Best Base Camps

Eagle Creek (Oregon)
Base Camp Coordinates
Home Base: Mount Hood National Forest
Location: Accessible from Portland via Interstate 84, about three miles southwest of Cascade Locks near the Bonneville Dam.
Eagle Creek (Oregon)
The elevation here isn't too much above sea level; you'll see creeks, ravines, and waterfalls galore. Lush vegetation carpets the woods and fills the forests. You might think we're talking about a tropical rainforest, but this is Oregon. The shaded, watery Eagle Creek Trail, near the Columbia River Gorge and the small port town of Cascades Locks, is as unusual for the big-mountain West as an above-treeline, sky-scraping peak is for the green-tunneled East.

The trail winds through dense forest alongside a ravine. After about two miles, you're in the Columbia Wilderness, where abundant campsites give you plenty of choices when it comes time to set up for a night or two. This is an ideal locale for a three-day getaway with a good book and a fishing pole—and it's even pretty in the rain.

Be sure to stop at Punch Bowl Falls, about two miles from the trailhead. And don't miss Tunnel Falls, an easy five-mile walk from the trailhead, where a tunnel was blasted into the rock and the trail goes right behind the waterfall. Two strategies will help you avoid the crowds: First, go mid-week, and second, don't pitch your tent until you've outwalked the day hikers, which shouldn't take more than three or four miles. Just-above-sea-level elevations make for a nice long hiking season and true three-season conditions allow for comfort from spring through late fall. The only thing to remember here is the low elevations also mean prime habitat for poison oak.


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