Monday, January 17, 2022

New Year's Day Hike to Dry Creek Falls

I'll write about the final two "top ten" hikes of 2021 in upcoming posts, but first wanted to share this wonderful spur-of-the-moment hike my hubby and I took on New Year's Day.

Snowy trail through burned forest

Although 2022 dawned to chilly temperatures, the sky was clear.  A winter day without rain shouldn't be wasted, so I proposed to my hubby that we take a hike somewhere.  The Columbia River Gorge is always a good place to visit, and I suggested we check out Dry Creek Falls.  A relatively short hike and drive to the trailhead, it fit the bill since we'd had a late start to our morning.

Snow-covered treetops

Over the holidays, the Gorge had received a large amount of snow.  Not only snow, the mercury had plummeted the previous few days, leaving many wet areas with a coating of ice.  I was secretly hoping we'd find Dry Creek Falls at least partially frozen.  

If I was to get my wish, weather was sure cooperating!  It was a bone-chilling 18 degrees when we arrived at the trailhead.  I bundled up in my warmest coat, hat and gloves before starting out on the trail.

PCT this way!

The trail to Dry Creek Falls starts in the town of Cascade Locks and follows the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for two miles before intersecting with an old roadbed that directs hikers to the waterfall.  The forest along this section of the PCT was severely burned in a 2017 wildfire, and remnants of this were evident from the number of trees with charred bases.

Downy woodpecker perched on a burned tree

The trail began with a steep climb and this uphill trek warmed hubby and I as we slogged along.  Passing one huge trailside tree blackened by the fire, we noticed a woodpecker hopping around the charred bark, digging for food.  Although I didn't have a zoom lens with me I made do with my 24-105 mm lens and got a couple images of this beautiful bird.  We stood and watched the woodpecker for a good 10 minutes before he got tired of us staring at him and flew away.

Snow made the burned forest look good

It was cold enough that you didn't want to stand still for long, and after watching the woodpecker, it was time to get moving!  Hubby and I sauntered through the beautiful, white-covered woods.  It's amazing how a coating of snow can make even a black, burned-out forest look good.

Our trail wound through the forest

Although the snow on the trail had been pounded into ice, we didn't have much trouble walking, probably because the grade was mostly uphill.  There were, however, a few slippery downhill sections where I was tempted to don my microspikes.  But hubby and I made it to the old road intersection without incident.

PCT bridge over Dry Creek

At the first trail junction, the PCT crosses Dry Creek via an elaborate wooden bridge.  Even though I've hiked this trail many times, it was the first time I'd seen this bridge covered in snow.

Icy Dry Creek

Our plans weren't to cross this bridge today.  The waterfall we sought was a quarter mile up the old road that crossed the PCT.  However, I couldn't resist making a detour to photograph the bridge and ice-choked Dry Creek running underneath it.

Looking upstream from the bridge

Images captured, it was then time for the short trudge up the road to reach our day's destination.  Snow-covered Dry Creek flowed beside our trail, looking absolutely magical with it's white dusting.

Our first look at Dry Creek Falls

I could hear the falls well before I glimpsed them.  A huge wall of basalt cliffs rose from the forest, and at a notch in the rock, Dry Creek poured through.  The cliffs surrounding the falls were cloaked in fantastic ice sculptures.  Dry Creek Falls itself was only partially frozen, fast-moving water preventing it from totally icing up.

Lots of ice on the canyon walls!

Oh, the entire area was even more lovely than I imagined!  I was psyched to find so much ice surrounding the falls.

Close up view of the cool ice formations

Out came the camera, and I immediately got to work capturing all this icy beauty.

Wide-angle look at the icy cliffs

Hoping to get some tighter shots, I edged as close to the gushing cascade as I could.  However, the waterfall's spray instantly froze on my camera lens (not to mention my glasses) forcing a hasty retreat.  I'd have to settle for more panoramic views.

Our "we were here" photo

Hubby and I were very lucky to have Dry Creek Falls all to ourselves nearly the entire half hour we spent at its base.  But the moving water and lack of sunshine made the temperature even colder in the waterfall's canyon and we were both getting chilled.  Time to get moving back on the trail.

Heading back through the snowy forest

Heading back on the PCT, it appeared the rest of the world had finally woke up, and we encountered group after group of hikers.  The temps had risen enough to make the icy trail slippery, and after a short stretch both hubby and I ended up donning our microspikes.  Seeing so many hikers without any traction on their feet (and some merely wearing tennis shoes!) made us fearful of accidents. We hoped none of them would end up slipping and falling.

Huge rock along the trail

It's interesting how the same trail can look different coming from the opposite direction.  I swear I didn't see this large boulder above the trail when we were heading towards the falls.  But I certainly noticed it on our return trip.  This huge rock looked out of place in the forest, and we both wondered how it got there.

Afternoon sun starting to peek through

After enduring cloudy skies most of our hike, the sun finally peeked through the trees in the final mile.  The light was so nice on the forest, I made several attempts to capture its glory.  But I find it never looks as good in the photographs as it did in real life.  Oh well, I'll keep on trying....


The best way to spend New Year's Day, I was glad to get outside and enjoy the dry weather, snow and icy waterfall.  Here's to the first of many great hikes in 2022!


  1. Frozen waterfalls, and the icy rocks around them, have a special kind of beauty - but not one I ever see around here in the flat lands of eastern England. I too worry about the number of people who go out without proper equipment these days.

  2. Hello,
    Looks like a great hike to start of the New Year. I love the shot of you and your hubby near the frozen waterfall. Take care, have a happy day!

  3. That sounds a wonderful way to start off your year. Loved the photos of the icy falls

  4. Yes, the absolute best way to start the new year is hiking! I love the icy waterfall shots!

  5. Spectacular beauty. That falls and all the ice is stunning.

  6. Great first hike for 2022. That was a magical icy waterfall. Glad you didn't have crowds until the way back.

  7. A brilliant hike to welcome what I hope is another sensational year of our joining you via this amazing blog!
    The dusting of snow on the trail at this time is magical. I'm glad you were ahead of the crowds.

  8. You're almost caught up! There are lots of frozen waterfalls around here.

  9. Those waterfalls would be a dream to see and photograph! What a great hike to ring in your New Year!

  10. This is where you dropped me off to do my section hike! I was racing darkness so didn't have time to explore!

  11. Having been a hiker and runner long before microspikes came out, I don't get why everyone who goes out in winter doesn't have them! Such a gamechanger.


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