Latourell Falls─First in a long line of stunning Gorge waterfalls

Latourell Falls plummets 250 feet into a basalt basin.

Latourell Falls plummets 250 feet
into a basalt basin.

Quick Facts

Location: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Land Agency: Oregon State Parks

Roundtrip: 2.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 540 feet

Green Trails Map: Columbia River Gorge- West no. 428S

Contact: Guy Talbot State Park

Access: From Portland follow I-84 east to Exit 28. Then follow the Historic Columbia Highway west 2.6 miles to trailhead.

Notes: Dogs must be leashed.

Good to Know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, historic, exceptional waterfalls

Closest Columbia River Gorge waterfalls to Portland, Latourell is not the most popular thanks to nearby Multnomah Falls siphoning away thousands of sightseers. But this pair of falls is never-the-less one of the prettiest in the entire gorge rivaling Oregon’s most famous cascading attraction. One of the first areas to be protected in what would eventually become the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area;  the family of Guy Webster Talbot donated the land surrounding this pair of waterfalls back in 1929. Located just outside of the tiny town of Latourell with a population hovering in the teens— you’ll feel much farther in both time and distance from bustling Portland.

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The lower falls plunge into a basin of columnar basalt.

The hike makes a delightful loop though an emerald ravine to a pair of impressive falls roaring over steep basalt cliffs. The lower falls—immediately viewed from the trailhead, plunges nearly 250 feet making it a remarkable sight and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state. After viewing it, continue to the upper falls by taking a good trail that climbs above and behind the lower falls first.

Once above the lower falls, the trail brushes along Latourell Creek through small groves of big firs and moss-draped big leaf maples. Cross over numerous side creeks and amble through attractive cedar groves too along the way. Just shy of one mile, come to a spray-blasted bridge beneath the 120-foot horsetail-like upper falls. You may want to savor the mist in warm weather, and make a hasty retreat in chilly autumn!

The trail then continues along Latourell Creek’s west bank traversing steep slopes. After passing a vista of the lower falls, the trail descends reaching the Historic Columbia River Highway. Carefully cross it continuing now on a paved path through picnic grounds; and then beneath one of the last remaining concrete arched bridges on the historic highway. Arrive at the base of the Lower Falls, one of the most glorious places in the Gorge. Stare at streams of silver water plummeting over an amphitheatre of columnar basalt. Return to the trailhead when content.

For more information on this hike and 99 others within the region in both Oregon and Washington, check out my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book (Mountaineers Books).Columbia River Gorge Cover

For great family friendly information on where to stay and play in the Portland reas, check out Northwest TripFinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

Steens Mountain– Into the heart of Oregon’s “Big Empty”

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A lone hiker is dwarfed against massive Steens Mountain.

Quick Facts:

Location: Great Basin, Eastern Oregon

Land Agency: Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area (BLM)

Roundtrip: Kiger Gorge Rim; up to 4.0 miles

Elevation gain: Up to 500 feet

Difficulty: moderate

Contact: BLM Burns Office 

Access: From Burns, Oregon travel 60 miles south to Frenchglen. Take Steens Mountan Loop Road for 23 miles. Proceed .5 mile to Kiger Gorge Overlook.

Notes: Water limited; be aware of electrical storms

Good to Know: Dog-friendly, exceptional wildflowers, exceptional solitude,

 

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A lone hiker enjoys the view into Kiger Gorge.

Distances are grand and settlements are few in Oregon’s southeast corner. A land many wet-siders deem harsh and barren, countless surprises exist for those who explore it. Dubbed “Oregon’s outback,” by local Chambers of Commerce, I refer to it as the state’s “Big Empty.” Empty in people that is: for it’s far from void of flora and fauna-and far from featureless, too. It’s ringed in ridges, cut by canyons, and streaked by streams. But, it’s Steens Mountain that commands the most attention.

Thirty miles long and reaching a height of 9,733 feet, Steens is an impressive and imposing natural feature. The longest fault block mountain in Oregon, Steens appears gentle and broad from the west. But its eastside plunges 5,000 sheer vertical feet into the Alvord Desert. Steens’ four immense U-shaped gorges, results of past glaciations, are even more awesome.

