Eagle Creek Trail Directions

					William Sullivan's Oregon Hikes
Hike to Eagle
Discover a canyon full
of waterfalls in the
Columbia Gorge.
About the Hike: The Eagle
Creek Trail is one of
Oregon's most spectacular
paths, passing half a dozen
major waterfalls. The trail
is also an engineering
marvel. To maintain an
easy grade through this
rugged canyon, the
builders blasted ledges out
of sheer cliffs, bridged a
colossal gorge and even                     A moderate four-mile hike takes you to the 30-foot Punchbowl Falls.
                                            Photo by William Sullivan
chipped a tunnel through
solid rock behind 120-foot
Tunnel Falls.
Difficulty: A moderate 4.2-mile hike
to Punchbowl Falls (with 400 feet of
elevation gain), or a difficult, 12-
mile hike to Tunnel Falls (with 1,200
feet of elevation gain).
                                            William Sullivan is a veteran Oregon journalist and author with 12
Season: Open all year.                      published books on Oregon travel, history and hiking.

Getting There: From Portland, take          For more about the Columbia Gorge, check this page.
Interstate 84 to Eagle Creek exit 41,
turn right and keep right along the         See this hiking map
creek for a mile to the road's end.
Because the Eagle Creek exit is only        See other hiking ideas
accessible from the west, travelers
from Hood River have to take
Bonneville Dam exit 40 and double
back on the freeway for a mile. The
trail is so popular the parking lot fills
by 10 am on sunny weekends,
leaving latecomers to park half a
mile away. Leave nothing of value in
your car as break-ins are a problem
at the trailhead.

Fees: Recreation Fee Pass
(Northwest Forest Pass) parking
permits are required at the trailhead.
They cost $5 per car per day or $30
per season.
Hiking Tips: Although this is a great place to backpack, tenting along the first 7.5 miles is allowed only in four
designated camp areas, where competition for weekend space is keen. Campfires are strongly discouraged. An
additional caution to parents: trailside cliffs make this no place for unsupervised children.

The trail starts along the creek but soon climbs well above it along a slope of cedars and mossy maples. Look for
yellow monkeyflowers and curving fronds of maidenhair fern overhanging the path. After 0.8 mile the trail traverses a
cliff with cables as handrails. At the 1.5-mile mark several short side trails to the right lead down to a viewpoint of
100-foot Metlako Falls in the distance.

Continue on the main trail 0.3 mile to a ridge-end junction with the Lower Punchbowl Trail, a 0.2-mile side trail down
to a broad, 15-foot falls with a bedrock bank suitable for sunbathing. Hike upstream to a gravel beach to peer ahead
to picturesque, 30-foot Punchbowl Falls in a huge, mossy rock bowl.

If you're game for a longer hike, return to the Eagle Creek Trail and continue 1.2 miles to High Bridge, a metal
footbridge across a dizzying, slot-like chasm. Here the creek has exposed a long crack in the earth - the fault along
which this valley formed. For a nice lunch spot, continue 0.4 mile to Tenas Campground (on the right) and
Skooknichuck Falls (on the left). For a still longer hike continue a couple miles further, duck behind Tunnel Falls, and
200 yards later gain a view ahead to the valley's last great, unnamed waterfall.

A classic 2- to 3-day backpacking trip continues to Wahtum Lake. Snow closes this 26.8-mile loop from mid-November
until June. Start by hiking up the Eagle Creek Trail 13.3 miles to Wahtum Lake. Then veer left on the Pacific Crest
Trail for 6.3 miles to the Benson Plateau and turn left to descend the Ruckel Creek Trail back to your car.

History: Built in the 1910s to accompany the opening of the Columbia River Highway, the Eagle Creek Trail was
blasted out the cliffs with dynamite by Italian engineers. The area above the 800-foot-elevation mark was officially
designated Wilderness in 1984.

Geology: The many layers of columnar basalt exposed in the cliffs of Eagle Creek are all part of the massive lava
outpourings that inundated 50,000 square miles of Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon and Idaho to a depth of up to
a mile 10 to 17 million years ago. These rock floods surged down the ancient Columbia River to the sea, pushing the
river north to its present location.

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