Riley Creek

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Riley Creek Canyoneering Canyoning Caving
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Difficulty:3C3 III (v3a6 III)
Raps:‌8, max ↨120ft
Approach:1.5-2.5h ↑1250ft
Descent:3-5h ↓1000ft
Exit:15min ↓25ft
Condition Reports:
16 Sep 2023

"Added 2 rappels to lower. Encountered a fierce yellowjacket nest on the approach. Two in our group got stung very bad multiple times. Quite harrowing.

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Best season:


A significant tributary of the Lewis River whose source is the Pinnacle Glacier on the NW side of Mt. Adams. This creek likely runs high all year from glacial melt. The upper section features several vertical rappels in the flow. The lower section picks up significant flow from Mutton Creek and is much more aquatic in nature. An excellent training ground for those new to aquatic canyoning, as the lower rappels all have walk arounds. NOTE #1: There are at least 5 minor tributaries to the lower drainage. Mutton itself may have 3-4X the flow of Riley. The flow at the bridge is indicative of the flow in the lower section while the flow in the upper canyon is about 25% of this volume. The creek also enters a tight-sided gorge below FR-23, which may be worth investigating. The drop is estimated to be 20-25’ tall with a nice amphitheater.


Park at the NF-23 and Riley Creek crossing on the SW side of the bridge. There is a flat pull out for 5-6 vehicles that makes for good car camping.

Cross the bridge and hike up the dirt embankment on a faint use trail to get into the open forest. The creek is on your right as you are heading uphill. Stay about 50 yards from the creek on mostly open, relatively flat terrain. Once you get to the confluence of Mutton Creek, stay high and go left about 50 yards to a game trail going down at 46.2329, -121.6094, where it is an easy walk down and you may be able to keep your feet dry at the crossing. After crossing Mutton Creek, stay about 50yds from Riley Creek as you go up. R1 is at 4,600 feet but you need to first hike up to 4,650 feet and then descend down to it.

You can see several of the raps before and after the confluence by approaching the edge. NOTE: Wasps were encountered in the area in Sept 2023. An especially aggressive nest was encountered near the rim at R3.

Riley is glacier fed so flows can grow throughout the day. There is an additional drop above R1 but it is a 1/2 mile upstream. There is also one below the NF-23 bridge that is 1/2 mile downstream.


Upper Canyon

  • R1 webbing DCL, 35’, overhead, in the flow. Sharp edge. Creeping the rope is recommended.
  • R2 webbing DCR, 115’, overhead, in the flow.
  • R3 single bolt DCL, 125’, overhead, in the flow.

20 minutes of creeking, or walk in the forest DCL avoiding patches of Devils Club. Enjoy the blueberries!

  • R4 webbing DCL 40’, low angle.

30-40 minutes creek walking while passing the Mutton Creek confluence - may be advantageous to use the game trail on the rim to get to the next portion.

Lower Canyon

  • R5 webbing DCL, 35’, past a logjam. Avoids most of the flow.

15-20 minute creek walk, through a scenic channel.

  • R6 webbing DCR, 15', in 2 tiers. 1st tier is 10' vertical drop into a small cauldron then swept down a 2' pourover into a short swimmer. NOTE: POTENTIAL DANGEROUS HYDRAULIC IN HIGH FLOW. Optional walk around.
  • R7 webbing DCL, 30', 2 tiers, out of flow. There is a large log to cross in the pool, and another log in the pool DCR, and 2 exiting the pool to a short stage 2. Stage 2 was deep and jumpable in 2023. Both stages of this could be a jump if the logs are ejected. Check before jumping. NOTE: IN HIGH FLOW LOGS COULD PRESENT A DANGEROUS STRAINER. Optional walk around.
  • R8 webbing DCR log, 25’, out of the flow. Position the webbing Creek Center or DCL to rappel in the flow.


Creek walk 5 minutes to a place where there is a flat and clean entry into the forest DCL. Walk 5-10 minutes to the road through clean understory.

Red tape

Most of the canyon is located in the Mount Adams Wilderness Area.

Beta sites

Trip reports and media


First scouted by Tim Burke and Melinda Muckenthale in 2016. Rick and Nancy Judy went the next year and experienced heavy glacial flows.

First known descent August, 2023 by Haruka James Clay Lipscomb, Michael Petersen, Ryan Ernst, and Austin.


Information provided by automated processes. Main photo by (unknown). Authors are listed in chronological order.

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