Before the Fireworks: A Columbia Gorge Adventure


July Fourth is an interesting holiday.   Some people like to stay at home, so they can spend their money on smelly, noisy, and colorful flashbangs in the neighborhood and drink a favorite beverage, perhaps eating some grilled meat along the way.   For some, it’s a good day to get outdoors and enjoy mama nature.  Call me crazy, but I like to do both.

It had been too long since I had had a tough hike, but I only had half a day.  After some research, I picked Munra Point in the Columbia Gorge, accessed off exit 40 on highway 84.  It sounded spectacular and challenging for a short hike, and so it would prove to be.


Trail 400 is just a wee bit overgrown with thistles and blackberries.  Yay.

Trail 400 is just a wee bit overgrown: lots of thistles and blackberries.

The trailhead is the same spot as the Wahclella Falls trail.   Munra Point has an unofficial trail that peels off of Trail 400 just over a mile to the west, shortly before it crosses Moffett Creek.  While unmarked, the junction feels relatively obvious.  Thirty or forty feet up the trail, there is a sign on a tree saying “trail not maintained”.   At first, the Munra Point trail climbed steadily like a normal trail, but as it steepened, some of the switchbacks had some slippery to their slope.

Fellow traveler in the woods

Fellow traveler in the woods

Unfortunately, people have taken shortcuts, which has made a mess of things in a couple spots, so it’s hard packed dirt with ball bearing grit on top, and the tread is not always flat.  Once you break into the open, there is less chance for this, as the trail gets so steep, there may be only one route possible, and it is much rockier.

If you don't want to scramble, don't try this

If you don’t like scrambling, don’t try this route

I had to use my hands to clamber over more than a few boulders and short rocky pitches.   Trekking poles be nice in certain areas, an encumbrance in other spots.  The trail breaks out into the open with views in multiple directions, from Beacon Rock and the River to the west toward Table Mountain, Mount Adams to the Northwest, and what I believe is the mass of Tanner Butte to the south; it is all lovely.

The town of North Bonneville way below

The town of North Bonneville and Hamilton Mountain across the Columbia

Looking toward the Columbia.  The trail drops down the rocks here

Looking toward the Columbia. The trail drops straight down the rocks here

Lovely Oak grove

Lovely grove of oaks

The typical Douglas Fir forest shifted into scrub oak on the more open craggy terrain.  Unfortunately, there is also poison oak.   The trail is steep, but my pace felt slow.   I was pleased to surmount the final rocky gully.  Above it, the trees vanished.  The trail traverses a narrow grassy ridge to Munra Point proper.

View up at the point after coming into the open

View up at the point after coming into the open



Looking at Munra Point from a subpeak to the northeast

One trip report on Portland Hikers Field Guide suggests the final point is too dangerous to attain, but I did not find this to be the case, although I had to find a spot to sit in a saddle below.   Photo opportunities abound.

Looking to the northeast point

Looking toward the northeast sub-peak, Bonneville Dam below and Mt. Adams on the horizon

Looking west, a few flowers waver in the wind

Looking west, a few flowers waver in the wind

The narrow ridges heading to sub peaks to the northeast and to the south are each trickier, and not for those subject to vertigo. They are well worth investigating for views and geology, or perhaps you’ll enjoy watching and listening to the swallows cruising overhead, whipping back and forth across the ridges.

The narrow ridge south of Munra Point

The narrow ridge south of Munra Point, accessible from the far end

Looking north from the sub peak to the south

Looking north from the sub peak to the south

Naturally, the descent is much faster.  Trekking poles would have come in handy here.  I slipped in a few spots, incurring a gash to my hand near the bottom.  Independence requires a price.  This one is small.


Munra Point is a great short hike for the adventurous, a good start to a day when we all might contemplate our own independence.

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on July 5, 2013, in Adventure, Navigation, Outdoors, Scrambling, Solo Hiking and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Jenkies Batman – what a hike! Sorry it drew blood but looked like the scrambling, climbing and sliding were worth it. I’ve thought about that one before but hadn’t worked up the energy yet – now though you’ve thrown the gauntlet so it might have to be on my list yet this year. 🙂

  2. Gorgeous! I’m with you, I’d much rather hike than shoot off fireworks. My two favorite 4th of Julys have been looking at the Milky Way in Badlands NP in South Dakota, and watching falling stars over Bryce Canyon NP.

    • Both great spots. I haven’t camped at either, although I camped at Teddy Roosevelt NP in North Dakota about this time of year in the late 90s. The bison by my tent were a little intimidating.

  3. Nice! Love that pyramidal peak on the ridge!

  4. Now that’s hiking–really enjoyed your journey!

  5. Wow, that place is gorgeous! Great pictures!

  6. What a gorgeous view. That boulder scrambling was reminiscent of hiking Acadia. I bought myself a pair of mountain biking gloves for such climbs. Helped with the gripping the rocks going up and protected your hands when sliding down. Thanks for allowing me to live this hike vicariously. 🙂

  7. Looks like a gorgeous hike, and a little more difficult than those you’ve written about recently. Love seeing the detail on the ridges. I think img_6722 is my favorite.
    Happy healing 😉

  8. Great views. Sorry about the gash. I guess it could have been worse.

  9. That ridgeline looks awesome — must have been great fun! Thanks for sharing!

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