Cape Horn Loop Hike

Columbia River Gorge, Washington

Columbia River Gorge, Washington

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Cape Horn Loop Hike
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  • Cape Horn Loop Trail at the Salmon Falls Road trailhead.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Unidentified mushroom species (help us identify it by providing feedback).- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Panellus longinquus.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Pleurotus populinus.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail: View of Columbia River Gorge.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail: Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum).- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail: Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum).- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Tar spot fungus (Rhytisma punctatum), typical on bigleaf maple leaves.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Devil's club (Oplopanax horridus).- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Agrocybe praecox.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Unidentified mushroom species (help us identify it by providing feedback).- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Shaggy parasol (Chlorophyllum olivieri).- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail near Strunk Road.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail: Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum).- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Loop Trail: Nancy Russel Overloook.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Loop Trail: View of the Columbia River Gorge from Nancy Russel Overlook.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Looking down on WA Hwy 14 from Nancy Russel Overlook.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Blood-spattered beard (Usnea wirthii), a type of lichen.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor).- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Pacific banana slug (Ariolimax columbianus).- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Tunnel under WA Hwy 14.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Viewpoint along the Cape Horn Lower Trail.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Lower Trail: Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii).- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Lepiota felina.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Bleeding fairy helmet (Mycena haematopus).- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa).- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Lower Trail.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Viewpoint along the Cape Horn Lower Trail.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Lower Trail.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Cape Horn Falls, middle section.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
  • Section of lower 'trail' along Cape Horn Rd.- Cape Horn Loop Hike
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Panoramic Columbia River Gorge vistas. Waterfalls.
Cons: 
Lower trail closed February 1 - July 15.
Alerts: 
September, 2017: The rapidly expanding Eagle Creek and Indian Creek fires have forced closures throughout large areas of the Columbia River Gorge. Updated information can be found in the following links: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5584/ and https://gorgefriends.org/hike-the-gorge/trail-alerts.html
Region:
Columbia River Gorge, WA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,680.00 ft (512.06 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Suitable for: 
Hiking
Horseback
Total Distance: 
7.60 mi (12.23 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
490.00 ft (149.35 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Team

The Cape Horn Loop Trail on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge is one of the best day hikes in close proximity to the Portland and Vancouver Metro Area. Since it’s on the Washington side of the gorge, it is far less trafficked than the destinations off of Historic Columbia River Highway 30 in Oregon.

The hike passes through public lands, through right-of-ways on private land, on old gravel roads, and along a scenic farm-lined country road, to make for a delightful and variety-filled 7.6 mile adventure. The trail is split into upper and lower sections, both of which are recommended hikes, and can easily be combined into one day hike.

The upper portion of the trail jogs in and out of a forest dominated by bigleaf maples (ideal for an autumn visit) and second growth Douglas fir, providing numerous panoramic vistas along the basalt bluffs of Cape Horn, situated 1,100 feet above the Columbia River. Views stretch east toward Beacon Rock, across the river toward Angel's Rest, and southwest toward Crown Point.  Thanks to local activist efforts during the 1980s led by Nancy Russell of Friends of the Columbia Gorge, this section of trail was spared from residential development.

The lower portion of the trail starts with a series of switchbacks atop rock fields, leading to the nearly hidden Cape Horn Falls. A footbridge crosses just below the the 90 foot middle-cascade of the falls, but in their entirety the three tiers of the waterfall drop a total of 600 feet. The last section dramatically plunges 250 feet straight into the Columbia River. This 2.1-mile section of trail also features numerous craggy outcropping viewpoints.

Note: The lower section of the Cape Horn Hiking Loop Trail is closed February 1 through July 15 to protect habitat for peregrine falcons nesting in the Columbia River Gorge. The upper trail is open year-round. The main parking area is just off of Salmon Falls Road just a 40-minute drive from Portland, but there is also an upper parking area at the end of Strunk Road that makes a shorter hike possible.

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Updates, Tips + Comments

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Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(32 within a 30 mile radius)

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(195 within a 30 mile radius)

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Published in collaboration with Friends of the Columbia Gorge

The Columbia Gorge is a magnificent place like nowhere else in the world. While it attracts nature lovers, it also attracts private development. But time and again, ordinary people have taken extraordinary steps to protect this place, making a difference that we all enjoy today. The places we love would not be what they are today, had people not protected them when they had the chance.

Today we have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of those who came before us and leave our own legacy with the preservation of seven properties - 420 acres of magnificent Gorge land. Together, we can preserve the beautiful views, protect wildlife, and provide more places for people to take solace in nature.

Please join us! Create your legacy by making a generous donation to the Preserve the Wonder campaign. 

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