Category Archives: Columbia River Gorge

Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge (Autumn)

Directions: Take I-205 North to exit 27. Merge onto Highway 14 east and follow it for about 12 miles. Take a right at the sign for Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.

From the parking area pass the bathroom (there is a whiteboard on the side that has a list of wildlife people have seen recently, it’s worth a look) and get on the trail. You’ll pass a few interpretive signs and soon be following along next to a large open grassy/marshy area.

      

After passing by a couple branches of Steigerwald Lake you will enter a small wooded area. Here we saw a Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, and Brown Creeper.

      

      

Keep following the trail and you’ll come to a split in the trail, part of the refuge is closed October through April to protect winter birds. Go right and cross the bridge, in here we saw a Bald Eagle. Follow the trail to another bridge over Redtail Lake. We saw Northern Shovelers and Coots in the lake as well as a sleeping Nutria in the grass. You can continue on from here where the trail ends at the dike trail.

      

Head back the way you came in.

Distance: 2.25 miles (easy)

Elevation: None

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All. Part of the trail is closed Oct-Apr

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Memaloose Hills (Autumn)

Directions: Take I-84 to exit 69. Follow Highway 30 east and in 3 miles you will see the Memaloose Overlook sign with a gravel parking lot on the left.

From the parking area carefully cross the road and take the unmarked but obvious trail. The trail is lined with oak trees and is kinda rocky, but typical of Gorge trails. There are a couple houses off to the right but they are pretty far away.

      

The trail heads uphill gradually for a bit and eventually levels off for a while before heading back downhill to a small stream. It was dry when we visited (mid-October) but i’m sure it gets pretty full during the rainy season. There is no bridge over the small creek but should be easily crossed over some of the well placed large rocks.

      

After crossing the creek you will see a unmarked trail off to the right. Take this trail that’s flat and winds through fairly tall grass. You’ll pass by a small pond with cattails and head off towards a fence. At the fence area the trail starts heading uphill somewhat steeply as you go up Chatfield Hill. After you pass the tree line you will start to see Mt. Hood off to your left. The last half of the hill is just grass with nice unobstructed views of the mountain and valley below.

      

Once at the top of the hill you get amazing views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, The Gorge, and Marsh Hill. The top is pretty flat and makes a nice place to sit, have lunch, and take in the views!

      

We’ve been here twice and both times it has been really quiet, only crossing paths with 3 or 4 other people the whole time. We would definitely recommend doing this hike on a clear day, the views are what really make this hike worth it!

 

Distance: 3.25 miles (easy)

Elevation: 450 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most ages- there is some elevation gain towards the end when going up Chatfield Hill.

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Warnings: Poison Oak

To see our previous visit in spring click here.

Oregon’s 7 Wonders

Travel Oregon came up with Oregon’s 7 Wonders and we’ve slowly been checking them out over the past few years. They’re spread out all over Oregon which is great because it really gives you a chance to see a lot of the state.

This August we finally checked off the last wonder and here’s what we thought of them…

The Columbia River Gorge:

We’ve visited this wonder so many times we’ve lost count, starting when we were both kids, and have very fond memories of this area. It’s a little bitter sweet due to the recent wildfire that ravaged the area but this area is so large that there is still places to visit, and we can’t wait until the trails reopen and we get to see this beautiful place again. We know it will take a lot of time, but the Gorge will come back stronger than ever.

Waterfalls, views, and wildflowers…a Gorge trail will take you somewhere amazing!

      

      

Some of our favorite Gorge hikes are Fairy Falls, Larch Mountain, and Wahclella Falls. If you’re Looking for a good lunch spot check out The Ranch for a good burger in Hood River.

The Oregon Coast:

This is another wonder that we’ve visited countless times. Some of our favorite cities are Newport, Pacific City, and Lincoln City. Oregonians know that the coast really is an all season place. A perfect summer day is amazing but a nice winter storm is fun too! Tide pools and lighthouses are some of our favorite things to check out at the coast along with all the great hiking.

      

      

Some great hikes in the area University Falls, Cape Falcon, and Drift Creek Falls. If you’re looking for some good food check out Pacific Oyster in Bay City.

