Tag Archives: Switchbacks

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.