A hike of quasi-epic proportions awaits in the Columbia Gorge for those with an adventurous spirit, and strong legs! The Rock of Ages Loop is a demanding but tremendously rewarding hike that scrambles 3,000 feet up to a beautiful scenic ridge, and then winds its way through old Douglas fir forest, down across Oneonta Creek, and around (and under!) gorgeous waterfalls.
The Rock of Ages loop is a primitive (i.e. not maintained) but well-worn trail that front-loads most of the hard work. You will climb approximately 3,000 feet in the first 3 miles of this demanding trail, and at times you will need to use hands and feet to ascend safely. Make no mistake, however; the pain is well worth the gain, as the trail is littered with waterfall vistas, panoramic viewpoints, and one very interesting rock formation. At about three-quarters of a mile into the hike there is a small side trail to the Rock of Ages Arch, a natural rock arch that provides awesome views of the Gorge and St. Peter’s Dome to the east.
Continue the steep ascent from here up to the Devil’s Backbone at about 1 mile in, with views of Beacon Rock, Hamilton Mountain, and Mount St. Helens. Just another 1.7 miles and 1,900 feet of elevation to go before the mellow descent into the Oneonta Creek Gorge. As you venture down from the trail’s peak at 3,004 feet, notice how the plant life transitions and more wildflowers appear. As you approach one of three (bridgeless) river crossings, giant sword ferns dot the hillside and the rush of the Oneonta Creek becomes more prevalent. Soon you’ll be at Triple Falls, a great place to stop and rest for a bit before Middle Oneonta Falls, Ponytail Falls and the return to your car.