drift_Creek_Falls_029_04082021 - Julie and Tahia continuing along the direct trail to Drift Creek Falls after having passed the unsigned fork with the North Loop Trail
Drift_Creek_Falls_030_04082021 - Julie and Tahia crossing over some bridges as the Drift Creek Trail descended towards Horner Creek
Drift_Creek_Falls_034_04082021 - Another numbered sign, but this time it was alongside Horner Creek
Drift_Creek_Falls_037_04082021 - Julie and Tahia trying to stay out of the mud as we were following Horner Creek towards Drift Creek Falls
Drift_Creek_Falls_041_04082021 - Julie and Tahia continuing along the Drift Creek Falls Trail somewhere between Horner Creek and Drift Creek
Drift_Creek_Falls_045_04082021 - Julie and Tahia approaching the fairly busy Drift Creek Suspension Bridge
Drift_Creek_Falls_048_04082021 - Julie and Tahia walking across the bouncy Drift Creek Suspension Bridge
Drift_Creek_Falls_050_04082021 - Looking down at the profile of Drift Creek Falls from the suspension bridge
Drift_Creek_Falls_123_04082021 - Broad look down at Drift Creek Falls from the bouncy suspension bridge
Drift_Creek_Falls_059_04082021 - Portrait view of Drift Creek Falls as seen from the bouncy suspension bridge
Drift_Creek_Falls_073_04082021 - Context of Julie and Tahia checking out Drift Creek Falls from terra firma once we got off the suspension bridge
Drift_Creek_Falls_076_04082021 - View of Drift Creek Falls from a shaded spot underneath the suspension bridge
Drift_Creek_Falls_079_04082021 - Continuing to descend to the end of the Drift Creek Falls Trail
Drift_Creek_Falls_092_04082021 - Looking at Drift Creek Falls from the end of the official trail
Drift_Creek_Falls_109_04082021 - Portrait look towards Drift Creek Falls from the end of the official trail
Drift_Creek_Falls_116_04082021 - Looking downstream along Drift Creek away from the Drift Creek Falls
Drift_Creek_Falls_132_04082021 - Going back across the Drift Creek Suspension Bridge
Drift_Creek_Falls_139_04082021 - Going back across a bridge over Horner Creek (I think) on the return hike
Drift_Creek_Falls_147_04082021 - Walking among some tall trees on the North Loop Trail with scenery very similar to the direct trail to and from Drift Creek Falls
Drift_Creek_Falls_150_04082021 - Continuing on the slightly longer North Loop Trail en route to the trailhead
Drift_Creek_Falls_153_04082021 - Passing by a fairly open part of the forest along the North Loop Trail
Drift_Creek_Falls_158_04082021 - More groves of tall, thin trees as I was nearing the end of the North Loop Trail interlude
Drift_Creek_Falls_162_04082021 - Descending to the direct trail back to the Drift Creek Falls Trailhead
Drift_Creek_Falls_164_04082021 - Continuing up the Drift Creek Falls Trail as I headed back to the trailhead


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.

Drift_Creek_Falls_002_04082021 - Sign for Drift Creek Falls Trailhead
Sign for Drift Creek Falls Trailhead

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.

Drift_Creek_Falls_003_04082021 - The Drift Creek Falls Trailhead Parking Lot
The Drift Creek Falls Trailhead Parking Lot

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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Long video starting from a view just beside the suspension bridge and then walking on it towards the middle all the while looking down at Drift Creek Falls


Sweep savoring the views from the start of the suspension bridge over Drift Creek before walking towards the middle of the bridge


Upside-down L-shaped sweep across the suspension bridge then down the Drift Creek Falls as seen from the base


Downstream to upstream sweep of Drift Creek before walking over to a couple of viewing spots at the bottom of both the falls and the suspension bridge

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Tagged with: lincoln city, siuslaw national forest, busy, north loop, horner creek, drift creek, suspension bridge



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Drift Creek Falls, Lincoln City, Oregon, USA January 11, 2016 2:33 am by Wendy Gnau - Hi, Thankfully found your site from a blogger while planning a trip to Iceland. Figured we'd see where all you have been and if you had been to Oregon. We live in Lincoln City, Oregon and note that Drift Creek Falls (a hike at the edge of town) was not seen on your Oregon Coast… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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