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Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

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Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike

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  • Moss growing on the rocks as the trail switchbacks through the early stages of the climb.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • The grade slowly increases as you pass through trees in the rock fields.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Larkspur along the trail.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • A Doug fir perches precariously on rock above the trail.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Basalt columns provide a preview of the trail to come... up and over is the route.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • An example of the mossy and rocky trail.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • When you get to basalt columns, go up and over.  This collection of basalt marks the entrance to 'The Catwalk.'- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Scraggly trees along the path.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • The trail heads down steeply through the trees.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • A rocky vantage point, and the 'pinnacle' of the hike... which comes before reaching the plateau.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Moss and ice meet in the late spring.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Inclement weather can be expected through the spring.  Come prepared for snow.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Cross Ruckel Creek as you move south from Ruckel Ridge across the Benson Plateau.  There are plenty of downed trees to use as bridges.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • An open field provides a chance to eat lunch and bask in the sunshine on your return trip.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Unidentified species (help us identify it by providing feedback).- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • - Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • The path is more gradual on the return as you pass through open fields. - Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Native American vision quest pits can still be found among the moss and rocks.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Ruckel Creek cascades through the undergrowth.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Paved pathway back to the Eagle Creek parking lot.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Ruckel creek is full of the softest moss.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Mossy Grotto Falls surrounded by moss and ferns.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
  • Ferns seem to grow straight out of the nearby cliff below Mossy Grotto Falls.- Ruckel Ridge Loop Hike
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Not crowded. Challenging hike. Beautiful rock formations. Views of the Columbia River Gorge.
Cons: 
Mossy, rocky, and exposed trail. May be difficult to follow trail.
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Region:
Columbia River Gorge, OR
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
3,700.00 ft (1,127.76 m)
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
9.00 mi (14.48 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
242.00 ft (73.76 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

Ruckel Ridge is one of, if not the most challenging and difficult day hikes in the Gorge. The path is not maintained, and it is rocky and slippery due to the abundance of moss on the trail. Given the exposed risk in some portions of the hike, it is recommended that hikers are physically and mentally prepared for an enduring challenge and equipped with appropriate hiking clothes and gear.  Sturdy boots with good traction are recommended. 

Start at the parking lot near the Eagle Creek Camp Host station and navigate your way through the Eagle Creek Campground, past campsite 5, and follow the sign for Buck Point Trail to continue uphill. You'll follow a fence to the top of a bluff; take a fork to the right before the trail heads back downhill. Continue a half mile to Buck Point, a power line clearing where you can get your first views back into the Columbia River Gorge. Head past the power line and follow the trail into the trees. 

From here, the trail becomes much more difficult and sustained. Gaining elevation quickly, the trail continues up through mossy rock and steep dirt and gravel ascents. You may spend a considerable amount of this portion of the hike with your knuckles on the ground, or using surrounding roots, tree trunks, and rocks as climbing aids. Be sure to check the validity of anything you grasp-- if it comes loose in your hand, the fall will not be a pleasant one. 

The trail continues up and over basalt columns covered in green moss, creating a series of scrambles and short technical climbs.  No rope is needed, but skill and focus are recommended.  Approximately 2 miles from Buck Point is a feature affectionately known as "The Catwalk."  This is a rocky knife ridge that cuts through the trees with widths that diminish down to 1 foot.  Traverse this section with careful hand and foot placement, making sure each contact point is secure.  Assume the rocks will be slippery in inclement weather; The Catwalk is rather exposed, and a fall could result in serious injury.

At the top of The Catwalk, the trail drops back downhill (a welcome downhill, but by this time, your calves are burning... keep going!).  The saddle of the downhill turns into one last steep uphill slog that will test your willpower and endurance.  At the top, you'll be happy to find the flat features of the Benson Plateau at 3,700 feet.  Head east across the plateau, crossing Ruckel Creek along your way.  There are plenty of downed trees to serve as bridges for your crossing.

On the other side of the creek, you'll find your return route, the Ruckel Creek Trail.  You'll move through the trees for a bit before reaching a series of beautiful open fields.  These are great spots to sit and enjoy lunch and views, as well as to pat yourself on the back for the work you've done so far.  These fields are filled with wildflowers in the spring and early summer months.  

Continuing downhill, you'll find two to three beautiful viewpoints of the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens.  Rock and scree mark the next section of trail, as well as the moss covered remnants of Native American rock pits.  It's generally believed that these were religious sites for young Native Americans to seek vision quests either by self-induced starvation hallucinations or with the aid of natural hallucinogens. 

Heading back into the thick old-growth trees, the trail meanders downhill alongside Ruckel Creek as it cascades beautifully through the moss and undergrowth.  Follow the creek until it spills out onto the paved Historic Columbia River Highway Trail.  Head left (west) on the trail and back to where it meets the Eagle Creek parking lot and your car. 

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