Smith Rock:

We’ve been to Smith Rock three times and it’s amazing. The hikes are great and you can’t really go wrong with any trail you pick. Our personal favorite is Misery Ridge, it may be a bit difficult but it’s well worth the extra energy spent. With the Snake River Gorge winding through the large tuff and basalt rock formations it’s easy to see why this area made the list.

      

      

Make sure to stop by Juniper Junction (Rockhard) for some tasty huckleberry ice cream.

The Painted Hills:

Probably the most unique place on the list with all of the bright colored hills. There’s so much to see here you’ll need to plan for most of the day to really explore this place. There are trails that take you up hills to allow you views of the whole area. Off to one side you’ll see large hills with yellow, red and purple paintbrush type strokes on them, and then if you look another direction you’ll see smaller hills that are deep red or bright yellow-gold. Make sure to check out the trails that go around the smaller hills, it’s really amazing to see the texture and colors up close.

      

      

For more info on the trails click here.

Crater Lake:

Crater Lake is a Caldera Lake that’s very large and very blue. You can drive around the whole crater rim and there are many trails around the caldera. After spending time at some of the many viewpoints and getting a good look at the lake and wizard island make sure to make some time to explore the trails. A few of our favorites are Plaikni Falls and The Pinnacles.

      

      

While you’re in the area make sure to check out Toketee Falls.

The Wallowas:

Way out in eastern Oregon are the Wallowa Mountains, near the town of Joseph. They call it the Swiss Alps of Oregon and we can definitely see why. The best and easiest way to see the Wallowa Mountains are to take the tramway up to the top of Mt. Howard. Wallowa Lake is also a big attraction in this area, the lake is huge and it offers great views of the mountains as well. There are a ton of beautiful barns in the area, stop at the visitor center in Joseph for a map of where you can find them all.

      

      

We recommend the famous mountain berry shake at the Eagle Cap Chalet and a burger from the Glacier Grill.

Mt. Hood:

Of course the Mt. Hood area would make this list- it’s amazing! The mountain itself is beautiful as are the lakes and waterfalls that surround it. This area can’t be beat when it comes to winter activities too- ski, snowboard, snowshoe…you can seriously do it all.

      

      

Some of our favorite hikes in this area Bald Mountain, Umbrella Falls, Zigzag Canyon, and snowshoeing at White River West.

 

Oregon’s 7 Wonders are truly amazing and they really show off how great this state is, we’ll be back to visit them all again and again!

How many of the wonders have you seen? We’d love to hear what your favorite wonder is!

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.

Eagle Creek Wildfire

We’re sure by now that everyone is aware of the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge. It was started by a firework, has grown to over 35,000 acres, and is 13% contained.

On September 4th we were in Washington across from the fire in North Bonneville. When we got there in the late afternoon we mostly saw smoke and some flames. There was also a few helicopters getting water from the Columbia to fight the fire. Within an hour the winds had picked up significantly and the fire spread before our eyes. It was scary to see, especially since we knew what was across from us, the Moffett Creek area and lots of amazing Gorge trails. I-84 closed and as we made our way back home on SR-14 we realized the fire had spread miles to the west.

This is a significant area burning- homes, businesses, historical buildings, and so much of the beloved Gorge is at risk. We can’t imagine the impact this is going to have on people and this great stretch of area.

At this point the best way to help is to make a donation to any one (or all!) of these amazing places:

*Friends Of The Columbia River Gorge – The only non-profit dedicated entirely to protecting the Gorge. That link takes you directly to where you can donate.

*Hood River County Search & Rescue– These are the men and women who helped rescue 153 hikers on the Eagle Creek Trail. The link takes you to their website, you can make a donation at any US Bank branch.

*Red Cross Cascade Region– These amazing people are running the evacuation centers for people displaced by the fire. The link takes you to the Cascade Region RC.

*Multnomah County Animal Services– They helped rescue animals that were displaced in the fire. The link takes you to a page describing how they helped, there is a link to donate there.

*Sound Equine Options– They worked in tandem with MCAS to help the larger animals get out of the path of the wildfire. This link takes you directly to a donation page.

