- Location: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
- Start: Siouxon Creek Trailhead
- Distance: 7.7 miles
- Elevation gain: 1615 feet
- Type: Out-and-back
- Time: 4 hours 40 minutes (breaks not included)
- References: 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald; Oregon Hikers
Between the Enchantments, a 30-mile adventure run, and the Elk-Kings trail races, our past few weekends have been filled with outdoor fun. Unfortunately, none of it has been dog friendly. In fact, the last adventure that Cassie was able to join us on was our attempt to backpack around the Three Sisters (which we ultimately weren’t able to complete). We were definitely overdue for a family hike, and with the weather being more cold and wet these days, we wanted to explore an area that would be accessible in (and maybe even benefit from) these conditions. Siouxon Creek fit the bill.
I had the opportunity to hike most of our route last Spring when I went with a few ladies from Cascadia Women’s Mountain Group. I remember it being lusciously green, cool and shaded, with stunning views of the crystal clear waters of Siouxon Creek for nearly the entire hike. In addition, it was very moderate in terms of elevation gain and tread conditions. (I actually hiked it the day before a half marathon, too!) Mack and I considered taking Cassie here for her first backpacking trip, but it never panned out. This past weekend seemed as good a time as any to explore it.
We arrived at the trailhead late in the morning around 10 am. I expected the parking area to be at least half full, but, to our surprise, there were only two other cars parked and the occupants were still gearing up for their own treks. The forecast for a rainy afternoon probably deterred people. More peace and quiet for us! We started out heading northeast on the trail, hiking downhill through a lush evergreen forest. We arrived at the West Creek footbridge. I noticed immediately that it’s been completely replaced since my hike last April! It used to be a single log bridge with railing on only one side. Now it’s a couple of feet wide, comprised of planks, and has railing on both sides. I have to say I liked the other one a bit more, but I imagine this new one is much safer. After crossing the bridge and hiking up a short ways, we got our first clear view of Siouxon Creek, as well as several campsites below the trail. The creek on the left juxtaposed beautifully with the forest on the right, as you’ll see in some upcoming photos.
Just under 1.5 miles in, we were rewarded with our first waterfall: Horseshoe Falls, a triple tiered beauty that tumbles down about 60 feet. We carefully made our way down a slippery side path to get a better view of the upper tier and the footbridge that crosses Horseshoe Creek just above the falls. After crossing the bridge and continuing on another half mile or so, we were rewarded yet again with another stunning waterfall: Siouxon Falls, a smaller waterfall (about 30 feet) accentuated by the emerald green pool it plunges into. There’s a bench right off the trail where you can sit as long as you’d like to fully absorb this mesmerizing scene.
We continued along at our leisurely pace, stopping often to take pictures (which Cassie tired of very quickly) or let Cassie drink from the numerous streams we crossed. Mack had an especially fun time snapping photos of colorful fungi on the more forested side of the trail. Aside from a few muddy spots and a section where a stream flows directly onto the trail, the surface was in good condition. Mack and I contemplated the idea of doing an adventure run up to Siouxon Peak the next time! The trail descends into a particularly lush section before reaching the junction with Wildcat Trail on the left (which requires a crossing of Siouxon Creek) and, shortly thereafter, the second junction with Horseshoe Ridge Trail (the first junction is less than a mile into the hike).
From the Horseshoe Ridge junction, the footbridge that crosses Siouxon to access Chinook Trail is only 0.75 miles away. However, just before the bridge, there is a very slick creek crossing, made more difficult (and slightly unnerving) by the smooth rock that the water rushes across and the fact that the creek drops below into the Siouxon. Trekking poles were definitely very helpful here. Cassie was very hesitant and reluctant to cross (causing me to slip and fall at one point), but we made it across safely. After crossing the footbridge we continued past some campsites to Chinook Falls, our final destination on the hike. Standing at the base meant getting showered with mist and getting colder and colder the longer we stood there. It was worth it though to see this majestic waterfall, robust from the recent rain storms, plummeting straight down into Chinook Creek.
Our initial plan was to cross Chinook Creek and follow a trail on the west bank that leads to the Wildcat Trail and, ultimately, up to Wildcat Falls. Since we started late and took our time, and since Cassie did not seem excited about more creek crossings, we turned around after Chinook Falls. We stopped for snacks at one of the campsites along Chinook Trail, rewarding Cassie with Babybel cheese wheels and Barbara’s cheese puffs. We returned the way we came. Cassie still had a little trouble making that tricky creek crossing after the footbridge (and my boots filled with water because of it), but the rest of the way was a breeze. Out-and-backs aren’t always my favorite types of hikes because the scenery doesn’t change, but this one was still just as enchanting on the return.