Dark Creek

A local favorite and one of the classic canyons in the area. There are great rappels in the flow and a rare opportunity to downclimb in the flow. This canyon is rated 3CIII.


From US-12 in Randle, drive south on SR-131 for one mile, turn left onto Cispus Road (Forest Road 23) and drive south for 23 miles. Park at the wide pullout on the right with room for 4-5 vehicles. Note the rip rap installation on the bank of the Cispus River to keep the road from getting further washed out in floods.


Descend the river embankment, ford the creek, and find the trail on the far side identified by a concrete ramp. Follow the trail for about 1.3 miles where the trail crosses Dark Creek. Check the flow here. Continue upwards 0.6 miles to a junction at ~3,500 ft just past a minor tributary entering from the west. Follow the trail southwest to roughly 42.2964, -121.7501. Leave the trail and bushwack easterly heading down a shallow drainage to Dark Creek.The off-trail bushwack is only about 10 minutes. If in doubt, veer right to avoid dropping in below the first drop. The creek walk above the first drop is a beautiful canopy with crystal clear water and easy creek walking.  


Head downstream through a nice area of bedrock. 

  • Rappel 1: 8 feet. Rappel from tree DCR (Down Canyon Right) or downclimb DCL (Down Canyon Left)
  • Follow the bedrock around a corner and downclimb past several cascades. 
  • Rappel 2: 90 feet from tree DCL into a pool.  Rappel 3 is at the pool's exit.
  • Rappel 3: 25ft from log DCR or downclimb. 
  • Rappel 4: 15ft from a log in the logjam at the top of the falls, or climb over the logs and downclimb DCL
  • Downclimb a series of short drops. In high flow rappelling may be necessary.
  • Rappel 5: 25ft from log creek center, or downclimb DCR
  • The next three rappels come rapid-fire and are collectively known as "Dark Creek Falls." If the flow proves too high, it's possible to escape DCL above Rappel 6.
  • Rappel 6: 85 feet from a tree DCL. A smaller tributary enters from DCL.
  • Rappel 7: 65 feet from a cairn anchor.  Beware a deep hanging pothole partway down on rappeller's right. It's fun to rappel in the flow, but could be a trap in high water conditions. The pothole is not visible from above.
  • Rappel 8: 100 feet from bolts DCL. It is recommended to set the pull side in advance for a better pull. The falls enter a large funnel going into a dark grotto, "The Dark Room," and exit through a narrow slot.  In high flow there may be a dangerous hydraulic at the bottom. The high water anchor is a tree far DCR to avoid the chamber.
  • Walk out through a short narrows and bypass a logjam DCR.
  • Rappel 9: Two tier falls: 20 feet, a bit of a horizontal chute, then another 10-foot tier. The first tier is usually anchored by a rock or tree DCL. The second tier can be downclimbed or jumped.


Creek walk downstream 5 minutes to reach the trail on the right. Follow the trail back to the river, cross the river and scramble up the bank to the parking area.


Standard canyoning gear including replacement webbing and quick links. 


  • Rappels: 5-9
  • Longest Rappel: 100 feet
  • Approach: ~2.3 miles
  • Exit: 1.5 miles
  • Time: 4-6 hours


  • See ropewiki.com's Dark Creek web page for more beta and trip reports.
  • This canyon is rated v3a3III.
  • Difficulty: Basic Canyon
  • Length: 4.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,100 ft
  • 3,580 ft
Trip Reports

There are no resources for this route/place. Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.