Another great idea is to talk about trail safety and Leave No Trace principles with friends and family, especially the youngsters in your life. Sadly, a lot of wildfires are caused by humans- spreading knowledge can and will help that!

Lastly we’d like to acknowledge the great effort by all of the people fighting this fire. What an incredibly hard job, keep up the amazing work!

 

Here are some of the photos we took of what saw. We’re posting these as a reminder of the devastation that carelessness can cause.

      

 

      

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.

Government Cove Peninsula (Spring)

Directions: Take I-84 East to the exit just past Cascade Locks that’s marked for a weigh station. Get on Frontage Rd and continue on and cross the tracks. Park near the gate.

From the gate follow the trail off to the left as it climbs up to the top of the main rock area. At the top you get great views of the Gorge, this is also a nice place to eat lunch or hangout for a while.

      

Head back down but not all the way, go off to the right and climb up another section of the rock where you will find a lot of wildflowers in the spring. We saw lupine, wild iris, wild rose, and much more. The grass is a bit overgrown around here but the trail is still visible and passable.

      

Next head back down and explore around the base. There are a lot of trails that take you all around the island. You can see the south part where the cove is and usually a few cormorants and nutria. You can also get out where the island comes to a point and see the Columbia River really well.

      

After you’ve finished exploring you can take the lower trail back to the gate where your car is parked.

We definitely enjoyed ourselves a bit more this time around. All of the flowers were a surprise which was a nice treat. This is a great area for kids to get out and do some exploring 🙂

Distance: 2.25 miles

Elevation: 100 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: This is a popular area for fishing and duck hunting but the trails aren’t busy.

Overall: Spring is a great time of year for this hike.

 

Lower Ruckel Creek Falls (Spring)

Directions: Take I-84 East to exit 41 (Eagle Creek). Go left at the stop sign and park across from the fish hatchery.

This hike starts on the paved path that’s in between I-84 and the fish hatchery. It runs along I-84 for a bit and is quite noisy. Soon it turns off to the right and enters a wooded area. You’ll pass a trailhead on your right and soon come to an open grassy area on your left with a faint worn path.

      

Follow this path through the tall grass and daisies (in the spring), as in reenters into a wooded area. Continue following the trail downhill until it ends at Ruckel Creek with the waterfall just to your right.

      

There is a fallen tree that makes a nice “bridge” over the creek to get a better view of the waterfall.

Head back out the way you came in.

Distance: 1 mile

Elevation: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the Eagle Creek Trailhead

Parking Fee: Yes a $5 NW Forest Pass is required

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Overall: We’re excited to see what this waterfall looks like in other seasons.

Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge (Spring)

Directions: Take I-205 North to exit 27. Merge onto Highway 14 east and follow it for about 12 miles. Take a right at the sign for Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.

From the parking area get on the trail as it follows along a large open field with branches of Steigerwald Lake running through it. There were many different birds out in the grass and shrubs and some water birds in the stream. You will soon enter an area with more trees and a stream off to your right. When you get to the split, go left through the seasonal door (open May through September) and follow the trail as it goes along the field and enters a wooded area. There are lots of birds in this area as well.

      

      

You will round a corner and leave the refuge and get on the Columbia River Dike Trail. There are a lot of Purple Martin houses here and they are all flying around which is great. Go right on the trail and follow it a short distance where you will take a side trail and get back into the refuge. You’ll pass a tall interpretive sign and cross a bridge over Redtail Lake, here we saw a Cinnamon Teal, Mallards, and Canada Geese in the water. In the trees and grass lining the water we saw Red-Wing Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, and a Common Yellowthroat. After crossing the bridge you’ll enter and wooded area, we saw many birds here including an Osprey and Wilson’s Warblers.

      

      

      

There is another bridge that you cross and you’re back at the seasonal door. Go left and follow the trail back out the way you came in.

We were previously here in mid summer and it was nice but very hot. Spring is a great time, birds are nesting and very active, and the weather is great.

Distance: 3 miles

Elevation: None

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: No, dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Can be on nice weekends

Overall: Spring is a great time to visit this wildlife refuge