Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Trekking and Backpacking
Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge (Gorge J. Luke/PhotoLink)

The dramatic drop from the Mt. Hood forest plateau to the Columbia River accounts for one of the highest concentration of waterfalls found anywhere, which makes for beautiful hikes through temperate rainforests to spectacular cascading rivers. The Gorge's gorgeous trails range from the misty and mossy to the exposed and rocky. If you want to experience it all, the Columbia Gorge Trail stretches for more than 35 miles through the length of the Gorge. This multi-day backpack is still under development; when completed, trail planners envision a trail extending from Portland to the Hood River. But you don't have to wait until the extension is complete to experience a gorgeously varied trail today.

For day hikes, the Eagle Creek and Ruckel Ridge Trails are two of GORP's favorites. The justly popular 13-mile Eagle Creek Trail visits more waterfalls than any other trail in the Gorge. Ruckel Ridge is a heart-stopping thrill; at one point the ridge is only four feet wide.

Looking for a hiking circuit through Columbia River Gorge? A good hiking loop can help you avoid the difficulty of finding your way back to the trailhead at the end of a long hike. Check out this 30-mile trail loop that runs along the Eagle Creek and Pacific Crest Trails.

Want something the kids will enjoy—and won't give mom a heart attack? Nothing could be finer on a hot day than donning a pair of sneakers and wading up the Oneonta Gorge off the Historic Columbia River Highway. You'll scramble over boulders, pass hanging gardens, and have a rollicking good time. Or if your taste runs to the bizarre, explore the curious formations, unique vegetation, and broken terrain of the Big Lava Field on Forest Road 66 north of Willard, Washington.

But that's not all. GORP has assembled a selection of other worthy day hikes, including the renowned Multnomah Falls, admittedly on every tourist's itinerary, but we tell you how to get away from the crowds.

If you're still not satisfied, (and indeed, why should you be?) a kamikaze list of other great trails in the area might include the Tamanaws Trail, south of the town of Hood River on Highway 35, or the famous Pacific Crest Trail out of Cascade Locks. You can hike the Washington side of the Gorge on Sleeping Beauty Trail, 12 miles north of Trout Lake in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest; Dog Mountain Trail, off of State Route 14; or visit Falls Creek Falls, off of Wind River Highway and Forest Road 306. This waterfall drops more than 400 feet and you'll see tier, fan, and plunge falls all in one.

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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