Kieran and I didn’t have plans this year for Thanksgiving. So, we decided to go on a Thanksgiving Day Hike At Falls Creek Falls in Washington. The hike was spectacular even though it rained on us the entire time. Keep reading to learn how to stay comfortable for a rain hike in the Pacific Northwest.
The rainy season has officially started in the Pacific Northwest. If you love to hike in this neck of the woods there are two things you can do during this time of year. You can stay home and sulk or grab your rain gear and get out there!! Kieran and I choose the latter. We decided to hike Falls Creek Falls on Thanksgiving Day rain or shine.
Kieran and I have been looking for new places to hike since the Oregon side of the gorge is out of commission. The wildfire that consumed the gorge this fall is finally contained but it scorched a substantial amount of ground cover in the process. The local authorities fear the rainy season will cause massive landslides in areas where the ground cover no longer locks the soil in place. The gorge trails have been closed for the public’s safety until further notice.
With the gorge out of commission Kieran and I have begun researching alternate hikes in Washington. Our friends gave us a great tip and told us to check out Falls Creek Falls located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
I discovered Falls Creek Falls is approximately an hour and a half from our house, which is perfect for a day trip. I told Kieran and we decided, right then and there, we would do a Thanksgiving Day Hike At Falls Creek Falls. Once we locked in our hiking destination we looked up the weather and planning accordingly.
I mentioned earlier the rainy season has officially started in the Pacific Northwest. The forecast called for rain on Thanksgiving Day so we planned on getting wet during our hike. I love hiking in the rain because the crowds are kept at bay. Trails that usually bustle with hikers are almost vacant this time of year. As long as you have the proper clothing and gear, rain hikes are rather enjoyable.
Here are my tips for hiking in the rain:
WHAT TO WEAR – My number one tip for being comfortable during a rain hike is to avoid wearing clothing made from cotton. Wear moisture-wicking fabrics like nylon, spandex, and polyester. Wool is also an excellent all-natural moisture-wicking fiber. These fabrics are best for hiking because they pull moisture away from the skin, onto the fabric, and allow it to evaporate on the surface of the material rather than on the skin itself. What does that mean? It means the fabric keeps your skin warm and dry, even though it’s getting wet.
LAYERS – Now that you have the proper clothing it’s important to layer it. In a matter of minutes, you can go from freezing to sweating, and vice versa so it’s crucial to add or peel off additional layers as needed.
FOOTWEAR – Proper footwear is as important as clothing. You will be miserable on the trail if your feet are uncomfortable. I own pair of Vasque hiking boots. They are waterproof and keep my feet toasty warm. I’ll admit they are expensive but they have lasted me 3 rain seasons and show no signs of stopping.
Here is what I wore during this rain hike:
- Feet – 2 pairs of socks. 1 thin pair covered with a wool pair. Wearing two pairs of socks helps prevents blisters. The socks rub together instead of against your heel.
- Moisture Wicking Tops – I layer a short sleeve t-shirt, a long sleeve shirt, a hoodie, and lightweight rain shell jacket.
- Moisture Wicking Bottoms – layer wool thermal underwear and rain pants.
- Head – a baseball cap to protect my glasses from the rain topped with a normal knit hat.
- Footwear – my Vasque waterproof hiking boots.
- Hands – I wore a pair of lightweight ski gloves.
- *Extras I kept in the car – a sweatshirt, another pair of gloves, an extra pair of socks, and another knit hat.
*I always keep extra clothes in the car when we hike in the rain. Although I’m warm during the hike it’s uncomfortable to drive home in wet clothing. Nothing beats peeling off wet clothes and replacing them with dry ones.
The weather reached 55 degrees on Thanksgiving which was warm. What Kieran and I wear on hikes varies depending on the weather and the time of year we go hiking.
DAYPACK – I purchased a daypack for less than $20 and it’s a lifesaver on the trail. I’m able to store water, clothing, food, and emergency supplies comfortably on my back.
CAMELBACK BLADDER – Having enough water is essential for a hike. My bladder holds 3 liters of water and fits in a pouch inside my daypack. I don’t have to monkey around with bottled water. I just place the drinking tube in my mouth and drink.
JETBOIL – Jetboils are lightweight gas-fueled portable stoves that can boil water in under a minute. They are perfect for heating up a Cup A Noodles, Mountain House Freeze Dried Meals, or making coffee on the fly. You can find hundreds of easy Jetboil recipes online.
HIKING POLES – I adore my hiking poles. I’m blind in one eye so my depth perception sucks balls. Hiking poles help me navigate the trail without Kieran’s assistance.
HAND WARMERS – Hand warmers are amazing because they keep your hands toasty warm for hours. We never leave home without hand warmers when we rain hike or snowshoes because we never know when we’ll need them.
Here is what I carried in my daypack for this hike:
- Water – my camelback bladder holds 3 liters of water. I carry the full 3 liters even though I rarely finish all the water. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Food – I brought a Cup A Noodles, 2 energy bars, an apple, 2 1/2 cups of Homie’s dry food, dog treats, and an extra packet of ramen. I rarely eat all the food but again, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Headlamp – the days are shorter now so it’s best to prepare accordingly.
- Camping Sporks – to eat the Cup A Noodles with.
- Plastic Bags – to use as a garbage bag and for Homie poops. Whatever you pack into the woods gets packed out. Leave nothing behind.
- Paper Towels – to dry off my glasses and smartphone. I store them in the plastic bags.
- Jetboil – to boil water for the Cup A Noodles.
- My Hoodie – it didn’t take long for my body temperature to rise while hiking the trail. I carried my hoodie in my pack the majority of the day.
