Category Archives: Waterfalls

Columbia River Gorge Tour #2


The creek below Wahkeena Falls

Initially, Denise and I headed for Latourell Falls.  The sky was foggy, the temperature cool, so I was not overly excited, but I wanted to stretch my legs and take some photos with my new camera.   Once we got on the scenic highway at Corbett, plans evolved.  We stopped at first great viewpoint,  known as the Portland Women’s Forum Viewpoint.  Not a bad seat in the joint.  I’d never been to the far end to the parking lot before, with slightly better views of the river and a classic look at Crown Point.  From there, we drove to the nearby Vista House atop Crown Point, then dropped into the trees on the winding road to the first big falls of the Gorge.

For a few reasons, we didn’t set out on a real hike at Latourell Falls, which I’ve previously documented on this site.  Instead, we strode up the first steep pitch to a nice viewpoint of the falls, then turned back.  I was thinking Shepperd’s Dell would be our next spot, but I forgot all about Bridal Veil Falls State Park!  Silly me.  It isn’t dramatic from the road, but this is a hidden gem with two very different trails.  Since Denise had not seen the river overlook trail, we skipped the waterfall trail and ambled about the meandering flat trail.  There are views of the mighty Columbia in both directions, and great head-on looks at the Washington side of the Gorge in the Cape Horn area.

Shepherd’s Dell is not much of a spot to hike, but it has a cool falls, which is made more mysterious by upper reaches I’d never before noticed.   The watercourse almost corkscrews. Cascades are visible through the trees along the highway which are invisible from the trail itself.   This is a great little spot for a rest.


Wahkeena Falls

Like its big brother Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena Falls is a popular spot, and with good reason.  The falls is not one clean plunge, but a couple of horsetails and a cascade below to boot.  The base of the main falls is easily accessible by paved trail.


Fern gully

Knowing this, we cruised up there.  It only takes a few minutes.   I was impressed by the flow and the breeze which that created.  I didn’t dally long by the falls proper, but continued past.  We hiked up about 11 switchbacks to Lemmon Viewpoint, which took perhaps 20 minutes.  I didn’t remember how tough the trail was, but it was easy, and the views were great.  It was a nice capper to another great tour of the Columbia River Gorge.


Lemmon Viewpoint and Washington

Note:  In double checking spellings of a couple waterfalls, I stumbled on a cool site for waterfall lovers, Northwest Waterfall Survey.  I knew a number of the names, like Ecola and Mist, but was not aware of Dalton, Little Necktie, and a few others.   Just when I needed new ideas for local exploration!  Happy hikes, everyone.


East to Beacon Rock




Off the Beaten Path Waterfall Stash

Above Mccord1

On the hike up, I enjoy geology on parade


I just wanted to get out of the city on a hot afternoon. Without meaning to, however, I found a series of tiny cascades in the Columbia River Gorge.  The primary trail I hiked ends in a nice spot, but ever inquisitive, I wanted to see what was around the corner.  I continued up the bedrock of the stream.  There were a couple of herd paths around logs and tiny cliffs, but it was almost as easy to clamber over rocks and logs, or simply hike in the very shallow water.  Every turn offered a new gorgeous scene, with water, rock, greenery, and sky all vying for my attention.

Many of the spots seemed more dramatic due to the volcanic rock over which the water flowed, and on which I trod.  Eventually, I sat on a mossy boulder at one point and simply took it all in, walking down only after I’d enjoyed the quiet canyon for almost an hour. It may seem strange to not mention the name of the trail, but I’d like to keep this a hidden gem.  What about you?  Do you have special places in the wild you would prefer to keep secret?

It’s Not just for Hiking Anymore


View from my office this afternoon

It has been far too long since I wrote a significant post.  I could have  posted about this hike or that, yet my life isn’t that simple.  I work more than 40 hour a week, and I have other interests besides hiking.  Shocking, I know.  I learned today that I won a juried photography contest (a shot from a local hike), I have been working on a collection of poetry, and I am trying to attend musical events when I have the energy for local heroes and national stars alike. An ingrown toenail is also a big reason I have put off big hikes.  I know, excuses, excuses.  Enough about that.  Let’s go somewhere!


