In recent weeks, Portland has been doing this kind of frustrating thing where it is completely glorious and sunny all week long, and then the sky lets loose on the weekends and drops all the rain.
This was the case on our trip to Elowah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. Since it was raining, we were looking for a waterfall hike that we could do in record time, which meant driving there, hiking, and getting home in time for lunch. And we did it! The Elowah Falls trailhead is only about 40 minutes from the city, which makes it the perfect hike for a rainy day! Plus, waterfalls are always a bit more impressive when it’s raining.
It’s only a 0.8-mile hike to the waterfall (go left when the trail splits), most of which is flat or downhill. And once you get there, it’s a pretty spectacular view.
We turned around right after the bridge crossed over the creek and backtracked up to the trail split. From there, we took the trail for about a mile up to Upper McCord Creek Falls. This trail was mostly gentle switchbacks through the trees, but it opened up to a nice view of the gorge. It was beautiful to see the fog rolling off the cliffs, and I’m sure the view on a clear day would be top notch. From there, the trail gets pretty narrow as it winds around the rock wall, which made us very thankful for the railings along the side.
It was a short hike to Upper McCord Creek Falls, which surprised us by being one waterfall split into two parts! The trail continued beyond the waterfall, but we were pretty soaked by this point, so we headed back to the parking area.
By the time we made it back to the car, it had been raining so hard for so long that I was soaked to the bone through three layers of clothing. And now we know for sure that our rain jackets are not, in fact, waterproof. I guess it’s time to upgrade for real life in the Pacific Northwest! And it’s about time we remember to pack some towels in the car for rainy day hikes. One day, we’ll learn.
To get to the trailhead, take I-84 east of Portland to Exit 35 (Ainsworth). Turn left at the stop sign and immediately turn right on Frontage Road. Take this for 2.1 miles to the parking lot on your right, just before Frontage Road joins up with the highway.