Hiking in the Columbia Gorge

A Sampling of Hikes from a Family Outing to a Great Multi-Day Walk
Gorp.com

If you find yourself in Portland, Oregon and love to hike, you've hit the jackpot. The city is a great urban environment for anyone who wants to stretch their muscles with a walk in the woods. Head east on I-84 and within half an hour, you'll hit the Columbia River Gorge. The scenic river country offers a huge selection of hikes from an hour to a week.

Here's a sampling from Foghorn's Pacific Northwest Hiking. The Columbia Gorge Trail is a spectacular long-distance route. Multnomah Falls is perhaps the greatest falls in the Gorge. Wahclella Falls Loop makes a great outing for the family.

Unusually heavy flooding wracked the Columbia Gorge over the past few winters. Some hiking trails in the area were badly damaged, and extensive repair work was required in some places. Check locally for current conditions before you head out in this area.

Columbia Gorge Trail

35.5 mi. one way/7.0 days
Overall Rating: 9
Difficulty: Moderate/Hard

Location: Between Bridal Veil and Wyeth along Interstate 84

Trail Notes: For the enterprising hiker with the patience and energy to put up with a bit of route finding, crowd avoidance, and often unpleasant weather, the Gorge Trail in its entirety is one of the more spectacular long-distance trails in the United States. A compilation of existing gorge hiking trails and new connector links, the Gorge Trail begins at Bridal Veil and connects with side trails at Angel's Rest, Multnomah Falls, Triple Falls, Ponytail Falls, Ainsworth State Park, Yeon State Park, Elowah Falls, Tanner Creek, Wahclella Falls, Eagle Creek, and Cascade Locks. The trail varies from a narrow footpath to a broad, dilapidated roadbed—actually portions of the abandoned Columbia River Highway.

While the present eastern trailhead is at Wyeth, future construction will turn this trail into a hiking corridor from Portland all the way to Hood River. Already, the trail includes a grand collection of sites, from some of the nation's most beautiful waterfalls to old-growth forest, sheer basalt cliffs, and spectacular narrow creek gorges—and, of course, sublime views of the Columbia River itself. If you don't mind the intrusion of Highway 84 traffic noise, it's a grand hiking experience, especially in the winter and early spring, when higher trails remain snowbound and gorge forests explode in green underbrush.

Special Notes: Camping opportunities are limited. Most overnight hikers seek shelter in Ainsworth or Yeon State Parks.

User Groups: Hikers, dogs, and horses only. Check with rangers about trail sections that are open to mountain bikes. No wheelchair facilities.

Permits: No permits are required. Parking and access are free.

Directions: From Portland, drive about 30 miles east on Interstate 84 to exit 28 (Bridal Veil). Travel a short distance off the exit and find a gravel parking lot on the right, at the junction with the Columbia River Highway. The trailhead is across the Columbia River Highway and slightly east.

Maps: For a U.S. Forest Service"Trails of the Columbia Gorge" map, contact the Nature of the Northwest Information Center, 800 Northeast Oregon Street, Suite 177, Portland, OR 97232; (503) 872-2750. Green Trails Inc.'s excellent topographic maps of the region are available for $3 each at outdoor retail outlets. Ask for map number 428, Bridal Veil. To obtain USGS topographic maps of the area, ask for Bridal Veil, Multnomah Falls, Tanner Butte, Bonneville Dam, and Carson.

Contact: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, 902 Wasco Avenue, Suite 200, Hood River, OR 97031; (541) 386-2333 or (503) 666-0440 (Portland number).

Multnomah Falls

2.5 mi/1.5 hrs
Overall Rating: 8
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Location: On the Columbia River Scenic Highway in the Columbia River Gorge; map C2, grid d6.

Trail Notes: This is the Mother of all Columbia Gorge waterfalls, and it usually comes equipped with the Mother of All Mobs, even in the winter. The trail, paved all the way to the top of the falls, switches back up the creek face, crossing a bridge right in front of the falls and climbing to a viewpoint at the top. No matter how many times you return to see it, the 540-foot waterfall is truly an awesome sight. If you're stopping here, head back down content with a 2.5-mile hike. But feel free to continue on, starting up Larch Mountain Trail, which leads five spectacular miles uphill to the Sherrard Point viewpoint on Larch Mountain. Remember: It's also possible to combine Wahkeena and Multnomah falls in a five-mile loop.

User Groups: Hikers and dogs only. No horses or mountain bikes are allowed. No wheelchair facilities.

Permits: A federal Northwest Forest Pass, $5 per day or $30 annually, is required to park at the trailhead. Passes are available from ranger stations and many private vendors, online at website: www.wta.org, or by calling (800) 270-7504.

Directions: From Portland, drive 31 miles east on Interstate 84 to exit 31 (Multnomah Falls). The trailhead is visible just east of the Multnomah Falls Lodge, a short distance from the exit.

Maps: For a U.S. Forest Service "Trails of the Columbia Gorge" map, contact the Nature of the Northwest Information Center, 800 Northeast Oregon Street, Suite 177, Portland, OR 97232; (503) 872-2750. Green Trails Inc.'s excellent topographic maps of the region are available for $3 each at outdoor retail outlets. Ask for map number 428, Bridal Veil. To obtain a USGS topographic map of the area, ask for Multnomah Falls.

Contact: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, 902 Wasco Avenue, Suite 200, Hood River, OR 97031; (541) 386-2333 or (503) 666-0440 (Portland number).

Wahclella Falls

2.0 mi/1.0 hr
Overall Rating: 9
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Location: Near Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River Gorge.

Trail Notes: This is a good family hike up Tanner Creek. The trail starts as a gravel road, then narrows as it heads up the hill. At about half a mile, the trail splits. Choose either route: it's a loop. Near the top is a great viewpoint below the falls, which is a true gusher, particularly during periods of heavy rainfall or snowmelt. Show the kids the massive slide area on the upper trail, evidenced by the slide impression above and much rubble below. Return the way you came.

User Groups: Hikers and dogs only. No horses or mountain bikes are allowed. No wheelchair facilities.

Permits: No permits are required. Parking and access are free.

User Groups: Hikers and dogs only. No horses or mountain bikes are allowed. No wheelchair facilities.Permits: No permits are required. Parking and access are free.

Directions: From Portland, drive 40 miles east on Interstate 84 to exit 40. The trailhead is visible on the south side of the exit.

Maps: For a U.S. Forest Service "Trails of the Columbia Gorge" map, contact the Nature of the Northwest Information Center, 800 Northeast Oregon Street, Suite 177, Portland, OR 97232; (503) 872-2750. Green Trails Inc.'s excellent topographic maps of the region are available for $3 each at outdoor retail outlets. Ask for map number 429, Bonneville Dam. To obtain USGS topographic maps of the area, ask for Bonneville Dam and Tanner Butte.

Contact: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, 902 Wasco Avenue, Suite 200, Hood River, OR 97031; (541) 386-2333 or (503) 666-0440 (Portland number).

© Article copyright Foghorn Press. All rights reserved.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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