Category Archives: Switchbacks

Fairy Falls (Summer)

Directions: Take I-84 East to exit 28. Go left on the Historic Highway to the Wahkeena Falls Trailhead.

Whenever we do this hike we’re always reminded just how pretty it is and thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

From the trailhead cross the small bridge over the creek and head up a long paved switchback that takes you to Wahkeena Falls. Even during the summer months this waterfall puts off a decent amount of spray so you may get a bit wet as you cross in front of it. The trail stays paved as you pass a bench and head for the cardio kicker section of this hike- 12 switchbacks. The switchbacks are fairly short and are paved for the most part.

      

      

Once you make it to the end of the switchbacks you will come to a trail junction. It’s worth the short trip to Lemmon’s Viewpoint off to the right. Once you’ve seen enough at the viewpoint head back to the junction and go left where you will start seeing the creek and the trail levels out briefly. The pavement also ends here and switches to dirt and rock. You will be following the creek just about the rest of the hike as you cross the first of two footbridges and the trail again starts heading uphill. All through this area is very beautiful with all the moss covered trees and the creek being so close to the trail. It’s one of our favorite sections of Gorge trails. After crossing the second footbridge you have a few more switchbacks and then you are at Fairy Falls. The waterfall is right on the trail and there is a bench to rest or enjoy lunch.

      

When you’re ready, head back out the way you came in.

      

Distance: 2.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 800 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: There’s a good amount of elevation for the short distance so this hike may not be best for younger kids and older folks.

Bathrooms: Yes but they are seasonal

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes especially nice weekends

Warnings: None

Beacon Rock (Spring)

Directions: Take I-84 East to Cascade Locks and cross Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll). Take a left onto Highway 14 and drive for about 5 miles until you come to the parking area on the left shoulder of the highway.

Beacon Rock is one of our favorite hikes, it’s short but packed full of great Gorge views.

From the parking area get on the trail that takes you into the wooded area at the base of the rock. Follow the dirt trail until you get to the first of many switchbacks that takes you to the entrance gate for Beacon Rock.

      

Immediately you get a view of the Columbia River below and since it’s spring we saw some wildflowers growing out the side of the rock. The trail is rock, cement, and boardwalk as you head up the west side. You will pass many viewpoints along the way, once you start to get around the south side of the rock you will start seeing the train tracks below.

      

      

We saw many red-tailed hawks, osprey, and vultures soaring around throughout the hike. We also saw some other small birds in the bushes and trees growing along the trails. Once on the east side of the rock the trail turns to dirt and thats a good sign you are close to the top.

      

There is a small set of steps that takes you to the very top. At the top there are a few big rocks that make for a nice place to rest or eat lunch. It’s a pretty small area and can get packed pretty quickly.

Head back out the way you came in.

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: 700 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: With all the switchbacks and elevation this may not be the best hike for small kids and older folks.

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: $10 Discovery Pass

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes especially on nice weekends

Overall: We really like this hike. It’s been great each time we’ve visited.

Upper and Lower Latourell Falls (Spring)

Directions: Take I-84 east to Exit 28 (Bridal Veil). Get onto the Old Highway heading right for about 2.5 miles until you reach the Latourell Falls parking area.

From the parking area go left up the paved path that takes you to a view point of Lower Latourell Falls. Continue left on the dirt trail that heads somewhat steeply uphill, you will come to a bench and another view of the waterfall. The trail continues uphill as you switchback a few times and reach the top of the waterfall.

      

From here the trail levels out a bit and you cross over a couple foot bridges before reaching Upper Latourell Falls. Spring is a great time to hike this trail, it was lined with trillium, bleeding heart, and salmon berry was flowering. Water levels are also great in spring with snow melt, which makes for some very full and pretty waterfalls.

      

From the upper falls continue on the trail where it is mostly level for the first bit and then switches back downhill a couple times and heads gradually downhill. Soon you will fork left and head uphill steeply to a viewpoint of the Gorge. From here you head downhill on one long switchback that takes you down to the old highway.

      

After crossing the highway you can either head back to your car or take the steps down into the park if you want to see the base of the lower falls. If you choose to continue on, follow the paved path through the park and under the highway bridge. A short distance later you will reach the base of the waterfall, from here you just follow the path uphill where it drops you back at the parking area.

      

Distance: 2.25 miles

Elevation: 520 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Overall: We highly recommend this time of year for this trail- it’s beautiful!

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (Winter)

The Rhododendron Garden is located on 28th Avenue, across from Reed College in the Eastmoreland neighborhood.

This is more of a walk than a hike but it’s still a nice place to go to get outdoors for a while.

From the entrance take the paved path and switchback once where you go under a bridge and come to a pond. There are lots of ducks here and sadly it looks like the big willow tree that was by the bridge didn’t make it through the winter storms. Continue on the path and you will round a corner and start to see the golf course across the water. The path here is gravel and takes you to another pond with even more ducks, you may even see a nutria if you have the patience to hang around for a while.

