Category Archives: Columbia River Gorge

Ponytail Falls (Winter 2020)

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

This hike is still only partially open- you can get up to the waterfall but can’t go past it.

There is still a lot of noticeable fire damage on this trail. Burned out trees and a lot of loose rocks and debris.

     

From the parking lot cross the road and get on the trail to the left of Horsetail Falls. You will switchback up above Horsetail Falls where the trail levels out for a bit before heading downhill slightly and ending at the waterfall.

     

You can walk behind the waterfall but the trail ends at a large fence just past it. Head back out the way you came in.

     

Distance: .8 miles (easy)

Elevation: 400 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Warnings: Areas impacted by wildfires have a higher chance of rockslides, please use caution on the trail.

Deschutes River Trail- Middle Trail (Winter 2020)

Directions: Take I-84 east to exit 97 and take a right, and then a left to get on Highway 206E. From here you will see signs for Deschutes River Park, it’s less than a mile away. Go all the way through the park to the very end where you will see the trailhead.

During the winter months the last part of the parking area is closed so just park as far back as you can, walk past the gate and past the bathroom to the trailhead. From here you walk through the grassy field (that’s full of goose poop) and come to a trail junction. We decided to do the middle trail this time, so go left and and then take a right at the signed middle trail.

     

The middle trail rollercoasters through grassy hills and gives you great views of the river below and the surrounding hills. We had our small dog with us and there was a lot of brush on the trail, she plowed through it but some dogs might be bothered by this. We followed the middle trail to where the grass thins out and you come to a rocky corner below, we continued on about another half mile to the natural rock arch. This was our turn around point.

     

We went back on the middle trail a ways to where a side trail takes you down a switchback to the lower trail. It’s an obvious trail that’s well worn. From here we took the lower trail (which is mostly dirt with some sand and boardwalk) bak to the car. There were lots of birds down on the lower trail which was great.

     

Distance: 5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 300 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Gillette Lake (Winter 2020)

Directions: Take I-84 to Exit 44. Cross Bridge of the Gods ($2 toll). Take a left onto Highway 14 and follow it for a little over a mile. The trailhead is near Bonneville Dam on your right.

We didn’t get our first hike of 2020 in until 3 weeks into January so we were really itching to get out on the trail! We’re really glad we chose Gillette Lake it’s a great winter hike.

From the parking area get on the trail and head uphill somewhat steeply in the beginning and then round a corner and level off a bit before heading downhill and coming to an intersection. Go left here and follow the trail as it rollercoasters through an old clearcut and comes to a gravel road.

     

     

Cross the road and pickup the trail that takes you into thicker woods. You will wind through this area for a while and then pop out at a clearcut. Continue following the trail through the clearcut and uphill to another road. Cross the road and you will get your first look at Gillette Lake. Take the wide gravel trail downhill and go left where a side trail will take you right to the edge of the lake. We saw plenty of elk tracks and droppings near the lake as well as beaver activity. Head back out the way you came in.

     

The trail was pretty muddy but that’s to be expected for a winter hike. Overall it was a great hike that wasn’t very busy.

     

Distance: 5.8 miles (moderate)

Elevation: 650 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the trailhead

Parking Fee: NW Forest Pass required

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes during summer months

Warnings: None

Rooster Rock (Winter 2019)

Directions: Drive I-84 East to exit 25 and follow the road into Rooster Rock State Park.

After you pass through the pay station go right and head all the way to the end of the parking lot. Pass by the bathrooms and go through the grassy field and take the trail that’s kind of in the middle and goes into the trees, you will quickly pass by a frisbee golf platform. The trail goes on at a fairly level pace through the trees and eventually heads down to the sandy shore.

     

Follow the sandy trail along the river and you’ll see a lot of beaver activity. You will have a good view of the Columbia and the Gorge. Head up the side of the sandy bank and you’ll come to a grassy hill and be close to I-84.  Hike up the hill and you’ll be back in the woods. Follow this trail as it rollercoasters through the trees until you get to an unmarked junction, go right and downhill a bit where you will get back on the trail you came in on. A short distance later you will come out of the woods and be at the grassy field you started on and see the parking lot.

