Category Archives: Switchbacks

Drift Creek Falls (Spring)

Directions: From Portland take I-5 South to exit 294 for 99W. Take 99W through Newberg and Dundee for 22.9 miles, then take a left for Highway 18 (Dayton/Oregon Coast). Take Highway 18 for 48 miles and pass through Grand Ronde and reach Rose Lodge where you will take a left onto Bear Creek Road (there is a sign for Drift Creek Falls). Drive 3 miles (the last part of this road is gravel but in good condition) where you will come to a junction and stay straight (the pavement begins again here). Quickly you will come to another junction, go left onto Forest Road 17 which is a one lane paved road. Drive another 1.5 miles and stay right at a junction for Drift Creek Camp. In another 3.5 miles you will come to a junction, stay right on the paved road.  About a mile later you will come to the trailhead on the left.

We love this coast range hike and finally had the chance to visit again. The large suspension bridge and waterfall are the draw but the hike itself is beautiful and moss covered- it never disappoints!

      

The trail starts out heading downhill gradually on a long switchback. The trail switches from downhill to flat off and on as you cross a couple footbridges.

      

Soon you’ll come to a split in the trail. They both take you to the same place but going left (uphill) is a little harder and adds a bit of distance to the hike, but it’s not as busy! On the way in we went on the main trail and the way back we took the upper trail.

      

Continuing on you’ll round a ridge and go over another footbridge when you get to creek level. You’ll also pass through a lovely area that’s covered in moss, it really gives you that storybook feel! Soon after you will reach the large suspension bridge (it’s 240 feet long and 100 feet above the creek) that takes you over drift creek. About halfway across the bridge you get a really nice view of Drift Creek Falls below.

      

      

Once across continue following the trail as it switches back down to the base of the waterfall.

Upper Trail

Upper Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Head back out the way you came in.

 

Distance: 3 miles (easy)

Elevation: 500 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Warnings: None

Bridal Veil Falls (Spring)

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.

This is our first time back to Bridal Veil falls since the Old Columbia River Highway reopened after the devastating Eagle Creek Fire.

Much like Latourell Falls, the Bridal Veil area wasn’t damaged by the fire. Although you can see how close it came to being burned by looking at Angel’s Rest and Sheppards Dell Falls.

From the parking area get on the trail and pass by the restrooms. The trail starts out paved and quickly turns to gravel a short distance later.

      

You’ll go down a long switchback that takes you to a set of stairs that ends at a bridge over the creek. Keep following the path to the right and up more stairs to a viewing platform above the waterfall.

      

Head back out the way you came in.

      

Distance: .6 miles (easy)

Elevation: 100 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Warnings: None

 

Wilson River Trail- Jones Creek Trailhead to Wilson Falls (Winter)

Directions: Take 26 west and get on Highway 6 towards Tillamook. Drive on Highway 6 for about 29 miles where you will turn right onto Jones Creek Rd. Cross over the bridge and take a left into the parking area.

Get on the trail near the trailhead marker and head down towards the Wilson River. Go right here and follow the many signs letting you know you are on the Wilson River Trail. You’ll soon pop up to a gravel road, keep following the signs and head back into the woods. About a half mile from the trailhead you’ll reach a bridge and can see the Tillamook Forest Center (open March-November). The bridge itself is interesting looking and gives you a great view of the river.

      

Back on the trail keep going as you wind through alder, maple, spruce and ferns. We actually saw a few early flowers lining the trail as well (and this was early February!). The trail comes out of the trees again to a road and a bridge over a creek that leads into the river. Cross this bridge and pick up the trail that again takes you back into the woods.

      

Next, the trail gains some elevation and switches back once as you head up to Wilson Falls. This is where we ended up turning around because we didn’t feel like getting our feet wet and having a soggy hike out. If you are here during a low water time you can keep going and will reach the Footbridge Trailhead in about a mile and a half. Head back out the way you came in.

      

The whole trail is well maintained and is mostly level until you reach the couple switchback that take you up to the waterfall.

Distance: 4 miles (easy)

Elevation: 350 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Pheasant & Niagara Falls (Autumn)

Directions: From Highway 101 at the town of Beaver go east on Blaine Road and follow it for about 6 miles. At Blaine Junction go east on Upper Nestucca River Road for about another 6 miles where you will reach FS Road 8533. Go south for a little over 4 miles to FS Road 8533-131, turn right and drive for just less than a mile to the Niagara Falls Trailhead.