      

      

After crossing the long bridge go left and down along the pond, pick up the path as it goes back up into the rhododendrons. There will be a fence and stream to your left and a grassy area to your right. As you continue to follow this trail it will round a corner and come to an area with cattails and reeds, you can see more of the golf course across the water here as well. Continuing around you’ll be following along the water as it loops back to the long bridge. From here just continue to follow the path back to your car. There are lots of side trails along the way to check out, the garden is beautiful and a great place to explore.

      

      

Some of the birds we saw were herons, ruddy ducks, mallards, humming birds, geese, coots, wigeons, and wood ducks.

Distance: 2 miles (you can do more or less, depends on which trails you take)

Elevation: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes but dogs must be leashed

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $5 entrance fee from March- September, except every Mon & Tues are free year round.

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great place for wildlife viewing, we need to go back during rhododendron season.

Silver Falls State Park- Trail Of Ten Falls (Winter)

Directions: Take I-205 to exit 10 and drive South on Highway 213. Follow signs to Silverton, once in Silverton get on Highway 214. Take Highway 214 for about 14 miles to the South Falls Lodge parking area.

We did this hike on a very rainy weekend. All of the waterfalls were very full which was great to see! There are park maps at the pay station area, they are nice to have so you know which waterfalls are coming up. You can do the large loop that takes you to all 10 waterfalls, or you can do just a few. There are three trailhead areas, each have multiple waterfalls within just a few miles.

All of the trails are very well marked with easy to read signs. The trails are all fairly wide, with packed dirt and rocky in areas. There are a few bridges and two areas with long and pretty steep staircases. You can walk behind multiple waterfalls as well, so there’s a good chance you will get a little wet in the warmer months, or soaked in the wet months.

      

Since this is such a straightforward hike we’ll just post some pictures of the highlights. We have done this hike in other season, winter is definitely our favorite so far. The waterfalls and creek were so full and it was a lot less crowded.

      

      

      

Distance: 7.5 miles (if you want to see all of the waterfalls)

Elevation: 1,200 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Dogs are not allowed on MOST of the trails.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $5 entrance fee

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: This is one of Oregon’s best State Parks!

Best Of 2016

We did a lot of great hikes in 2016, here are some of our favorites and our overall top hike of the year.

  • Willamette Valley:

Henline Falls– This is a short hike but it takes you to an amazing waterfall. Catch it at the right time of day and you might just see a rainbow at the base as well!

  • Columbia River Gorge:

Columbia Hills State Park– Great area to see wildflowers with amazing views of the Gorge.

  • Washington:

Lewis River Falls– So many pretty waterfalls in such a short distance. Definitely a must see.

  • Coast:

The Thumb– This was probably the most unique hike we did this year.

  • Central Oregon:

Smith Rock (Misery Ridge)– The views are amazing at the top and you get a very up close view of Monkey Face!

  • Mt. Hood:

Wind Lake– You get to ride a chairlift up to the top of Ski Bowl and then hike to a somewhat hidden lake. And the whole time you have great views of Mt. Hood and Government Camp. 

  • Portland:

Powell Butte- This is a great hike in the city. On a clear day you can see Mt. Hood, Mt. St Helens, and Mt. Hood.

  • Southern Oregon:

Plaikni Falls– This hike was inside Crater Lake National Park, it’s very pretty, especially in autumn with all the beautiful colors.

  • Kayak:

Disappearing Lake– This was such a treat! It’s a lake that’s only around for about a month out of the whole year.

Overall Best of 2016:

Bald Mountain– The hike up bald mountain is beautiful and lined with beargrass. Once at the top you round a corner and come to one of the best views of Mt. Hood we’ve ever seen. Do this hike!

What were some of your favorite hikes in 2016? Any you’re looking forward to doing in 2017?

 

Bridal Veil Falls (Winter)

Directions: Take I-84 East to Bridal Veil exit #28. Take a right onto the Historic Columbia River Highway and in less than a half mile the Bridal Veil Falls parking area will be on your right.

From the parking area get on the paved trail that heads past the bathrooms and curves right. The trail quickly turns to dirt and heads down one long switchback. We did this hike a few days after the recent ice storm so the trail was pretty much a sheet of ice. We would not recommend hiking this trail if it’s icy unless you have some sort of shoe traction (YakTrax, Stabilicers, IceTrekkers, etc). Even with these on our shoes we still fell a few times.

      

After the switchback you will head down a staircase and follow a bridge over Bridal Veil Creek. From here you can go up more stairs to a viewing platform where you get a nice view of the waterfall. You can also go down to creek level and get a side view of the falls and explore around the creek. When it’s not icy you can climb around the large rocks and get up nice and close to the waterfall.

      

This waterfall is always pretty but it was extra beautiful with all the icicles and snow surrounding it.

Head back out the way you came in.

Distance: .6 miles

Elevation: 100 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages. Unless it’s icy, then make sure you are sure footed and have the right gear with you.