     

Distance: 3 miles (easy)

Elevation: 250 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes seasonally

Parking Fee: $5 entrance fee

Seasons: Technically all but it’s a nude beach and may not be best during the warm months.

Popular: No

Warnings: Part of this hike goes through a nude beach so please be aware.

Latourell Falls (Winter 2019)

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.

Head up the hill with a railing to a viewpoint of the waterfall. Then keep following the dirt trail uphill with a few views of the waterfall off to the right. Switchback uphill a few times and the trail levels out a bit as you follow along the creek that’s down below.

     

The trail rollercoasters for a while and you cross a few footbridges before you come to Upper Latourell Falls. Cross the bridge at the base of the waterfall and you’ll be heading back on the trail on the other side of the creek. The trail is level for a while before switching back downhill and then eventually going uphill to a viewpoint. It seems that the bench at the viewpoint has been removed. From here you’ll head downhill switching back a few times until you reach the old highway.

     

Cross the highway and take the  stone steps down into the park, following the paved path under the highway bridge and eventually to Latourell Falls. Continue up the paved path back to the parking lot.

     

Distance: 2.25 miles (easy)

Elevation: 520 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Mosier Plateau (Autumn 2019)

Directions: Take I-84 to exit 69 (Mosier). Follow the old highway into Mosier and parking in the gravel parking lot just past the totem pole on the left side of the road.

This is a very popular hike for spring wildflowers but it’s still very nice in the off season and far less crowded!

From the parking lot, cross the bridge and pick up the trail. You will start to head uphill and quickly come to a small cemetery. From here the trail flattens out a bit and you can see down into the small gorge before coming to Mosier Falls.

     

     

After passing the waterfall you will head into the switchbacks. The switchbacks head up a grassy hill with some wooden steps mixed in and gives you a look at the town of Mosier. Once at the top you will level out again as you come to multiple great viewpoints of the Gorge. You will head downhill for a bit until the trail eventually ends. Head back out the way you came in.

     

Distance: 3.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 600 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: There is an outhouse by the totem pole

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes during spring wildflower season

Warnings: Ticks, poison oak, and snakes

Beacon Rock (Autumn 2019)

Directions: Take I-84 to Cascade Locks and take the Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll) . Take a left on to Highway 14 and drive about 5 miles to the trailhead on the left side of the road.

From the parking area head out on the dirt trail that eventually turns to cement and switches back once to the gated entrance. From here the trail is mostly cement, boardwalk footbridges and some dirt/rock. You will take 51 switchbacks up to the top and there are a lot of viewpoints along the way.

     

     

Once the trail turns to dirt you will know you are getting close. Soon you will come to a few stairs that take you to the very top. It’s a pretty small area but there’s a good view and some rocks to sit on. Head back out the way you came in.

     

     

This place had a lot of trash which was sad (see pic above with snake 🙁). Please make sure to pack back out anything you brought in.

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 700 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: Washington Discovery Pass

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Warnings: None

Memaloose Hills (Autumn 2019)

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.

This is a great hike to do in the fall but we were too late for fall colors. Even without the colors this is a great “off season” hike- make sure to come on a clear day so you can see the mountains.

From the parking area cross the road a pick up the trail. You will gradually wind your way uphill on a rocky dirt trail with lots of oak trees around you. Soon the trail levels off for a short distance before you head downhill towards a small stream. After crossing the stream take the trail to the right as you hike through grass and near bushes that run a long a swampy area, off to your left is a field.

     

     

The trail starts heading uphill again in trees before opening up and giving you a view of Chatfield Hill. You will head uphill more steeply now and see lots of dead Balsamroot and get views of Mt. Hood. Once you reach the top you will have a great view of the Gorge, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Adams. Head back out the way you came in.

