Aldrich Butte: Hiking, History, and a Waterfall Too
Posted by Josh Baker
During World War II, military gun emplacements were constructed atop Aldrich Butte in the Columbia Gorge. The thinking was to defend Bonneville Dam below. Luckily, the guns were never needed (Fun fact: Oregon was the one continental state bombed in WW II). Concrete remnants of the fortifications are still on top of the butte.
Aldrich Butte makes for a great short hike that can be modified with the addition of a hike to Cedar Falls and a loop trail return. The trailhead is a wide spot in a power line access road near the Bonneville Hot Springs resort. Soon the trail ducks into the trees on an old rocky road. The grade is casual, the mossy trees are spectacular in spots. After a bit less than a mile, a junction is reached at what passes for a lake at Carpenter Lake. It looks like a meadow but I assume it is rather boggy. The trail to the summit cuts back to the left and heads uphill more dramatically to a modest but very pleasant summit. I made it up in about 45 minutes. (My drive was longer than that) Concrete footings, presumably for the gun emplacements, are all over the place. I had to wonder how many similar spots were built up during the war years along the coasts of the U.S.
This was my only day off this week, so I took my time to relax in the sun on top, enjoying the views of the Gorge. Despite seven or eight other vehicles at the trailhead, I saw no other hikers. Perhaps they were ninja hikers, or Special Forces troops testing new camouflage. It worked! I enjoyed my peaceful time. On the way down, I opted to take a variation loop back to the car. This was on an unimproved trail, included a side trip to Cedar Falls, the path to which was slightly sketchy. The side trail is very steep in spots, and there is no signage at all. If you have any navigational qualms, don’t do it. The falls were a secret little treasure. It is not a long way from a road, but this is not a roll-out-of-your-car-and-gawk waterfall. I half walked, half slid my way down a hard dusty trail hundreds of feet into the lush drainage to see the pristine cascade. I may have grumbled a bit at the return climb. I was dripping with sweat by the time I was back on the loop trail. Soon enough, the climbing stopped, and I easily made my way back to my vehicle. Maybe next time I will tackle the faint trail to Cedar Mountain above the falls.
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 September 28, 2014, in Flora and Fauna, General Hiking, Mountains, Navigation, Outdoors and tagged Cascade Range, Columbia River Gorge, Hikes near Portland, Moderate Columbia GOrge hikes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.