If you’re looking for a scenic trek without too much elevation change, look no further. This trail is long without being too strenuous. The hike to Pup Creek falls is part of the Clackamas River Trail, which continues on to a campground. Most hikers are headed to the falls, which is located about 4.5 miles from the parking lot. The waterfall is 100 feet high and absolutely stunning - totally worth the sore toes I have from my too-small hiking boots. Oh well, guess it’s time for new shoes!
Length of hike: 9 mile out and back
Difficulty of hike: Moderate
What to wear: Quality Hiking boots, Layers
What to pack: Water, Snacks and/or lunch, Camera, Sun screen,
How long did it take you to complete the hike?: 4-5 hours. We stopped a lot for photos on the way, took a few 15 minute snack breaks, and finished in 4.75 hours.
Driving Directions to Pup Creek Falls:
The Clackamas River Trailhead is located about an hour from Portland. You’ll take 224E toward Estacada, then keep going over 20 miles. Winding up in the Mt. Hood National Forest for a gorgeous drive. Take a right on Fish Creek Road, cross the cute little bridge right away, and park in the lot on the right. We got an early start, arriving at the trailhead by 9:15 and finding only 2 other cars in the parking lot.
Trail Amenities at Pup Creek Falls
Technically, there is a bathroom. It’s more of a shelter with a stinky hole in the ground. Bring your own TP, wipes, sanitizer. Eww. It wasn’t great. You’ve been warned.
There is no running water at the parking lot. There is a very ancient 5 dollar fee box that may or may not be enforced. We have a forest pass so we didn’t have to trust our money to the rusty old receptacle. The parking lot also contains a raft ramp, which I had never seen before, and after seeing all of the kayakers and rafting groups from the trail, it made plenty of sense. It was such a cool structure.
From the parking lot, you will cross Fish Creek Road to get to the trailhead. If you’re tired already, there is a bench about 10 feet from the start of the trail. Also, if you’re tired already, this hike isn’t for you.
The Clackamas River Trail
Wowza! This Clackamas River Trail is stunning. The river is on your left the entire 4.5 miles to the falls. The first couple miles are flat and forested, with several side trails if you want to pull over and sit by the river for a minute. Trust me, you want to. We stopped at two different clearings that had stumps for benches and remnants of campfires. Both spots would be a great place to stop for lunch. There is also a highway across the river from the trail, however, it’s not a busy one, so the sound of the occasional car didn’t bother us. Also in the first 2 miles you’ll see evidence of a forest fire from over 10 years ago!
The trail begins to climb up a bit after a couple of miles, ducking into the woods from time to time causing the sound of the river to fade away. Several small waterfalls cross right over the trail and run down to join the river. There are a few switchbacks with a small amount of elevation gain, putting you up on the side of the canyon looking down to the river. We hollered at some folks who were rafting by and got a friendly wave in return. By the way, up until this point we hadn’t seen a single person on the trail. And it was Saturday. And it wasn’t raining. WINNING.
Arriving at Pup Creek Falls
Four and a half miles later, we came to Pup Creek Falls. Since the trail continues on, there is a sign directing you .2 miles to the right, back into the canyon to the waterfall. Although there aren’t a lot of places to sit and relax and have lunch, if you are able to climb down a bit, you can perch on some logs at the base of the falls like we did. After lunch we crossed those logs and found another great vantage point even closer to the waterfall.
Take Your Hike to Pup Creek Early in the Day
On our way back, mid-day, we started seeing other hikers heading to the falls. Every single person had a dog or two, so yeah, this is a dog-friendly hike. Judging from how many people had dogs, it might even be required. But seriously, we were happy to have started fairly early so that we didn’t have to share the trail much.
We made good time on the way back, driven by our need of a beer and a burger after burning about 5 million calories. We finished in under 5 hours. If I were to do it again, I’d bring more of a lunch and stop by the river for a bit. There were people of all ages on the trail, and if hiking 9 miles is too much, the first section of trail is pretty flat and would be a great walk for less ambitious hikers who still want epic scenery.
"Epic scenery" pretty much sums up this hike. We expressed ourselves by occasionally staring at a view and saying, "F**king Oregon!"