Please note: Pup Creek Falls hike is currently closed due to the Riverside Fire. The following experiential article was written in 2019.
The beauty of Oregon's landscapes is well known and one of the state's defining characteristics. Of all its stunning features, the tremendous number of waterfalls is probably one of the most popular and brings numerous people outdoors.There's something special about the sound of water roaring over a cliff and the distinct, calming scent a waterfall emits that's been proven to have positive effects on well-being. Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory boasts many such features, including some well known ones like Ramona Falls, Little Zigzag Falls and of course the second largest waterfall in the country by volume, Willamette Falls. But then there are others that aren't as well known, despite being just as gorgeous if not more so, than some of the more famous counterparts in the region. Pup Creek Falls is now at the top of my list after making the journey to this hidden gem last week.
Related Content: Hiking Trails in Mt. Hood Territory
Pup Creek Falls is located on a .2 mile spur of the Clackamas River Trail. It's located almost perfectly in the middle of either end of the trail, making it a great spot to take a break while taking it all in. Surprisingly, many people don't even know about the falls. A couple I encountered on the hike were just enjoying the trail and didn't even know they could take that small side trail to see it. You can bet they did after we told them about it though.
The water drops a total of 240 feet over three different cliffs, each one having it's own distinct look. It's fun to photograph the falls, yet challenging at the same time. Its height combined with the limited spots to safely put a tripod can make it difficult to fit the entire waterfall in frame without a wide-angle lens. That said, each level of the falls is fun to shoot by itself and they create a fun way to get some unique shots.
You can access the Clackamas River Trail at either the Fish Creek Campground Trailhead or Indian Henry Campground Trailhead. Some hikers start at one and hike to the falls, then go back to their vehicle. I went with a coworker who met me at Fish Creek and we then carpooled to Indian Henry, where we hiked the entire trail and finished back at my car at the first trail head. That's really the way to go in my book, as it lets you experience the wonderful diversity of the entire trail. You'll pass through dense forests of towering firs and cedars, open areas of various flowers and bushes including wild raspberries as well as basalt ledges overlooking the Clackamas River. There are a number of side creeks and even other waterfalls, though nothing as dramatic as Pup Creek Falls. All together it's a wonderful hike that makes for a perfect day of exploring the Mt. Hood National Forest.
The hike is about 8.4 miles straight through and is considered a moderate one. There's a fair amount of elevation change at a few points in the trail as well. It's nothing too difficult, but enough for your legs to know you're doing some work. The path itself is well maintained, although fairly narrow at points with some areas that border a decent drop off, so as with any hike bring a friend and use care. Bring plenty of water and snacks and wear some good hiking footwear, and remember to post any epic photos you get with our #omht hashtag so we can applaud your photos and hiking prowess.
If you're need a recharge after your day along the river, head up to nearby Estacada. This small town has big spirit, with popular stops like Fearless Brewing, and the Artback Murals are a fascinating way the town celebrates and educates visitors about its rich history. And if you're exploring spirit is still there in the fall, come back for some mushroom foraging.