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes on nice weekends.

Overall: We love going to the Gorge when we get snow or ice, the waterfalls look even better!

Tooth Rock (Autumn)

Directions: Drive I-84 east to exit 40. Take a right at the stop sign and then an immediate left. Follow this road uphill where it ends at the Tooth Rock Trailhead.

The trail starts out paved as you pass by a Bonneville Power substation and soon come to a side trail to your right. This trail has a small brown marker that says Tanner Butte, take this narrow dirt trail and follow it uphill. There are a lot of downed trees on the first part of this trail, they are all easy to go under or around. You will also pass by an old refrigerator that has been dumped on the trail.

dsc_0059      dsc_0072

dsc_0076      dsc_0078

Continue up the trail until you reach a sort of summit where there is a trail junction. Keep on the same trail as you start to head downhill somewhat steeply. This trail will end in two switchbacks that drop you off at the paved trail you started on just farther down.

dsc_0091      dsc_0114

Go left on the paved trail where you will hear a lot of traffic from I-84 just below you. The path heads uphill a bit for a short distance before leveling out. You will pass a couple good spots that have a nice view of the Gorge and Bonneville Dam. From here you are just following the paved path back to your car.

dsc_0068      dsc_0063

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: 240

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most ages- there are some steep parts but it’s not very long.

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Overall: Not the most exciting hike but it’s nice if you don’t want to do a long hike.

 

Elowah Falls & Upper McCord Creek Falls (Autumn)

Directions: Take I-84 East to exit 35. Take a left at the stop sign and then a right onto Frontage Road. Follow Frontage Road for about 2 miles to the John B Yeon parking area.

From the trailhead follow the trail as it passes an old water tower and heads back east where you start hiking uphill. The trail here is fairly wide and well groomed, you are going uphill steadily but it’s nothing too hard. Soon you will reach the junction with Upper McCord Creek Falls. Continue straight here and the trail levels out a bit but becomes much more rocky. Next up are the long switchbacks that take you down to Elowah Falls. We’ve had quite a bit of rain recently so this part of the trail was pretty muddy. The trail drops you right at the base of Elowah Falls and a bridge crossing the creek. This is the end point for the Elowah Falls part of this hike.

dsc_0057      dsc_0061

dsc_0034_2      dsc_0047

When you are ready to head up to Upper McCord Creek Falls follow the switchbacks back up and head for the trail junction you passed earlier. Go left and start gradually heading uphill, you will switchback and cross over old metal pipe that’s running over the trail in two spots. Continue following the trail and you will hike up more switchbacks where you will start getting views of the Gorge. After the switchbacks the trail skirts along the cliffs with a metal railing to prevent falling. The views up here are beautiful and there is even a rock bench to sit and enjoy it all. This cliff area can be really drippy with runoff during the rainy months. Continue around the cliff and short distance and you will be able to see Elowah Falls from the top and a short distance later will reach Upper McCord Creek Falls.

When you are ready head back out the way you came in.

dsc_0124      dsc_0069

dsc_0123      dsc_0114

Distance: 3.6 miles

Elevation: 500 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Overall: Two waterfalls in less than 4 miles is hard to beat! These waterfalls are best during the rainy seasons.

Wahclella Falls (Autumn)

Directions: Take I-84 east to exit 40 (Bonneville Dam). Take a right at the stop sign and go right at the fork where you will see the parking area.

We have also hiked Wahclella Falls in the Winter and Spring seasons.

From the parking area follow the wide flat path past a gate as it follows along Tanner Creek. Soon you will come to a Dam where the trail takes a sharp left and immediately comes to a bridge that takes you right next to Munra Falls.

dsc_0025      dsc_0056

dsc_0060      dsc_0080_2

From here the trail gradually starts to head uphill as you get great views of the creek below. The trail is pretty rocky the whole way and has some pretty muddy spots with some fencing in it to prevent erosion. There is a small staircase with wooden steps and a short distance later you will come to a split in the trail.

dsc_0151      dsc_0092

Head right at the split and go down a couple switchbacks that take you to a bridge. After crossing the bridge you will be in a large rock slide area. There is a nice little seasonal runoff to the right coming from way up on the cliffs. You will soon start seeing the waterfall as you continue around and through a small almost cave or grotto like area. Cross yet another bridge and you will be at the main viewing area for Wahclella Falls.

dsc_0095      dsc_0144

When you’re ready, continue the loop as you climb up between a few large rocks to the upper trail. As you go along the upper trail you will see the lower trail and rock slide area below. Soon you will be back at the split in the trail, go straight and get back on the main trail where you will follow it back to your car.

dsc_0106      dsc_0123_2

Autumn at Wahclella Falls is great, the upper tier is much more visible and Munra Falls water level is nice and full. Tanner Creek is moving swiftly and the colors are great.

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: 300 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Porta-potties at the trailhead.

Parking Fee: Yes a $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: This is a great easy hike for all seasons. Can’t beat two waterfalls in two miles either!