     

Distance: 3.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 550 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most- there are some step sections on Chatfield Hill

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: During spring wildflower bloom

Warnings: Ticks, poison oak and snakes

Larch Mountain- Sherrard Point to Multnomah Falls (Autumn 2019)

Directions: Take I-84 East to the Corbett exit and take a left on the Old Highway. Take a right onto Larch Mountain Road (there is a big sign) and follow it for 14 miles to the trailhead. If you are doing this as a shuttle first drop a car off at the Multnomah Falls parking area (see explanation below)

This hike can be done as an out and back (14+ miles) or shuttle (just over 7 miles), leaving one car at Multnomah Falls and one at the Larch Mountain Trailhead. If you do decide to do this hike as an out and back please be prepared for over  4,000 feet of elevation gain and over 14 miles, it’s a hefty hike. We chose to start at the Larch Mountain Trailhead and hike downhill to Multnomah Falls.

From the Larch Mountain Trailhead the first part of this hike is going up to Sherrard Point. If it’s a clear day make sure not to skip this section, it’s one of the best viewpoints in the Gorge. It’s a short hike on a paved path with some stairs that take you to a fenced viewpoint. You will have views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Jefferson. It’s seriously great.

     

Once you’re done at the viewpoint head back down to the trailhead and get on the Larch Mountain trail (behind the bathrom). From here it’s all downhill, you’ll be losing about 4,000 feet total so it’s hard on the legs and easy on the lungs 😆. The first part of the trail is in a forest of skinny trees and ferns. You will enter a more heavily forested area and come to some junctions- all of the trail junctions are marked so make sure you stay on the Larch Mountain trail.

     

Next, you will enter the burn area from the Eagle Creek fire. There are lots of burned trees and downed trees (all off trail) but the trail is still very visible and easy to follow. After getting through the burn you will enter the open shale rockslide area. From here switchback downhill once and cross a footbridge. Beyond this point you will pass some seasonal waterfalls across the creek and come to a large bridge- this was recently replaced after the fire and it looks great.

     

Beyond this point you will pass by Ecola and Wisendanger Falls. This is the point where the trail will probably become more busy and get even worse as you head down to the Multnomah Falls switchbacks. Follow the marked switchbacks (there’s 11) down to Benson Bridge and then down to the parking lot.

     

This trail is well maintained and every junction is marked which is great. It’s a mix of dirt/pine needles, typical rocky Gorge and shale. There are a few log foot bridges and one large wood and metal bridge. We love doing this hike and are so glad it’s back open and looking good after the fire!

Distance: 7.5 miles (moderate)

Elevation: 4,000 feet *loss*

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most- it’s longer and can be hard on your legs

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: Free at Multnomah Falls & NW Forest Pass required at Larch Mountain

Seasons: Late Spring through Fall- check for gate closures

Popular: Yes when you are around Multnomah Falls

Warnings: Part of this hike is in a burn area please read and respect all posted signage.

Wahclella Falls (Summer 2019)

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.

This hike recently reopened after the Eagle Creek Fire. Like many of the recently reopened trails there was a lot of burned trees and definite trail reworking. A section of this trail is still closed so for now it’s strictly and out and back hike.

From the parking area get on the wide trail as you pass along the creek and small dam, round a corner and quickly come to a footbridge and Munra Falls. Continuing on you will soon come to a set of steep stairs and then the trail levels out a bit.

     

     

Soon you will come to what was a trail junction but the upper trail is now closed forcing you to go to the right and down a switchback to a bridge over the creek. You’re now in the rocky slide area and will start to see the waterfall off in the distance. Continue hiking through this slide area and come to another bridge and just a short distance later you will end the hike at Wahclella Falls. Head back out the way you came in.

     

     

There have already been reports of rock fall which is a normal hazard in a burn area. Please use caution while enjoying this hike.

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 300 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: NW Forest Pass required

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Warnings: Rock fall and slides are common for years after a wildfire.