             The most dramatic of Steens’ giant clefts, Kiger Gorge is 2,000 feet deep and adorned with a spectacular notch on its sheer eastern wall. From the overlook, hike east (no formal trail) along the open rim for spiraling views down into the canyon. If you dare, hike west and take a primitive trail dropping precipitously to the canyon floor.

Owing to its lofty height, Steens traps more moisture than the surrounding plains, helping it support cedar, aspen and mountain mahogany on its high slopes. Wildflowers, many endemic, paint the mountain in a profusion of colors come late spring. Creeks cascade down ravines and snow lingers well into summer on its northern slopes.

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Early summer, desert wildflowers add brilliant colors to Steens Mountain.

A wide array of wildlife flourishes on Steens, too. Here, the deer and the antelope play. Wild horses, too. Coyotes, jackrabbits and the elusive kit fox live in this wild corner of Oregon. Before becoming a conservation area, Steens was the domain of Basque, Welsh, and Irish sheepherders; then the grazing grounds for ranchers. Relics of Steens’ past exist scattered across the mountain, including structures that belonged to Peter French, who at one time controlled the largest cattle ranch in America.

In 2000, 170,000 acres of Steens was classified as a federal wilderness area. The Steens Mountain Loop Road, a 49 mile graveled Bureau of Land Management (BLM) road provides access points into the wilderness. The high slopes and deep gorges of Steens make for some worthy hiking, but beware; trails here are primitive and often unmarked.

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For great family-friendly ideas on where to stay and other places to play near Steens Mountain consult Northwest TripFinder.Snohomish-NEW

Eagle Creek — Classic Hike overflows with stunning waterfalls

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The trail darts into a tunnel at Tunnel Falls.

Quick Facts:

Location: Columbia River Gorge near Cascades Locks, Oregon

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 12 miles

High Point: 1,200 feet

Elevation gain: 1,100 feet

Difficulty: moderate

Green Trails Maps: Columbia Gorge West no. 428S

Contact: Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required; Dogs permitted (but not recommended) on leash; steep drop offs—keep children near.

Access: From Portland follow I-84 east to Exit 41 (Eagle Creek, Fish Hatchery). Turn right and after 0.1 mile, bear right continuing .4 to trailhead. If lot is full, park at picnic area near hatchery.

Good to know: exceptional waterfalls, historic, backpacking, Mark Hatfield Wilderness

 

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Several sections of the Eagle Creek Trail were blasted into ledge.

One of the most spectacular trails in America, not surprising Eagle Creek is also one of the most popular. Follow Eagle Creek through a deep emerald chasm on a trail that’s as much of an engineering feat—blasted into ledge and tunneling behind a waterfall—as it is a scenic splendor with its half dozen waterfalls and towering canyon walls. For nearly a century, folks of all walks of life have been enjoying this hike. The trail was constructed in 1915 in tandem with the Historic Columbia River Highway. The recommended hike here is to Tunnel Falls, but any distance along this trail to any of the falls will suffice.

Through a canyon draped in greenery, the trail follows alongside the creek gradually climbing ledges nearly 100 feet above it. Grab onto cable handrails if you’re not feeling too surefooted. At about 1.5 miles, come to the first of two overlooks of Metlako Falls. A native name for the goddess of salmon, the anadromous fish definitely needs a higher power to negotiate this 100-foot-plus plunge, one of the tallest of Eagle Creek’s copious cascades.

Next, hop across Sorenson Creek which cascades into Eagle Creek, but whose waterfall is not visible from the trail. At 1.7 miles, reach a spur dropping about 100 feet to the base of one of the Pacific Northwest’s most photographed cascades—the quintessential waterfall of Eagle Creek, 35-foot Punchbowl Falls. If it looks familiar, check your old calendars!

Pass an overlook view of Punchbowl Falls and continue upstream crossing Tish Creek on a high bridge—then Fern Creek on an even higher bridge. The surrounding valley walls grow tighter. The trail is blasted into side ledge and there is considerable exposure. Keep children and dogs close.

