Why Panther Creek Falls is one of the best Washington waterfalls

An awe-inspiring, 130-foot tall set of cascading springs rewards visitors who make the short journey down to Panther Creek Falls, making it one of the most impressive Washington waterfalls and fantastic day trip in the Columbia River Gorge.

With a large observation deck overlooking the waterfall and a one-mile, forested pathway that leads straight to the base, it’s easily accessible which makes this a fun option for families.

Panther Creek Falls in Washington

Panther Creek Falls directions

The Panther Creek waterfall is in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, near other notable landmarks like Lower Lewis River Falls and the Wind River. The falls are in between Carson and Trout Lake, and accessed by a winding, narrow paved road surrounded by towering trees.

The drive takes one hour from Hood River, 90 minutes from Portland or 50 minutes from Trout Lake.

The Panther Creek trail is not very well marked or visible from the road, so keep your eyes out for a dirt pull out on the right (if driving from the south) with a large rocky hill behind it. Chances are there will be at least a couple of vehicles parked there, and you’ll want to head to the left as you walk back down the highway.

Panther Creek Falls in Washington
The parking lot closest to the Panther Creek Falls hike.
Panther Creek Falls in Washington
Chalk markings serve as directions to Panther Creek Falls

It takes less than a minute to get to the trailhead which ducks into the forest on the right, and there’s a small sign on a tree marking the start of Panther Creek Falls Trail #137.

Panther Creek Falls trail

The Panther Creek Falls Trail

There are a couple of options for seeing the falls: a viewpoint near the top, or heading down to the bottom of the falls. Since it takes less than 10 minutes of walking for each option, most visitors do both. The dirt path down may be a bit too steep for trail users with limited mobility, so if that’s the case the platform is the safest bet.

Panther Creek Falls in Washington

To get to the viewing deck, take a right at the fork in the trail and continue walking for a couple of minutes. The viewpoint is set back from the edge, and surrounded by lush ferns and towering trees.

Panther Creek Falls in Washington

Panther Creek Falls in Washington
The view of Panther Creek Falls from the viewing deck

While it’s not possible to see the base of Panther Creek Falls from here, there are great views of the spot where Panther Creek plunges 100-feet over the rocky cliffside. There’s also a series of tranquil pools framed by mossy rocks and fallen logs off to the right, which makes for some great photo-ops.

Panther Creek Falls in Washington

Panther Creek Falls in Washington

To continue the Panther Creek Falls hike down to the bottom area, head back up to the fork in the trail and go left this time. About five minutes later you’ll reach the end of the path and are guaranteed to be spellbound by the massive waterfall plunging down in front of you.

Panther Creek Falls in Washington

Panther Creek Falls in Washington

The trail is close enough that you can feel the spray, and the falls continue to drop another 30 feet from the base as the creek continues to wind through the forest.

Panther Creek Falls in Washington

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