Kieran carried his own camelback bladder, his food, a couple of beers, the first aid kit, hand sanitizer, hand warmers, a lighter, a utility knife, an emergency cell phone, an emergency poncho, and area maps. Yes, Kieran brought beer along for the hike. It was Thanksgiving and we wanted to celebrate. We ended up splitting one beer after the hike and finishing the rest at home.
What Kieran and I bring on a hike varies depending on the weather, the time of year, and the length of the hike.
Some people think Kieran and I overprepare for a 3-mile hike but I disagree. Remember the wildfire I told you about? It trapped 40 hikers in the gorge and they were forced to camp overnight until emergency crew found them the next morning. Those hikers ended up having to hike an additional 14 miles to reach safety. I read the hikers who brought extra food, water, and supplies shared with those who didn’t. Thankfully all the hikers made it out of the gorge alive.
I wholeheartedly respect nature and know the unexpected is capable of happening. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a thousand more times, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Our Thanksgiving Day Hike At Falls Creek Falls was extraordinary. We had such a fun time we were giddy the rest of the day. I swear hiking is the best medicine for your overall mental stability. Kieran and I have been working so hard on the house (kitchen update coming this week) we’ve been terrible at making time for adventure. We use to hike once or twice a month! The last time we hiked was the beginning of October. The time before that was the end of August. We were longing for nature so we enjoyed this hike immensely.
Here are the specs of the Falls Creek Falls hike:
Distance: 6.2 miles if you hike the lower and upper trail to the falls. If you opt for just the lower trail (like we did) it’s approximately 3.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 970 feet.
Parking Pass: NW Forest Pass
Pets Allowed: Yes
Trail Type: There and back
Trail Congestion: Low
The write up The Outdoor Project featured on Falls Creek Falls cracks me up. I say that because they list pros and cons of this hike. The pros are the spectacular views along the hike and the 350-foot waterfall and the cons are none. I think The Outdoor Project forgot about one major con which is the 7 mile stretch of gravel road that leads to the trailhead off the highway. Can we say pothole orgy? Kieran had to continuously swivel the car back and forth across the street to navigate the enormous holes in the road. Ugh, I wanted to puke! I understand why the trail congestion is low, people must avoid this trail because the condition of the road is atrocious!
The road to the trailhead may have been horrible but the hike was anything but. The majority of the trail follows Falls Creek. When I think of creeks I envision a small, narrow, gentle stream of water. Holy shit, this creek was on steroids! This sucker was raging! The sound from the creek was so deafening Kieran and I could barely hear each other without yelling. But considering Falls Creek is absolutely beautiful, we didn’t mind yelling one bit.
The elevation gain on this trail is mostly gradual. There were a few sections that were steep, but those were few and far between. Note, we skipped the upper trail so I can’t say how difficult that section of the hike is. I got winded so we stopped to rest a few times, but overall I felt the hike was easy. The trail got narrow in a few sections which was kinda scary. One wrong step and you’ll plummet down a steep cliff into the raging Falls Creek. We walked slowly and exercised caution navigating those sections so it wasn’t too bad.
I would like to point out my hiking boots have excellent traction. The multi-directional tread on my boots has an amazing grip so even if the trail gets slippery I feel secure. If I had been hiking in ordinary sneakers I would have been scared shitless.
When you reach the end of the trail you can hear the thunderous waterfall before you see it. Kieran, who usually leads the way, turned around and asked me, can you hear that? Knowing full well what we were hearing, we smiled at each other as he finished, we must be close! The trail leads you to a clearing to one the most turbulent waterfall I have seen. Introducing Falls Creek Falls.
I thought Falls Creek was loud but the creek has nothing on Falls Creek Falls. This puppy was ferocious! The water looked like it was exploding as it crashed into the pool below. A heavy spray emanated from the waterfall drenching us with water. It was still raining so it felt like we were being hit with water from all directions.
Right about this point, other hikers caught up to us. Since it was Thanksgiving we weren’t sure if we’d see other hikers or not. Everyone we met on the trail was in high spirits and I’m sure it being Thanksgiving had everything to do with it. People we meet on the trail are usually friendly but our encounters on this hike seemed especially cozy.
The viewing area of the falls features large boulders you can climb around on. Our original plan was to eat our lunch at the falls and use the boulders as a table. However, the nonstop rain and residual water from the falls made us rethink our plan. If it had been summer, the cold spray would have been refreshing but at this point, the temperature was dropping and neither of us wanted to catch a cold. We decided to head back knowing there was a picnic table at the trailhead we could eat at.
We fired up our jetboil the moment we reached the picnic table. Within minutes we were slurping down piping hot Cup A Noodles. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to eat hot noodles after a rain hike. I’m not a big fan of packaged foods but those Cup A Noodles hit the spot! Kieran and I shared an IPA as we sucked down our lunch. We high-fived and wished Happy Thanksgiving to any hikers who passed by.
After lunch, we walked the short distance back to our car and exchanged our drenched clothes for dry ones. Putting on fresh dry clothes after a rain hike is magical, almost orgasmic. We toweled dried Homie then secured her in the backseat. Kieran and I took in our surroundings one last time then piled into the car to return home.
We listened to music and cracked jokes the entire way home. Our Thanksgiving Day Hike At Falls Creek Falls was nothing short of extraordinary. The feeling of exaltation you experience after a hike soothes your soul. Kieran and I felt giddy for the remainder of the day. We certainly miss celebrating Thanksgiving with our family but this hike was an amazing alternative.
I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving day, however you celebrated it! If you love hiking don’t let the rain stop you! Follow my tips and you’ll have an amazing experience rain or shine!
Thanks for stopping by,
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