MULTNOMAH FALLS LOOP
The most popular and iconic hike in the Columbia River Gorge begins at Oregon’s tallest waterfall, passes another waterfall almost as impressive and continues through lush forest on a loop of five miles.
The 620-foot Multnomah Falls used to be the state’s most popular tourist attraction until it was surpassed, in a thoroughly depressing moment, by Spirit Mountain Casino in 1998.
Even so, expect plenty of company at the beginning of this hike, which starts at the Multnomah Falls Trailhead and historic lodge (which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner).
The paved trail crosses a few scenic bridges showcasing Multnomah before climbing to an overlook at the top of the falls. The loop continues on Larch Mountain Trail and Wahkeena Falls Trail, showcasing a moss-covered 242-foot falls.
The loop ends by dropping down to the Columbia River Historic Highway and following a footpath back to Multnomah Falls Trailhead. The loop is five miles total and climbs 1,600 feet.
HORSETAIL / TRIPLE FALLS
Three stunning waterfalls and views across the Columbia River Gorge highlight a trek that can be hiked as a loop or out-and-back adventure.
Start at Horsetail Falls Trailhead, home to 176-foot fanning waterfall and popular picnic spot. The trail climbs into the forest and after a half-mile reaches Ponytail Falls, where you can hike behind the curtain of water.
Beyond, the trail climbs to sweeping views across the Gorge, and after a total of 1.3 miles, you’ll reach a bridge across the narrow slot of Oneonta Falls.
Follow pointers to reach Triple Falls, an interesting braided falls with a nice picnic spot to rest, a total of 2.2 miles from the trailhead.
Two options return to your car. From Triple Falls, you can return the way you came for a 4.4 mile out-and-back hike.
ELOWAH / UPPER MCCORD FALLS
Elowah Falls, the second-tallest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge, cascades 289 feet through a gorgeous amphitheater of lichen-covered basalt. Though it gets less attention than its more-photographed sister, Multnomah, Elowah’s hidden charms are worth the gentle forested hike off the well-trod path.
The easiest hike on this list of moderate hikes, this trail has just about everything a person exploring the Gorge could ask for — waterfalls, forest, canyons and views.
From the trailhead at John B. Yeon State Park, a short and very easy path runs 0.8 miles to an enormous amphitheater of stone where Elowah resides.
For a bit more excitement and views, return down the trail and turn left at a junction that switchbacks uphill. You’ll pass a beautiful view and eventually reach Upper McCord Creek Falls. The hike’s total distance is 3 miles.
EAGLE CREEK TRAIL
Blasted through steep basalt walls, this spectacular trail leads to one of the Gorge’s most iconic waterfalls — Punchbowl Falls — and through a dense, temperate rainforest literally dripping with water throughout the season.
Even with the natural splendor, the highlight of trail might well be man-made. The recommended hike traverses the first 3.3 miles of Eagle Creek Trail to High Bridge, which spans a narrow rock chasm 120-feet deep and provides hikers a serous case of vertigo while staring into the churning water below.
The trail is the second-most popular in the Gorge, so expect some company while hiking. Also, be weary of children and dogs because the trail follows some very steep and narrow cliffs.
From the trailhead, the hike travels 2.1 miles to the first waterfall, Metlako Falls. Just beyond, a short side trail leads to a view of Punchbowl Falls.
Enjoy lunch at a nice overlook just across High Bridge and turn back around to complete a 6.6-mile out-and-back hike. (Eagle Creek Trail continues another three miles past High Bridge to dramatic Tunnel Falls).
Dogsmust be leashed. Steep cliffs make this a dangerous hike for dogs.
SRC: Find more hikes like these here: www.statesmanjournal.com/story/travel/outdoors/hikes/2013/12/31/top-five-gorgeous-columbia-river-gorge-hikes/4264985/
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