At just over 3.0 miles stare at slender 90-foot Loowit Falls tumbling into a roiling, thundering Eagle Creek. Then clutch your heart—and the railings—and mosey across High Bridge—a solid steel structure spanning a fern-lined mossy tight chasm 120 feet above Eagle Creek.  Now hike across terrain less intimidating, but spectacular never-the-less. At 3.5 miles, come to thundering Skoonichuk Falls; and shortly afterwards Tenas Camp, one of several designated (and crowded) camping spots within the canyon.

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Tunnel Falls.

Cross Eagle Creek again, returning to the east side of the canyon. Big trees begin to intersperse with younger growth and old burnt snags—evidence of a large fire that swept through in 1902. After passing the Wy’East Campground, enter the Mark Hatfield Wilderness at about 4.9 miles. Pass the steep and rarely hiked Eagle-Benson Trail and continue upstream for the crème-de-la-crème of Eagle Creek’s waterfalls. Continuing on a trail blasted through ledge, pass Blue Grouse Camp and reach Tunnel Falls at 6.0 miles.

Here Eagle Creek’s East Fork plummets 160 feet over sheer basalt walls cloaked with maidenhair ferns into a verdant pool. Impressive, yes—but even more so is the trail which tunnels behind it. The early trail builders blasted a tunnel behind the falls and a catwalk into the surrounding ledge. Wet and potentially treacherous—it’s also an exhilarating trek through the tunnel and across the basin. Take your time and savor this Northwest classic!

If you want yet another spectacular waterfall, 200-foot Twister (also known as Eagle Creek) Falls lies a short distance beyond. Otherwise begin your long return.

 

For more detailed information on this trail and 99 others on both the Oregon and Washington side of the Columbia River, consult my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book.Columbia River Gorge Cover

For information on family-friendly places to stay and other things to do and see in the Columbia River Gorge, visit Northwest TripFinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

All content and images on this site are copy written material and MAY NOT be used without the written permission from Craig Romano, owner of Hike of the Week.

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge– Portland’s Premier Wildlife Refuge

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Enjoy walking peaceful trails in the heart of bustling Portland.

Quick Facts:

Location: Sellwood neighborhood, Portland, Oregon

Land Agency: Portland Parks and Recreation

Roundtrip: 2.8 miles

Elevation gain: 60 feet

Contact: Portland Parks and Recreation

Notes: dogs must be leashed

Access: From Ross Island Bridge follow US 26 east (Powell Boulevard) immediately turning right onto SR 99E (SE McLoughlin Boulevard). In just over one mile exit right onto SE Milwaukie Avenue proceeding south .1 mile to trailhead.

Good to Know: kid-friendly; dog-friendly; bird watching, historical

 

Once destined to become an industrial site, this 168-acre tract of forest and wetland in the heart of Portland, became the city’s first formally dedicated urban wildlife refuge in 1988. Oaks aren’t abundant here—but cottonwoods are, along with eagles, waterfowl, and great blue herons, Portland’s official bird.

From the trailhead follow a paved path from an urban environment into an area of meadow, woodlands and wetlands. Soon coming to a junction, head left on a dirt trail. You’ll be returning on the paved path right. The path skirts the base of a bluff. Above are houses and civilization, but you are surrounded by trees. Continue hiking, winding along the edge of a sprawling wetland.

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The Springwater Trail makes for a nice long distance bike ride or running route through the city.

An imposing mausoleum soon interrupts the mostly natural scene. But the walls facing the refuge became the country’s largest hand painted outdoor mural in 2009; depicting native wildlife and vegetation allowing the seven story building to “fit in.” Children will love it. Can you identify all of the critters on the wall?

The trail continues around the wetland coming close to water’s edge a couple of times allowing you to put those binoculars to work. Look for pintails, mallards, coots, or widgeons.

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One of the few remaining “Trolley Parks” on the West Coast.

Eventually come to a meadow on the south end of the refuge. Trails left head to Sellwood Boulevard and Sellwood Park. Continue across meadow passing beneath a railroad underpass coming to the paved Springwater Corridor Trail and the Oaks Amusement Park. Opened in 1905 and now run by a nonprofit corporation, the small and delightful Oaks Park is one of the oldest continuously run amusement parks in the country.  Admission to the grounds is free and the rides are modestly priced. Treat the kids or continue hiking by following the Springwater Corridor Trail north. A former rail line extending from just south of downtown all the way to Boring, it weaves together several parks and greenbelts.

