Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hikes on The Historic Columbia River Highway

We've been in Portland for a few months now and have explored a lot in the Columbia River Gorge. There seems to be a waterfall around every corner. Each has their own personality and a unique hike to get there. Portland Hiker's Field Guide has been a super good resource for our adventures. The links below go to specific hike information for those who want details like hike distance and where to park.

The Historic Columbia River Highway has eight waterfalls along it's route including Multnomah Falls (highest in Oregon) plus the Vista House. This is probably the best way to spend a day in the gorge if you have just one. Half of these falls are just steps away from parking and don't even require a hike.

Click to enlarge

At the end of the Historic Columbia River Highway is Elowah Falls. This is my favorite waterfall so far because it's size was unexpectedly large and majestic. It is a simple hike in, which we combined with Upper McCord Creek Falls. The trail to the Upper McCord Creek Falls winds through the forest then skirts along a cliff for a while giving great views of the gorge and an appreciation for the size of everything around.

Eagle Creek Trail to Punchbowl Falls was one of the first hikes we wanted to do. The unprotected cliffside trail is a classic. In the summer Punchbowl Falls is a popular swimming hole. Swimming or wading is the only way to get close to Punchbowl Falls so be prepared for water if you want to get close. 

Wahclella Falls is awesome! It is a big waterfall with a lot of water flowing on a picturesque loop hike. The creek along the hike is really pretty with giant boulders littered throughout. 

Horsetail Falls is right across the street from a parking lot along the Historic Columbia River Highway so take that in then hike to Ponytail Falls where the trail goes under the waterfall. The loop takes you to Oneonta Gorge which is awesome but also right along the road. So to get back to your car at Horsetail Falls requires a short walk along the road. 

Wahkeena Falls is another one close the the Historic Highway so it is easily accessible. Beyond Wahkeena Falls is Fairy Falls. After a bunch of switch backs, the trail follows a super pretty creek up a tight canyon. This section might be the prettiest hike we have done in the gorge so far. 

We have just scratched the surface of what there is to see and do in the Gorge but I wanted to get some thoughts down before I forget. All of these hikes are under four miles and fairly easy as a whole. There are some tough spots on some of the trails and most have some steep parts. Each hike would be great to bring visitors. Photos by me and Kellette Elliott.