Elk Creek Falls Hike

Difficulty
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Easy
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
1.5-2h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
4.2 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
199 m
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Directions to Trailhead

The Elk Creek Falls Hike is a breathtaking adventure that offers spellbinding views of not one, but three mesmerizing cascades—one of which being the tallest cascade in the state. Hidden amongst Idaho’s mountains, this natural sanctuary is worth a visit.

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Route Description for Elk Creek Falls Hike

The Elk Creek Falls Trail is simply astounding. The picturesque scenes of the waterfalls, the lush woodlands, and mountain views will render you speechless. Located in the Elk Creek Falls Recreation Area, the path is well-maintained, but it is worth noting it becomes very slippery after rainfall. Additionally, there are three overlooks staged along the cliffside—please stay on the designated lookout platform as the canyon walls are quite steep. Boasting such gorgeous scenery, this family-friendly hike sees plenty of traffic, notably in the summer months, so expect some company!

Visit the state’s tallest waterfall and indulge in the vistas of two others on the Elk Creek Falls Trail. This beautiful adventure beckons year-round exploration, though we would be lying if we said we didn’t have a preferred season to view the falls. Summer sees the opportunity to swim in the slow-moving pool beneath the upper falls, but it also warrants crowds. We instead opt for autumn adventures when the foliage is changing, the falls still cascade through the craggy canyon, and the crowds have diminished. In the winter, you have the chance to indulge in complete seclusion, though you will likely need a pair of snowshoes to navigate the cloaked terrain. No matter the season, this pleasant path is well-maintained, easy to follow, and incredibly scenic.

Your journey to Elk Creek Falls begins from the trailhead off Elk River Road. Setting out from here, you will be guided southwardly along the Elk Creek Falls Trail into a swathe of wilderness occupied by pines, cedars, and lush undergrowth. Enjoy the sounds of nature as you wander to an intersection. While you can hike in either direction, we chose to keep right, visiting the Lower Elk Creek Falls first. After some walking, you will confront another junction, keep right, and you will begin your descent to the lower falls. Soon you will reach the platform that boasts views of the waterfall cascading through the craggy canyon. Snap a photo, admire the scene, then retrace your footing back up to the intersection.

Here, turn right, and you will be led southeast to the Middle Elk Creek Falls overlook. Soon you will reach the platform– marvel at the beauty and grandeur of the surging cascades that plunge over 90ft through the basalt rock walls. While you may notice some people along the ridges of the canyon getting a more up close and personal look, this is not recommended. Return to the main trail, turning right at the crossroad. Now traveling northeastward towards the final chute in the collection, you will be granted wonderful views of the forested mountainscape through the tree breaks.

At the subsequent juncture, you will veer right and begin your descent into the canyon via switchbacks. Mind your footing on rocks and rocks that may obstruct the steep route. When you ultimately reach the creekside, you will likely be in the presence of several other explorers enjoying access to the refreshing waters. If time and weather permit, take a swim in the slow-moving pool beneath the Upper Elk Creek Falls. Admire the intricacies of the volcanic rock that frames the falls and relish the hypotonic scene of the cascades. Retrace your footing back up the switchbacks when you finish reveling in the view, keeping right at the trail fork. Meandering west, you will reach your final junction, keep right and retrace your steps along this route back to the trailhead.

Trail Highlights

Elk Creek Falls

The Elk Creek Falls are a set of three cascades fed by Elk Creek. Together they plunge over 140 ft through the serrated canyon bound by basalt rocks. Of the three, the biggest is Middle Falls, which cascades over 90 ft, earning the title of the tallest waterfall in the state. Boasting a spellbinding scene, this hike is well worth a detour into Idaho’s wilderness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are the Elk Creek Falls?

The Elk Creek Falls are located south of Elk River, Idaho off Elk River Road.

How long is the Elk Creek Falls Hike?

The Elk Creek Falls Trail is a 2.6 mi hike in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest.

Insider Hints for Elk Creek Falls Hike

  • Hiking during or right after rainfall presents inherent dangers
  • Dogs must remain on-leash
  • Stay on the overlook structures; the drop-offs are steep
  • Bring your camera; the scenery is gorgeous
  • In the summer, the upper falls transform into a popular swimming and fishing hole
  • Bring sandals or water shoes if you plan to wade into the pool
  • Wintertime exploration necessitates the use of snowshoes

Getting to the Elk Creek Falls Hike Trailhead

The Elk Creek Falls Hike is accessed from the trailhead off Elk River Road.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    No

  • When to do

    Year-round

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Yes

  • Route Signage

    Good

  • Crowd Levels

    High

  • Route Type

    Lollipop

Elk Creek Falls Hike Elevation Graph

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