From the parking area get on the trail where it starts out heading downhill gradually. We did this hike after about a week of heavy rains which made the trail quite muddy with a few areas of standing water that we had to go around. It was easily passable but did make for a bit of a mess. The trail soon switches back and crosses a few footbridges. The trail continues downhill more steeply and you will switchback again and pass a few benches. There are a lot of different mushrooms lining this trail as well as some pretty spectacular moss hanging from a lot of the trees. You’ll also see a lot of salal growing on downed trees. Pretty much everything you would expect from a coast range hike!

      

      

You’ll first start to see Niagara Falls across the creek but soon you’ll round a corner and come head on to Pheasant Falls. There is a bridge at the base of the falls you walk over to continue on to Niagara Falls. With all the rain Pheasant Falls was coming down HARD, we got soaked before we even reached the bridge, where we quickly found that the water had washed out the trail just past the bridge. So, it wasn’t passable and we couldn’t get to the base of Niagara Falls. You can see it from back up the trail but it’s kinda far away and left us really wishing we could’ve seen it up close.

      

Head back out the way you came in. You’ll be hiking uphill and somewhat steeply in places the whole way out.

      

We were bummed that we didn’t get all the way to Niagara Falls but we’re definitely coming back when water levels are a bit lower and the whole trail is open. The trail is beautiful and the two waterfalls are large and scenic themselves. It’s a nice little hike.

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 370 (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: No

Seasons: All but we hear the water runs real low during the late summer months.

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Laurel Hill (Autumn)

Directions: Drive Highway 26 and continue past the town of Sandy for approximately 26 miles to a pullout between mileposts 50 and 51. There is a large brown “Laurel Hill” sign.

Take the stone steps uphill where it dumps you out on the Old Mt. Hood Highway. On a clear day it’s worth going left on the old highway a very short distance where the highway ends and you get a nice view of Mt. Hood.

      

Back at the stone steps go right on the old highway and pass the chute trail and soon come to another trail off to the left marked with a simple “hikers” sign. Take this trail and head up a few switchbacks. You’ll see a post with an old Oregon Trail marker on it and a sign stating that you’re on an original wagon route.

      

Continue on uphill where the trail is lined heavily with Rhododendron, which was mistaken for Laurel, thus the name Laurel Hill. This whole area is packed full of history and it’s worth stopping at the few informational signs at the beginning of the hike.

      

Soon the trail meets back up with the old highway, go left here and follow it a short distance to where the old highway ends. You’ll get a view of the top of Mt. Hood, the busy highway below and Tom Dick and Harry ridge off to your right.

      

Head back out the way you came in.

 

Distance: 2.25 miles (easy)

Elevation: 225 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Spring- Fall

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Ponytail Falls (Summer)

This hike was done less than a week before the Eagle Creek fire. We don’t know how bad this trail has been damaged. Hopefully the damage was minimal and we’ll be able to see all three of the waterfalls on this hike again soon!

Directions: Take I-84 East to the Ainsworth State Park (exit 35) and follow the Old Highway left towards Horsetail Falls.

We decided to do this hike in the opposite direction that we went the last time we visited, which was a couple years ago. To see that post click here.

Park in the Horsetail Falls parking lot and take the trail just to the left of the waterfall. You’ll be heading up long switchbacks that take you up above Horsetail Falls. The trail levels out a bit as you round a corner and start hearing Ponytail Falls. The waterfall itself pours out of a crack in the basalt shelf and dumps into a small pool below. The trail takes you behind the waterfall and continues on the other side.

      

      

Not far after the waterfall you’ll pass a slide area and come to a side trail that takes you to a great view of the Columbia River and nice views of the Gorge to the east. Back on the main trail it continues to stay pretty level for a bit and then you hit a few more switchbacks as you head down into the Oneonta Gorge area. You’ll cross a bridge and get a nice view of Middle Oneonta Falls and the Gorge itself. If you’re here on a warm day you’ll probably hear the crowds of people at Lower Oneonta falls below.

      

After crossing the bridge the trail heads uphill to a trail junction. Go right here and the trail switches from being level to heading uphill, but nothing too steep. There is another small slide area and you’ll pass another side trail that takes you to a viewpoint. Soon the trail starts heading downhill as you make your way down to the old highway.

      

Go right on the should of the highway (be cautious, there isn’t a lot of room here) and pass Oneonta Gorge and go through the Oneonta tunnel, about a quarter of a mile later you’ll be back at Horsetail Falls.

 

Distance: 3.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 650 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: This depends on how comfortable you are with hiking. There are a decent amount of switchbacks on this trail and places you could fall (there was a death on this trail last year). You’ll also be walking along the old highway for a short distance. Be cautious and make sure you’re surefooted and you should be fine.

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Warnings: Falling and walking along a narrow road.

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.

Latourell Falls Loop (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.