This morning, I helped hang an art show which will benefit Alzheimer’s research, then caught a lunchtime concert by Franco Paletta and the Stingers, a summertime series of outdoor shows in the park by our neighborhood library.  An outdoor adventure seemed like great way to top the day.  I decided on the kayak, and went for a jaunt upstream on the Willamette, paddling solo past Elk Rock Island, taking in a view of scrubby cliffs, including what in the winter is a sizeable waterfall but is now little more than a trickle bound in slimy green verge.

Then I met Mr. Heron.  He eludes me much of the time. When I’ve walked along the bank to capture his image, he spooks and flies away in that dinosaur way.  In the kayak, however, I got within thirty feet from two directions.  He seemed curious but never left the spot behind a giant log in the rocky shallows.


The shoreline crags of Elk Rock Island were teeming with swimmers and fisherfolk, and I was glad to have a view of that rocky world rather than be among them.  The river itself had occasional wakeboarders and tubing boats, yet it still seemed serene. A new perspective is almost always a good thing.  Look for more water adventures in the future.  Happy summer.

Gorge’s Greatest Hits: The Oregon Side

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It was a long week at work and I was exhausted, so I was slow moving yesterday morning.  In the afternoon, however, D. and I headed out for a Gorge exploration in my new vehicle.  We ended up hitting on a Gorge tick list of sorts, starting with the short hike to Bridalveil Falls, and ending in Hood River for a pint on a patio.  We had our son’s new dog, which kept things interesting but fun.  There were lots of clouds on the west end of the gorge, and we walked in the rain a bit at Bridalveil Falls, but we saw sunshine as we neared Hood River.  At Starvation Creek Falls and Mitchell Point it seemed especially bright.  It was a good afternoon and evening, reminding me how much I have to be thankful for.  I am a lucky man, indeed.


Finding the Rock of Ages

Looking east

Looking eastbound and down…


To heck with waiting for sunny skies.  It was time to climb.  So it was that I headed out the gorge last weekend, rain gear in tow.  I headed for a trail that is slightly off the radar for most hikers.  The Rock of Ages trail is unofficial.  It veers off of the Horsetail Falls trail just before Ponytail Falls, a nice hike I’ve documented in this cyberspace before.  What I couldn’t decide was how far to hike.  The views would come relatively early, but the trail continues for miles.  Because it is unmaintained, some of the route is a bit rough.  It felt steep and slick, with poor footing on occasion.  Of course, the ground and foliage were wet.  Under dry conditions, footing would have been much better.  As it was, I slipped a few times, falling on my backside at least once.   Keeping it interesting.

The route splits a couple times after rising above the top of Ponytail falls.  I took the first unmarked junction and headed for the ridge to the left.  Through the Douglas firs, there were a few nice views, but this was not what I came for.  Onward, upward to the Rock.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I was briefly concerned about my route, but it all worked out.

Rock of Ages is an arch of volcanic rock perched on the rim of a steep forested ridge in the middle of the one of the prettiest areas of the Northwest.  Emerging from the forest, one first sees a sort of steep amphitheater, decked in various hues of green and flecks of gold from the stands of alder and maple far below.   Then there is the arch, large enough to walk through to the cliff’s edge, where hikers can look out over the gorge and the massive Columbia River.  My eyes were drawn along the line of cliffs extending to the east, including St. Peter’s Dome, and across the river, the massive plug of Beacon Rock.  Even on a gray day, the views were amazing.

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After photographs and some philosophical contemplation, I continued upwards.  Shortly I found a rockpile to scramble which gave a new perspective on the area.  More fantastic vistas of rock and river.  From there, I headed into the woods, unsure how far I would get.  The way was not clear at multiple points, and I had to be careful, steep as it was.   One of my trekking poles broke after an especially firm use. It appeared I would then have to traverse a steep slope below a spiny ridge.  I knew the best part of the hike had probably already passed. It was misting steadily, and although I was not uncomfortable, I worried about my footing.  When hiking solo, especially off the beaten path, I try to minimize risks.  I decided to turn back, happy with what I’d already seen, but already planning a return on a drier day.


