Hiking the Columbia River Gorge

Wow! After two and a half months in the Pacific Northwest it is with mixed emotions that I continue my journey south. Although I have not actually lived in Washington since I was 21 years old it has always remained home to my heart. My folks live here, as do my brothers and their families. A tremendous number of my childhood friends are still here as well. During this visit home I enjoyed time with all of my family members and made a point of visiting several old friends too, some of whom I haven’t seen in many years.

While home I also took the time to revisit some favorite places from my younger years. The next several posts will be about my time in the northwest, but since my experiences were really all over the board (or in my case, the map) I’m going to share them in the simplest way possible, which will not be in chronological order.

This first post is a combination of hikes I did along the Columbia River Gorge. I did two of those hikes twice, and with different people each time. Rather than be repetitive and write about each individual experience I’m blending the images into one and sharing the highlights. In addition, much of the time I spent with friends and family will be saved to share in one post. I hope that approach makes for a better reading experience for all.

I was thrilled to have Elissa join me for several days shortly after my arrival in August. Our time together was focused mostly on family, but we did manage to slip away for a bit of adventure as well.

Elissa, Jazzy and Sadie

Elissa, Jazzy and Sadie

Happy with my girl, Elissa

Love my Mommy-daughter time- always.

I took Elissa back to a hike we’d done together a few years ago with her Uncle Andrew and cousin Makenna. This time my friend Joe Cilli joined us for the trek up the Eagle Creek-Tunnel Falls Trail. We actually only intended to hike as far as Punchbowl Falls, but the trail signs were down and we missed the turn. Eventually we realized we were long past Punchbowl, but knew Tunnel Falls was not too far ahead and decided to forge on. The hike to and from Tunnel Falls was twelve miles with a 1640′ elevation gain up a rugged (and sometimes steep and narrow) trail. I hope I speak for all when I say the unique beauty of Tunnel Falls made the long hike well worth it.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Joe and Elissa on Eagle Creek Trail

A few weeks later I connected with good friends I met while camped in Florida, Gwen and Glen Cook. They had one week to see some of the best of this corner of the northwest. There are several spectacular trails on the gorge just outside of Portland so it seemed a good place to start. Eagle Creek was one of their choices, and since I love the trail I had no problem doing it again. We opted to limit the hike to Punchbowl Falls and back, so this time Jazzy and Sadie were able to join us. (Beyond that the trail follows a very high and narrow ledge in places. One well behaved dog would be manageable, but wrangling two while carrying my gear just didn’t seem prudent.)

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Gwen and Glen on Eagle Creek Trail

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Sadie and Jazzy enjoying the hike

The following images are a blend of the two hikes. One to and from Punchbowl Falls (about four miles), and one the entire twelve mile hike to/from Tunnel Falls. Both were fun and rewarding!

Eagle Creek Trail, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Metlako Falls

Eagle Creek Trail, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Punchbowl Falls

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Eagle Creek

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Eagle Creek Trail

Eagle Creek Trail, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Loowit Falls

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Narrow gorge on Eagle Creek

Eagle Creek Trail, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Tunnel Falls

Eagle Creek Trail, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Elissa at Tunnel Falls

A couple days later I met up with Gwen and Glen again to do a hike I’d been reading about, Multnomah-Wahkeena Falls Loop Trail. This loop is said to be a waterfall lovers paradise. It is just shy of five miles with an elevation gain of 1600′.

The three of us opted to start at the Multnomah Falls trailhead which, after a steep series of switchbacks took us to an overlook at the top of this famous waterfall. After ogling the view from the top for a few moments we continued upward along the cascading Multnomah Creek. The trail took us past several stunning waterfalls and over a beautiful tree-covered ridge with periodic glimpses of the Columbia River below. Soon after we connected to the Wahkeena Creek trail and started our trek back down. The trail followed the cascading creek through the same thick, lush and pungent forest… past a few more waterfalls, out to Lemmon’s Viewpoint with it’s gorgeous panoramic view of the Columbia River, and then down several more switchbacks to Wahkeena Falls.

This hike completely energized my senses… visually, aromatically, tactilely and audibly. The “waterfall and lush-forest-lover in me enjoyed it SO much I talked my friend Joe into joining me for my second round… this time in the opposite direction. It was every bit as beautiful the second time!

FYI to those who put this gorgeous loop on their “bucket list”; avoid weekends, especially during the summer months, but regardless… start early. In the case of both hikes 95% of the people we encountered were between the parking lots and the two spectacular and accessible waterfalls… Multnomah and Wahkeena. The rest of the trail was lightly traveled both days.

Oregon

Multnomah Falls and Benson Bridge, Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

View from the top of Multnomah Falls

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Dutchman Falls

Columbia River Gorge

Joe on the trail at Dutchman Tunnel

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Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Weisendanger Falls

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Weisendanger Falls

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Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Multnomah Creek

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Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

On the trail with my Florida friends, Gwen and Glen

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Fairy Falls

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Wahkeena Creek

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Wahkeena Creek

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Wahkeena Creek

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Wahkeena Trail

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

View of the Gorge

Oregon

View of the Columbia River Gorge from Lemmon’s Viewpoint

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Wahkeena Falls

Glen and Gwen and I also stopped at Horsetail Falls and did the hike to Upper Horsetail Falls (also known as Ponytail Falls). While there we also did a jaunt to Onenonta Gorge, which we opted not to hike for lack of appropriate foot ware. This is one I’ll be sure to do on my next trip home!

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Horsetail Falls

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Ponytail Falls

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge

I did one other Portland area hike with Joe in Forest Park. It is not on the Columbia River Gorge, but a pretty spot right on the edge of the city and not too far south of the Columbia River. If I lived in Portland I could see myself “trail running” and bike riding here frequently.

Portland, Oregon

Forest Park

Forest Park, Portland OregonSpider, Portland OregonForest Park, Portland

I hope what I’ve shared here inspires you north-westerners to get out on some of these trails, and the rest of you to visit this beautiful corner of the country. There’s more northwest beauty to come just so you know… Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, and the Olympic National Park!! Don’t book your trip just yet! When I’m done here you’ll find yourself wanting to make it a long one! 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Hiking the Columbia River Gorge

  1. Glen and I will definitely be back to this area. Next time in our RV. Thanks for joining us Fran. Until we meet again. Gwen

    • It was so much fun spending time with you two while you were in the area!! Hopefully we’ll circle back through at the same time. I don’t see myself making it all the way back to Florida this winter, so we’ll have to enjoy each others journeys virtually for awhile. Hugs to you both. Be sure to give “the gang” my best!!

  2. Pingback: Top Eleven Favorite Places from MY Journey in Focus | Journey In Focus

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