Columbia River Gorge - August 2016


Sep 18, 2017
During August of 2016 (prior to my membership here at BCP), I visited the Columbia River Gorge. As most of you know, fires burned a good portion of this area during the summer of 2017. During that time, when the fires were in the news, I thought about writing up a TR of my 2016 visit. I am just now getting time to write something up. Sorry this is not as relevant as it would have been in the summer, but I thought it may still be of interest to some of you.

After spending a couple of days in Portland for business, I made the drive up I-84 into the Gorge. I set up a base camp several miles up the Hood river, in the foothills of Mt. Hood. I would recommend camping away from the actual Gorge. There are some campgrounds in the Gorge, but geography is such that you would be right next to I-84 traffic and busy train tracks.

Day 1

I drove up to the Eagle Creek TH and began hike early. August is a busy month and these trailheads get crazy, even on weekdays. I arrived at the TH with only 2 or 3 other cars already there. The trail follows Eagle Creek south through a canyon. The first falls you come to is a side creek that flows into Eagle Creek. This is Metlako Falls.


A little further up the trail is Punchbowl Falls. This is a very popular area for hikers, photographers, and swimmers. Unfortunately, its popularity shows. Later that day, on my way out, I would pack a full sack of trash out from the area near Punchbowl.

Luckily for me, I was there before the crowds. The folks from the other cars at the TH must have been further up the canyon and I had the Punchbowl area to myself for a good 30-45 mins. Sorry the pics aren’t great. I’m not a photographer and I just use the camera on my phone.



Further up the canyon is a narrow area that kind of reminded me of some of our slots in southern Utah. I understand that some descend these watercourses as technical canyoneering (canyoning) adventures. More on that later.


I explored up the Eagle Creek trail for several miles to Tunnel Falls (sorry no pics). Here I enjoyed lunch and then headed back to the car. Below is a shot that shows what much of the forest looks like in the area.


Day 2

I started day 2 by visiting Multnomah Falls. This is an extremely popular spot and is right off the freeway. I arrived early again to beat the crowds. The lodge wasn’t even open yet. I was able to enjoy the area with only a few photographers around. My pic doesn’t do it justice, but google some images of Multnomah Falls and you will see some pretty magical shots.


After spending a short time at Multnomah, I drove down to the Elowah Falls TH. This is a short hike to a very cool waterfall. I think this was the tallest of the falls that I visited and maybe my favorite. It kind of reminds me of Upper Emerald in Zion.


After the short hike to Elowah, I drove over to the Oneonta TH. Here I would do a loop that would take me to several falls.

Ponytail Falls


Upper Oneonta Falls


Triple Falls


Earlier I mentioned that some descend these waterways as technical canyons. I have done several canyons this way in southern Utah, but decided not to try it while solo in an unfamiliar landscape. For those who may be interested, below is a pic of log anchor I found at the top of Triple Falls. You can find route descriptions of these technical canyoneering adventures by searching around the web.


While on these trails, sometimes the forest opens up a little and gives you a glimpse of the Columbia River. Here are a couple examples:

Looking across to Washington. I believe the fires actually jumped the whole Gorge, river and all, and spread from the Oregon side to the Washington side.


Looking east up the Gorge:


Leading up to, and during the trip I had been reading about Lewis and Clark’s visit to the area. I also had read about John Jacob Astor’s attempts to establish a trading post in the area. It was cool to see the river and surrounding landscape that is described in the books. I would highly recommend both reads. Undaunted Courage by Ambrose is the Lewis and Clark book and Astoria by Stark is the JJ Astor book, for anyone interested.

Also, if you are in the area, I highly recommend getting some fish at Brigham Fish Market in the town of Cascade Locks. It is located near the Bridge of the Gods, where the PCT crosses the Columbia. It is more like a deli counter than a restaurant, but the place is run by members of the local native tribe, who have special permission to fish the Columbia year-round. You can get fish caught the same day and the smoked salmon is awesome.

Overall this was a great trip. I’m glad I was able to see it before the fires. Hopefully some of the beauty was spared and what was lost will eventually restore itself.
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