Hike to Mossy Grotto Falls

1.6 miles  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Chase Dekker

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

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Tags

Photography
Hiking
Waterfall

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An Extreme Adventure That Should Only Be Attempted by Very Experienced Hikers and Outdoorspeople

For anyone considering trying to find this waterfall, know this is an EXTREME adventure and not anywhere close to an intermediate hike, and should only be attempted by those experienced with rugged, dangerous off-trail scrambling. First, the round-trip mileage is the listing is wrong: it is actually 3 miles, not 1.6. The journey to the Indian Pits is certainly nothing more than an intermediate hike. From the fish hatchery, walk the paved Historic Old Columbia River Highway (just open to cyclists and hikers) for .5 miles to the Ruckel Creek trailhead, next to the actual creek. From there, hike .8 miles on a good trail on moderate to steep grades away from and far above the creek. Cross the open area under the power lines, continue through the forest until you emerge at the open area of the Indian Pits - a beautiful area in and of itself. That's where the intermediate part ends. From there, indeed a faint but reasonably obvious "path" leads down through the mossy rocks to the edge of a ridge and from there it is a near-vertical scramble over slippery, slick mud, over roots, through very slippery loose rocks and still a lot of down toward the creek. Do not even attempt this unless you are well prepared, with proper hiking boots, trekking poles (an absolute must) and emergency supplies in case you get stuck. The climb back up to the Indian Pits is just as hard as the descent and is VERY difficult as well. Honestly, while the waterfall is very nice, after having done this adventure I didn't think it was really worth the extreme amount of effort to get there as there are many other, more beautiful and much-easier-to-get-to waterfalls in the Gorge than killing yourself with this one. Again, strongly consider if you are experienced, in-shape, have the proper equipment and really want to undertake this, as search and rescue would be a very long wait, if they could even find you if something bad happened.

🥇Top Contributor

almost 4 years ago

Wasn't Able To Find

Wasn't able to find trail head. Not sure if it was apart of the daily $5 fee from the other park. Need clearer instructions.

Misleading Info

the gps coordinates are wrong!

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