#61 Curly Creek’s Waterfalls


McClellan falls!!!!

This is Curly Creek falls in the low-water Autumn.

Curly Creek falls and archway

 This is Curly Creek falls in the springtime.

Curly Creek falls in the springtime

The lip of Miller falls, springtime

Both Curly Creek and Miller waterfalls are spectacular in the springtime, less so as the summer progresses.  Keen adventurers may take my pic of the lip of Miller falls as an invite to an off-trail bushwhack adventure. 

      FYI, getting onto Curly Creek’s land bridge is a super-scary affair.  Please don’t die trying.

Miller Creek falls from the Curly Creek Falls Viewpoint

 McClellan Falls and Upper Curly Creek falls are upstream of Curly Creek Falls. 

A hidden delight of Upper Curly Creek falls


McClellan Falls


McClellan Falls and lower stream


Tiny friends at the base of majestic McClellan Falls


17 Responses to “#61 Curly Creek’s Waterfalls”

  1. Ryan French Says:

    Which scramble would you say is more difficult? This, or Little Niagara Falls? Also, what is the best time of year to this scramble, and what is the best time of year for Little Niagara?

    • curiousgorgeguidebook Says:

      McClellan Falls is the tougher scramble. Now is a good time for either, given it’s a high-water year. HOT days are the best time in my opinion!

  2. Ryan French Says:

    Thank you very much for all the help! We did Little Niagara Falls yesterday along with a hike up steamboat mountain, an easy scramble to both the upper and lower falls of little goose creek, and a stop by Langfield Falls! What a day! We didn’t find Little Niagara Falls too hard so we may go for Curly Creek Falls next! Thank you so much for both this blog and your book. It truly has been life changing for me! Oh and have you ever been past the Arch on the horsetail/oneonta loop? I read on a website that it continues for a while and then hit another trail. Also that it goes to the top of Ponytail Falls!

    • curiousgorgeguidebook Says:

      Thanks Ryan…I’m glad to add some gorge rah-rah to your days!! About Rock of Ages…yes, the “path” does continue…and a side path does drop to the creek. Now you’ve got even more to explore…hahahaha…it really never ends in our Gorge. I found three places last week that I never knew about, and i have a LONG list of places to still dig into!! Few know of the Gorge’s true depths…count yourself now amongst the few!! Lemme know how McClellan falls goes and how my directions work—cheers, scott

  3. Alex Reed Says:

    Ryan –
    A side path off of Rock of Ages does go to the top of Ponytail Falls. But an even COOLER side path starts way up high on the Rock of Ages Trail Ridge and heads down into the Horsetail Creek canyon, crossing branches of the creek at a number of beautiful locations.
    Here’s a map of the other side trail (the “Russ Jolley Trail”) –

    It’s much easier to find from the other end, though – it goes up the ridge across Horsetail Creek from the Rock of Ages Trail Ridge at first.

  4. Louis Says:

    Hey Scott, where’s your Rush Creek Falls entry? We did the McClellan scramble and then got home and realized there is an even bigger falls just a mile or two over in the next drainage. 200 feet and 300 cfs. Have you been? If so how was it? Also looks like there is another big one on the upper part of Big Creek. Can’t wait to check to them out.

    • curiousgorgeguidebook Says:

      Ummm, did you actually read my guidebook entry for Curly Creek’s waterfalls?

      • Louis Says:

        Oh right, forgot that was in there. I guess I was a little confused til we got home and checked out waterfalls northwest and saw where Rush Creek falls was on the map. You don’t really give directions or have any pics in the book so I guess we didn’t pay much attention. I definitely plan to go back and find it. It just snowed up there this weekend so it might be a while.

  5. Scott H Says:

    To all interested in McClellan and/or Rush Creek Falls; I’ve made a primitive trail to McClellan with pink tape flags (look for the next one when you arrive at one). Trick is getting to the start – walk across CC road from the observation lot, head slightly down the road until you find one of those roadside memorials over the ditch where the trees start. Walk through this tangle heading slightly left a couple hundred feet until you get to a semi-clearing with a tree downed by lightning. Look up the hill for the first flag. Even if you can’t find the flags, the key to an easy approach is to not climb straight up the hill across from the lot, but to head slightly northward (left) as you climb up. Listen for the sound of rushing water. If you get lost on the way back, head straight for the sun in late afternoon.

    Rush Creek is an order of magnitude harder. The easiest approach is from the east on FR3211 (Lone Butte Sno Park off Wind River Hwy). On a map, you’ll see a little bend that gets closest to the falls. Park here and head slightly southwest. The problem is that I have yet to find a decent view from the east side. The west side approach is from a very long and nasty trek down former Hwy 51, all chopped up and overgrown. So my next attempt will be to approach from the east and find a creek crossing above the falls from which to get down to the west bank of the creek. I’ll let everyone know if that pans out.

  6. Matt Says:

    Just made it to McClellan Falls and it was awesome! You really have changed my life too! Thank you! I feel like there are so many easter eggs hiding in the PNW. I wonder if you ever go on hikes with fans.

  7. Scott H Says:

    Trail Update: Got serious this year – schlepped a chainsaw to remove most of the larger obstacles, added a couple arrow signs, removed false flags and added new ones, and cleaned the trail a bit. Enjoy.

  8. Scott H Says:

    And following up on my attempt to find an easy east approach to Rush Creek Falls crossing the creek above them – I failed. Maybe I’m more hesitant than the rest of you to cross a raging stream like Rush Creek (I don’t do fallen log crawls thank you), but I scouted the creek for a quarter mile with no luck. My next hairbrained scheme is to try the abandoned road that starts at the Upper McClellan falls and meets the old Hwy 51 near the falls. Still have to ford Curly Creek, but it’s tamer than Rush Creek. Anything to avoid that nasty trek down 51!

    • Steve R. Says:

      I took the nasty trek down old 51 thinking it would be the easiest access to Rush Creek Falls. I found the old county stockpile area and clear cut but had a hell of time finding my way down to the creek. It’s real thick in there. I got disoriented for awhile and finally found 51 again and just headed back out.

      Gotta get there sometime

    • Scott H Says:

      Steve R – yeah it’s not pleasant. If I remember, from the clear cut you go just off to the north and keep pressing east through that mess, listening for water. Once you’re there, you’ll find a better way back. I suppose I should also mention that some people actually park at FR90 (on the way to the Lewis River Falls area) and ‘walk’ the mile or so up the creek to the falls. I can’t imagine this is any combination of safe, easy, or enjoyable, but I did notice a ‘trail’ beside the creek on the east bank – maybe it follows the creek all the way? Anyone know about this?

  9. Scott H Says:

    Well that was short-lived. I went to check on my new trail to the lower McClellan Falls and found that not only had all my spiffy signs been removed, but every single flag ever put up by anyone was gone as well! Gotta give em points for completeness. Don’t know if this was the work of the Forest Service, a purist, or someone wanting to keep this trail a secret. I’m surprised they didn’t nail all of the sawn logs back together!
    Oh well, I haven’t decided if I’ll try to re-flag this or not. In the meantime, if anyone wants to know the way, you can email me and I’ll describe it and/or send you the GPS track.


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