Aqueous Veil of the Bride

Bridalveil Falls

Bridalveil Falls

Ho hum, another waterfall run.   The Bridalveil exit off Highway 84 eastbound signals the beginning of the Columbia River Gorge.  It offers immediate access to the old highway and a high density of mountain and waterfall hikes.   Bridalveil Falls had escaped my attention until recently.  A short downhill hike takes one to a viewpoint of the falls pouring into a pretty little canyon and a babbling stream.  For some reason, I only took a few similar photos.  Oh well.  Nice spot.

Back at the trailhead, a mostly paved path leads to bluffs overlooking the Columbia River.   I realized I’d seen the railings on the these bluffs from the highway, but never knew how to access them.  Now I know.

Multiple layers of lava rock: Washington

Multiple layers of lava rock: Washington

For some reason, I took a lot more photos on this casual walk than when I saw the waterfall.  Across the river, there is a cool perspective on the volcanic layer cake of the Washington side.  It’s funny to realize a railroad and highway are squeezed in there.

Just one of many moss covered promontories

Just one of many moss covered promontories

Great views are in abundance, especially to the west, with Sand Island in the river and Crown Point looming in the background.   Both of those spots I had seen recently from a different perspective on my Rooster Rock venture.  This was a nice visual cross reference.

Sand Island in the Columbia

Sand Island in the Columbia

The views are more open than most in the Gorge, and with little effort expended, so that was a treat.  An origami mobile hanging from a tree at one viewpoint prompted curiosity.    Who would have gone to such efforts and why?

Oregon origami, oh my!

Oregon origami, oh my!

Both paths at Bridalveil offer great walks for those who don’t want to put forth a great deal of effort, yet still want some great views.  For an introduction to the west end of the Gorge, one could hardly do better.

A Five Falls Loop at Silver Falls State Park

I hadn’t been to Silver Falls State Park in almost 20 years, somewhat pathetic considering it is Oregon’s largest state park at 9000 acres.  The park boasts many waterfalls, and one hike connects most of the big ones.  I headed there this afternoon to see some of these falls. I didn’t have time for the entire Trail of Ten Falls, but I created a loop hike of my own that visited 5 falls.  In the early afternoon I parked at the North Falls Trailhead. The small lot was close to full, so I felt lucky to get a spot.

My first waterfall was Upper North Falls.  It is less than a quarter mile up a spur trail that is virtually flat.  The falls are 65 feet high in broad punchbowl formation.  It’s not the most dramatic waterfall, but it is very pretty setting, and the large pool below was surely tempting for the swimming-inclined.

Downhill the trail splits, and I opted for the Canyon Trail rather than the Rim Trail, on which I would later return.  Shortly there was a view from above of the North Falls.  It is a good sized beast at 136 feet, and the trail starts higher than the top  Thus I found myself descending a considerable set of stairs a switchback before sliding behind the falls.  Way behind.  Approximately 50-60 feet of horizontal rock extend overhead from the trail as I gawked at the falls. Not too shabby. That’s when my camera died.  Brilliant.  I took only mediocre cell phone shots from there to the end.

I spend some time at North falls, then motored onward. There is a junction a bit over a mile down the fern and fir coated canyon.  For now, I moved past, barely spying the relatively diminutive Twin Falls around a rocky corner. I opted to continue to Middle North Falls and was pleased with the choice.  The main trail did not go behind the falls, but a side trail did, and only a few people wandered down there, making it a very peaceful setting. After relaxing and enjoying the views for a while, I retraced my steps to the last junction from there.  The side trail climbed a side drainage to the barely-there Winter Falls.  A short distance above that, Above that, I veered left on the Rim Trail, which headed to the North Falls Trailhead through a beautiful forest with a couple of great views toward North Falls.  Another great afternoon in the woods.

Great Falls of the Potomac

Here is a simple plug for a spot to hike and picnic if you are near the District of Columbia.  The Potomac River splits Virginia and Maryland, and a great falls crashes along for hundreds of yards.  When I visited there with my family recently, I also saw kayakers playing in the froth, and climbers scaling the taller riverside crags.  Do not expect much solitude, but visit expecting a unique spot close to the nation’s capitol.

