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Cape Horn: More Than Expected!

10.21.13

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Cape Horn: More Than Expected!

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  • Cape Horn Loop Trail at the Salmon Falls Road trailhead.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Unidentified mushroom species (help us identify it by providing feedback).- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Panellus longinquus.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Pleurotus populinus.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail: View of Columbia River Gorge.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail: Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum).- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail: Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum).- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Tar spot fungus (Rhytisma punctatum), typical on bigleaf maple leaves.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Devil's club (Oplopanax horridus).- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Agrocybe praecox.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Unidentified mushroom species (help us identify it by providing feedback).- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Shaggy parasol (Chlorophyllum olivieri).- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail near Strunk Road.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail: Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum).- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Loop Trail: Nancy Russel Overloook.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Loop Trail: View of the Columbia River Gorge from Nancy Russel Overlook.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Looking down on WA Hwy 14 from Nancy Russel Overlook.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Upper Trail.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Blood-spattered beard (Usnea wirthii), a type of lichen.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor).- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • - Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Pacific banana slug (Ariolimax columbianus).- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Tunnel under WA Hwy 14.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Viewpoint along the Cape Horn Lower Trail.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Lower Trail: Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii).- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Capturing yet another mushroom.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Lepiota felina.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Bleeding fairy helmet (Mycena haematopus).- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa).- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Lower Trail.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Viewpoint along the Cape Horn Lower Trail.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Lower Trail.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Cape Horn Falls, middle section.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
  • Section of lower 'trail' along Cape Horn Rd.- Cape Horn: More Than Expected!
Article
Team

The other weekend a few of us from Outdoor Project went out in search of fall foliage. Surprisingly enough, none of us had ever hiked Cape Horn on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, and to our delight, I can easily say that the Cape Horn Loop Trail is certainly in the running as being the best day hike, closest to the Portland Metro Area.

Not only were the bigleaf maples all shades of beautiful fall color, but we were also absolutely impressed with the panoramic views, bounty of mushrooms, variety of trail scenery, and Cape Horn Falls.

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 trail is closed February 1st through July 15th due to nesting peregrine falcons. The upper trail is open year-round. The main parking area is just off of Salmon Falls Road, but there is also an upper parking area at the end of Strunk Road making a shorter hike possible.

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