This beautiful, hidden waterfall (20 ft. tall) was discovered in the last decade and is located off of a popular hiking trail in the Columbia River Gorge. 

This newly discovered waterfall has become a favorite for photographers – even so, it has yet to receive an official name. The waterfall is located just 300 feet off the Ruckel Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge, but it can be quite challenging to access. The rewards are well worth the slippery trail, however.

On the trail, you will climb some pretty good grades through beautiful thickets of forests and a few open meadows. After 0.8 miles of hiking, you will arrive at a very large, easily identified clearing, called Indian Pits. Walk about 150 feet through the clearing and you will see trampled ground to your right, heading downhill. Follow this unofficial trail (treaded by outdoor photographers) as you descend rapidly down a steep grade. Be careful, this part of the hike has some slippery, moss-covered rocks! Please make sure to follow Leave No Trace ethics, as the vegetation has become quite trampled.

Once you reach the creek, the falls are just a few hundred feet upstream. If you are hiking at night, be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp, as the light disappears quickly here, and it is much harder crawling back up the hill to the trail than it is coming down!

Getting there:
Head out of Portland on Interstate 84 East and take exit 41. Park at the lot adjacent to the fish hatchery, and follow the paved path along the highway for a half mile to reach the Ruckle Creek Trailhead.

Key coordinates:
Ruckle Creek Trail #405 Trailhead: 45.645264, -121.918747 

Mossy Grotto Falls: 45.6361536,-121.8870842

Pack List

  • Sturdy hiking shoes or boots
  • Hiking poles
  • Headlamp
  • Rain jacket (esp. in wet winter months)
  • Water and snacks
  • Camera and tripod
Show More
RT Distance 1.6 Miles
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Waterfall

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

1986 discovery

I find the reports interesting that the falls were discovered in 2006. I came across the falls in 1986 while walking up Ruckel Creek. I started at Ruckel Falls, at the Old Scenic Highway Bridge, and slowly walked the creek up the gorge being careful not to disturb the surrounding vegetation. It was a very difficult and dangerous creek walk. I had spent nearly 10 years exploring the Eagle Creek area and alot of time around Ruckel Creek, which was largely unknown by the public in the 70's and 80's. As I walked up Ruckel Creek in 86 I was amazed to come upon one of the most beautiful falls I'd seen in the gorge (now known as Mossy Grotto Falls). I think the experience was magnified by the realization that the falls were virtually untouched by man. I can still remember how spectacular the Falls and Grotto were - and even though I have done hundreds of hikes over the years - Mossy Grotto remains as one of the most spectacular - mainly because of the remoteness of the setting. That said, I am saddened to hear how the area has been damaged by heavy use. I was planning to visit the falls again this summer after 31 years, which is what led me to this site. Hearing the heavy damage reports I will not be making the trip. Having grown up in the Columbia River Gorge I have watched man's ever increasing footprint change this area over the years for the worst. I would strongly discourage anyone from attempting to access the falls by way of walking the creek. Not only was my one trek very dangerous, but it would cause the destruction of yet another pristine natural area. I was 19 and foolish at the time and if I had to do over again (though I thought I was being careful not to destroy the landscape) I know better now than to take the risk and hike off trail which inevitably will destroy the natural landscape.

This Hike Is Dangerous, But Doable.

First of all this isn't an intermediate hike. It's off trail, and is essentially hiking down a muddy cliff, that also has rocks that slide when you climb down. Ideally you should have emergency supplies and be an experienced hiker.

Hard to get to but worth the bush wacking

I would agree with the reviews below. This fall is not easy to get too and I wouldn't recommend it for a novice. The last time I hiked here I cut in too early (at the last switchback before heading up the hill) and ended up climbing over three falling logs. I also got some poison oak so make sure to wear long pants. There really isn't a trail to get here so it's pretty much bush waking.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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