After hiking .7 mile on this popular biking and running trail, come to a junction. A short trail leads left through mature forest to nice overlooks on the Willamette River of East and Hardtack Islands. Check it out, or return right on paved path passing the Tadpole Pond frog study area, and coming to a familiar junction. Return left to the trailhead.

For more detailed information on this hike and many others in the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Area, consult my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book (Mountaineers Books).Columbia River Gorge Cover

For more information on great places to visit, dine at and stay at in Portland, check out Northwest TripFinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

Tomlike Mountain–There’s much to like about this Columbia River Gorge peak

Quick Facts:

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Tomlike Mountain offers excellent views of Mount Hood, as well as Mount St Helens and Mount Adams.

Location: Mark Hatfield Wilderness, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Land Agency: Mount Hood National Forest

Roundtrip: 6.0 miles

Elevation gain: 1,300 feet

Green Trails Map: Columbia River Gorge -West No 428S

Contact: Mount Hood National Forest, Hood River Ranger Station

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or Inter-agency Pass Required

Access: From Hood River, head south on 13th Street (County Road 281) which eventually becomes Tucker Road. At 5.1 miles bear right onto Dee Highway, which is still CR 281. Continue for 6.2 miles bearing right to bridge crossing Hood River then bear left onto Lost Lake Road (signed for Wahtum Lake). After 4.9 miles, bear right onto paved FR 13. After 4.5 miles, bear right onto FR 1310 following for 6.0 miles to trailhead.

Good to Know: old-growth; Mark O.Hatfield Wilderness area; dog-friendly; backpacking opportunities; exceptional wildflowers in season

A rocky windswept high point along the Woolly Horn Ridge, you’re sure to like Tomlike’s flower-adorned view-bursting summit. This hike starts high and stays high but there’s a few ups-and-downs along the way. Start on the Anthill Trail which takes off from behind the trailhead privy. This nice trail, often overlooked by the crowds that flock to Wahtum Lake gradually ascends up the spine of a ridge dividing the Eagle Creek and Hood River watersheds. En route there are excellent views of Wahtum, Chinidere Mountain, Mount Hood and even Mount Jefferson.

After cresting the Anthill’s high point, gradually descend through huckleberry patches reaching an old road—now the Wahtum-Rainy Lake Trail. Then continue straight soon entering the Mark Hatfield O. Wilderness coming to the Herman Creek Trail at 2.0 miles. Turn right and after a few strides look for an unmarked trail taking off left just before the main trail bends right and descends. Take this boot path. It’s a pretty straightforward albeit at times a little brushy route along the ridgecrest.

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The ridge hike to Tomlike looks a lot like an Appalachian Mountain hike.

Continuing on ledge lined with stunted junipers, hikers who hail from the Northeast will feel right at home on this peak as it looks like it could be right out of New Hampshire’s rocky White Mountains. Follow cairns up and over a rocky knoll. Carefully work your way up shale and scree reaching the 4,555-foot summit at 3.0 miles.

Then hold on to your hat, for if the strong winds don’t knock it off, the horizon spanning views will! From Washington’s Larch Mountain to Oregon’s Larch Mountain, Silver Star, Rainier, St Helens, Adams, Dog, Tanner Butte, the fluted flattop Benson Plateau, and glistening Mount Hood Rising above them all! And wildflowers and bear grass too—swaying in the strong breezes.

Tomlike was Chief Chinidere’s son, and naming this beautiful mountain and the adjacent peak just to the north after these two members of the Wasco Tribe is a deep honor. And you’ll probably be honoring the beauty of the Columbia Gorge country from atop this peak!

For more detailed information on this hike and 99 others in the Columbia River Gorge, check out my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge Book.Columbia River Gorge Cover

For more information on other things to do in the area and where to eat and stay, consult Northwest Tripfinder.NWTFmasthead_layers15