Great Falls

Wauna Point: From Mild to Wild

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It’s finally summer, and I am ready to hike. A year ago I looked at hiking to Wauna Point, but it didn’t pan out because I didn’t have a good map or guidebook. This year, that wasn’t a problem. As I am working a new job that only allows me one day off a week right now, I was very focused on getting in a good hike today. It had been far too long. I took my faithful canine hiking companion Jackie Chan with me and headed to the majestic Columbia River Gorge. Unfortunately, I was delayed by a traffic problem. Two lanes of the three lane highway were closed. It was backed up for three miles. Ugh.  Still, I managed to be at the Tooth Rock trailhead by noon.

I opted for a simple route via an access road past a couple junctions.  The road curves about two casual miles uphill to the old Tanner Butte trailhead. I’d climbed Tanner Butte as a teenager. Now it’s a sixteen mile adventure. Not for everyone.  Wauna Point, on the other hand, is a relatively modest ten miles, the last leg of which is very rugged. More on that later. Beyond the old tiny trailhead, a path continued upwards, briefly following a beautiful stream. Multiple wispy cascades drape the drainage within a quarter mile, after which the trail veers away from the small canyon.

The landscape along the trail is typical western Cascades: lush, green, and viewless in the lower elevations. It is also relatively people free.  One guidebook as well as a hiking website refer to the Tanner Butte trail as steep. It certainly forges uphill steadily, but it rarely felt steep. That’s not to say it wasn’t challenging. Whooee, my legs are gonna feel it, I recall thinking. Eventually, after climbing to a landscape of salal and fern undergrowth with stately evergreens overhead, the trail flattens briefly at a junction. To reach Wauna Point, one goes straight ahead on an unmaintained trail. Due to dense damp ferns encroaching on the path, my boots and legs were soaked in a few minutes.

Despite the dampness, this secondary trail seemed easy. It descended the far side of the ridge, dropped beneath a rocky rampart, and then plunged down a very narrow ridge via some very steep, scrabbly and muddy spots.  This is not for the casual hiker.  Good traction and balance are necessary. I used my hands a few times. As always, descending a steep bit is the tricky part. Once I was down into a little saddle, the rest was relatively easy. I eventually sat on an airy perch, the Columbia River undulating like a shiny snake 2500 feet below me. I kept Jackie close by my side. Wauna Point is not a place for a pup to be a squirrel chasing spaz. It is fairly rocky, and only a few feet wide, with some exposure in places plunging hundreds of feet.

Wauna Point is a notch below the best viewpoints of the Gorge, largely because its views are dotted with manmade structures like Bonneville Dam, the Bridge of the Gods, and the buildings of a couple towns. Still, it was pretty great, especially the unique horizontal perspective of the bare, steep flanks of Munra Point, which faithful readers may recall I climbed last July.

The way down was quiet and relatively quick.   In all, I took just over 5 hours for the round trip of 10 miles, with some extended relaxation on top. I might be a touch sore tomorrow. This was a great first serious hike of the year. Hopefully there will be many more great hikes forthcoming. Ah, summer!


Gorgeous Day in the Columbia Gorge

It had been a while since I’d had a real hike, so today I went out the Columbia River Gorge with Jackie Chan.  We started on the crowded parking lot below Wahkeena Falls.  This time we continued past the falls, and soon found a great viewpoint. Continuing uphill, the trail follows a rushing, noisy creek, and eventually passes Fairy Falls on a tributary.  There were plenty of hikers on the trail for a Friday.   Many paused at various cascades and whitewater splashes, and I kept passing them. I continued up into a pretty forest.

The trail flattened out near  a junction where I could have headed west to Angel’s Rest.  I headed the other way toward  the Vista Point trail, where a group of people gathered at the junction.  Just beyond the intersection was the uphill trail to Devil’s Rest.  I debated the climb, but since I knew it was not an earth shattering summit, I opted to descend.  The Vista Point Trail felt steeper, with fewer switchbacks than the Wahkeena Trail.  A quick descent brought me back to Fairy Falls and the gorgeous creek on the Wahkeena Trail, where I started bumping into people regularly.   Many of them commented on how cute my dog is.  Many said nothing to me even though I tried to make eye contact.  That rarely happens  on wilderness trails.  Near the spot where the trail becomes paved again, a side trail leads to Monument Point.  I found it is more of a bushwhack with loose scree, limited tread, and various obstacles.  Of course, that makes the hiking more fun, but I wouldn’t take my mom on it.  The views we discovered at the point were worth the challenge.  It was a great way to wrap up a good hike.