The Siouxon Creek (pronounced sou-sawn and rhyming with Tucson) is situated south of Mt. St. Helens in the wonderfully vast Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The forest is an attractive combination of 100-year-old post-forest fire regrowth and ancient snags, both upright and fallen. The understory is lush and the waters of Siouxon Creek collect in deep, inviting pools of green and blue. The area is also chock full of fantastic campsites and captivating waterfalls. And there are a number of hike length options that make it great for anything from a quick family-friendly jaunt of 4 miles up to an overnight backpacking excursion in the 9 - 11 mile range.
First and foremost, hiking here can be an easy to moderate outing or a potentially adventuresome, creek fording wilderness trek. A lot is going to depend on your willingness to get wet and the time of year you visit. You will potentially make three creek crossings. Fording the creeks during spring, especially the third fording of Siouxon Creek, can be dangerous. Please exercise caution. While all three fords are relatively easy by late summer in terms of water level, rocks are still slippery. Please be aware of this beforehand if your goal is to reach Wildcat Falls.
From the trailhead, descend a quick 50 feet before encountering the first trail junction. Stay right here and follow the somewhat steep path down to a bridged crossing of West Creek. Once across the creek you’ll note the first in a series of excellent campsites that will spring up along the trail at intervals. You’ll also get your first taste of the predominant character of this hike. Well-graded, rolling trail that gracefully gains and loses elevation. The path gives almost constant creek views from above and verdant forest below.
Keep hiking past a junction with the Horseshoe Ridge Trail and arrive at Horseshoe Falls at the 1.6-mile mark. A bridge carries you over a deep chasm just above the falls. There are some steep viewpoints accessed on either side of the falls. Continue past another set of campsites a short .4-miles more to Siouxon Falls. The scenic falls pour into a very inviting splash pool. Access is steep and potentially slippery here. If swimming is the main reason for creek access, there are better spots along the creek earlier and later on.
To continue the hike to Chinook Falls and potentially Wildcat Falls, keep hiking to an easy-to-miss junction with the Wildcat Trail at the 3.2 mile mark. This trail descends to the creek and will potentially be the place where you ford Siouxon Creek later on. If your goal is to do the 9-mile semi-loop, you might be interested in taking the short path down to the creek and assessing the water levels. Keep in mind that if you’re attempting to make it to Wildcat Falls and do not ford here later on, you must backtrack and hike a total of 10.8 miles back to the trailhead. If your goal is only to Chinook Falls, pay this junction no mind.
Continue hiking along Siouxon Creek past another junction with the Horseshoe Ridge Trail and arrive at a mini-creek that crosses the trail. It is beautiful but dangerous. There is an alluring small falls just upstream, but keep your eyes on the trail when crossing. It is slick! A short distance beyond this crossing you’ll reach the bridge that spans a narrow gorge and heads to Chinook Falls. It’s worth noting that 14 Mile Falls can be seen just upstream from the bridge. The creek is potentially fordable upstream from 14 Mile Falls. Again, exercise caution and check with the Forest Service before you go.
After the bridge, the trail continues past another set of fine campsites and quickly descends to Chinook Creek near the base of Chinook Falls. The trail peters out as it gets closer to the falls. If this is your goal, turnaround and head back the way you came. If you’re proceeding on to Wildcat Falls, ford the creek here and pick up the trail on the other side. A downed log makes for a potentially easier crossing in high water season. Two-tenths of a mile after the ford stay straight at a junction and continue along the Wildcat Trail for .8 miles from Chinook Falls to a crossing at Wildcat Creek. Make your way over a set of very large downed logs and pick up the trail on the other side of the creek.
Almost immediately you’ll reach another junction. Stay right and ascend a short .3 miles along the strikingly beautiful creek to a viewpoint of Wildcat Falls, passing a handful of cascades along the way. There is no need to go beyond the viewpoint that occurs at a steep switchback, so head back down to the junction and make a sharp right turn down to Siouxon Creek. Again, this is the most difficult crossing when water is high, so be careful. Alternately, you can backtrack the way you came, eventually making it back to the trailhead.
If you ford the creek here, pick up the trail on the other side and a short distance later arrive at the Siouxon Creek Trail. Hang a right here and hike back to the trailhead, passing Siouxon and Horseshoe Falls in the process.
To get to Siouxon Creek from Portland, take I-205 north to Hwy 500 East. Travel along this road that soon becomes highway 503. Make a left to stay on stay on Hwy 503 North, through the towns of Battleground and Amboy. Just past the Mt. St. Helens National Monument Headquarters, turn right onto NE Healy Road. After 9.2 miles, bear left at a fork heading uphill onto Road 57. After 1.2 miles, turn left onto paved Road 5701. Drive 3.7 more miles to where the road ends at the trailhead. The trail heads down into the forest about 100 feet before the end of the road. Be forewarned there are a number of “gottcha” potholes and dips along the last 10 miles to the trailhead.