Coastal Trail Offers Fall Color, Suspension Bridge, and Waterfall
Oregon’s coastal mountains are well known for dense fir forests and beautiful waterfalls. Drift Creek Falls trail offers both, plus a spectacular suspension bridge.
This moderate mile and a half trail lie just 12 miles east of Oregon’s coastal Highway 101, south of Lincoln City. Beautiful anytime of the year, it is especially worth walking in October and November, when Alder leaves turn yellow and Golden chanterelles are available.
Oregon’s Drift Creek Falls Trail Overview
The road back to the trailhead from Highway 101 is easily accessible to any automobile (four-wheel drive is not required). The trailhead is in a national forest, and there is a five-dollar daily use fee, which is waived if you display either a Northwest Forest Pass, Washington or Oregon Recreation Pass, or a Golden Eagle Passport. The length of the trail is one and a quarter miles to the suspension bridge, with an optional quarter-mile descent to the bottom of the falls. The trail is wide and easily hiked by young or older hikers.
The trail is for day use only, and no bicycles or horses are permitted.
The Trail to the Bridge at Drift Creek Falls in Oregon
The trail begins at the parking lot at an elevation of about 930 feet and winds gently down a forested slope through beautiful Douglas Fir and Alder trees. The trail itself is two and a half to three feet wide and consists of compacted dirt and leaves with little rock. Sword ferns are prevalent along the trail, and hikers can often find enormous Banana Slugs sliding their way across the path. Winter Wrens, Steller Jays, and Pileated Woodpeckers can also be found in this area.
In October and November, the Alder leaves turn yellow and begin to fall, adding dazzling color if the sun chooses to shine. At this same time of the year, especially following a day or more of rain, hikers can explore the forest floor near the path, and often find Golden chanterelles, one of the more delicious Oregon mushrooms. Prince Augustus mushrooms, another culinary treat, are also found here.
The trail eventually levels out and crosses the creek over a small wooden bridge before climbing a slight slope that takes the hiker to the suspension bridge.
The Suspension Bridge and Waterfall on Oregon’s Drift Creek
The bridge is at an elevation of 600 feet and is an engineering marvel, all the more impressive for having been built more than a mile away from the nearest road. The bridge is 240 feet in length and is suspended 100 feet above Drift Creek. The length of the cable anchoring system is 451 feet, and the towers and pylons, which are made from laminated timber, reach 29 feet above the ground. Treads on the floor of the bridge are made from pressure treated Douglas Fir.
As one begins crossing the 240-foot span, Drift Creek Falls becomes visible to the right. The creek collects in an emerald pool at the edge of a cliff about twenty-five feet below the bridge and then plunges seventy-five feet over the edge to the base in a spectacular white plume.
At the far side of the bridge, there are several large logs, providing the perfect place for a mid-hike picnic. This area also gives the hiker great views and more opportunities to photograph the waterfall. From this spot, the trail winds down a fairly steep slope another quarter mile to the water’s edge.
Getting To Drift Creek Falls Trail from Highway 101 near Lincoln City, Oregon
From Highway 101, south of Lincoln City and north of Salishan, turn east at the sign for Drift Creek Falls and follow the clear signs about 12 miles to the trailhead parking lot. An alternative route leaves Highway 18 north of Lincoln City, about 4.5 miles before the junction with Highway 101. From Highway 18, drive south on Bear Creek County Road for 3.5 miles, then continue straight on Forest Service Road 17 for 7 miles to the trailhead parking lot.
Of Oregon’s many waterfall hikes, Drift Creek Falls with its amazing suspension bridge is one of the most rewarding.