This hike was straight up incredible.
We attempted to do the Eagle Creek Trail hike in the Columbia River Gorge on a beautiful day back in February, but it was so crowded that we opted for a hike in Washington, instead. This time, we got to the trail early enough to beat the crowds, thanks to accidentally waking up at 6 am on a weekend morning.
Now that I’ve experienced the Eagle Creek Trail, I completely understand its mass appeal. The 6.6-mile (round trip) hike is pretty easy, with a few very gentle climbs. And you can actually make the hike any distance you’d like, but I’d recommend you go at least 2 miles in to see Punchbowl Falls.
This isn’t really a hike for kids (or for dogs that don’t listen well) since the trail gets narrow at times, with pretty steep drops off the cliff. You’ll also have to cross a stream, but someone has kindly placed stepping stones across the path. (Of course, waterproof hiking shoes are always a good idea in Oregon.)
You can see or hear the creek during the whole hike, which is marvelous and beautiful; and when you get up close to the water, the color is incredible. Oregon waters are some of the most dazzling shades of blue I’ve ever seen. Plus, these waters are filled with waterfall after waterfall for an extra burst of Northwestern magic.
After taking some stairs down to the creek, be sure to walk out onto the rocks in the water to see Punchbowl Falls at the back of the canyon. It’s pretty spectacular. And the water is so clear! I don’t know why this still surprises me after 2 1/2 years of hiking in Oregon, but one or both of us always ends up declaring, “That water is so clear!” It’s just what we do.
We turned around at High Bridge, 3.3 miles into the hike. It’s the third big bridge on the hike, and the view from the top is a little unnerving. It definitely made my stomach turn to look down at the creek below. Way, way below. The trail continues on past the bridge for another 3 miles to Tunnel Falls, but we weren’t quite up for a 12-mile hike that day.
If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be this: GO EARLY. We accidentally woke up at 6 am on a weekend morning, so we ended up getting to this trail around 8:45. And there were already cars in the parking lot! Go early, or expect to deal with lots of crowds.
To get to the Eagle Creek Trailhead, take I-84 east of Portland to Exit 41 (Eagle Creek). Turn right and drive to the end of the road. This parking lot is likely to be packed, so you may have to park closer to the interstate. Northwest Forest Pass required. Bathrooms at the trailhead.
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