Posted by Josh Baker
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.