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Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge

11.30.16

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Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge

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  • A false summit on Angel's Rest.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Ponytail Falls.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Triple Falls along the Oneonta Creek.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Viewpoint along the Cape Horn Lower Trail.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Oneonta Gorge: Lower Oneonta Falls.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Oneonta Gorge in Winter.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Puget balsamroot (Deltoid balsamroot) on Dog Mountain.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • The bridge over Herman Creek on the way to Pacific Crest Falls.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • The bridge across Gorton Creek on the Gorge Trail #400.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • The view north to Wind Mountain with Dog Mountain in the distance from the Gorge Trail #400.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Latourell Falls.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Weisendanger Falls on the Larch Mountain Trail.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • A view of Mount Hood (11,250 ft) from Larch Mountain's summit.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • McCord Creek below Elowah Falls during the winter months.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • View to Dog Mountain from a Native American Indian spirit quest site on Wind Mountain.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Wahclella Falls and Tanner Creek.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • The second major view of the Columbia River Gorge from the Starvation Ridge Trail.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Viewing looking east over Columbia River from Catherine Creek.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • View of Bonneville Lock and Bonneville Dam from Aldrich Butte's summit.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • View looking northeast from Table Mountain with Mount Adams (12,280 ft) in the distance.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Coyote Wall across the Columbia River from the Mosier Plateau.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Beacon Rock from the State Park's marina with Hamilton Mountain and Aldrich Butte in the background.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Entering the Mount Hood National Forest along the Mount Defiance Trail.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • A lush understory of vine maple, sword and deer fern, vanilla leaf, and inside-out flower line the Little Hamilton Mountain Trail.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Indian paintbrush (Castilleja).- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Rock penstemon (Scrophulariaceae).- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis).- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Mount Hood (11,249 ft) from Chinidere Mountain.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Ruckel Creek cascades through the undergrowth on the Ruckel Ridge Trail.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Sweeny Falls, Southern Creek.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Fairy Falls high above Wahkeena Falls.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Dutchman Falls along Multnomah Creek.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Columbia Hills Historical State Park.- Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
Article
Team

The Columbia River Gorge has something for everyone. A popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, the Columbia River Gorge is one of North America’s most scenic and impressive canyons. The canyon stretches in excess of 80 miles as it passes directly through the Cascade Range, forming a nearly sea-level passage through outcroppings that loom as much as 4,000 feet above the river. Whether you're looking for a family-friendly hike, a good workout, wildflowers, or a 600-foot waterfall, you'll find it all in the Columbia River Gorge.  

To highlight the different trails, we figured it would be best to highlight trails that stand out as one of the best in a specific category. 

Best Hike for Kids

Horsetail + Ponytail Falls is a great hike for the whole family to enjoy. This 4-mile trail has very little elevation gain, four waterfalls, old-growth forest, and plenty of wildflowers to keep the kiddos entertained. 

Most Popular Hike

Multnomah Falls is Oregon's most visited natural attraction, and it receives over 2.5 million visitors per year. Even though it's crowded, it's certainly worth a stop. It's only a quarter-mile to the popular Benson Bridge and a total of 1.1 miles to the top of the falls. 

Best Waterfall Loop

Starting at Wahkeena Falls and ending at Multnomah Falls, this short 5-mile hike passes 10 impressive falls and catches some beautiful views of the Columbia River below.

Weisendanger Falls on Multnomah Creek. Photo by Tyson Gillard

Most Hidden Waterfall

The trailhead and trail to Spirit Falls are not well marked, but if you download our free map you shouldn't have any trouble. 

Most Unique Hike

Even in this incredible environment, the Oneonta Gorge stands out as a unique and exceptional area. Scramble over a huge log jam, wade through the stream that flows through the narrow basalt canyon, and find your way to the hidden waterfall.  

Hike For The Best View Of The Gorge

It's hard to beat Angel's Rest, and we wont try. We will, however, offer a second, and often less traveled alternative, the Cape Horn Hiking Trail on the Washington side of the Gorge.

Most Challenging Hike For Amazing Views

Climbing to the tip Indian Point requires some technical skills, but the views are just as rewarding from the top of the ridge connected to the point. This hike is close to Portland and much less crowded than its neighboring hikes. 

View from Indian Point. Photo by Halvor Tweto

Hike For The Best Mountain View

Chinidere Mountain + Wahtum Lake offers amazing views of Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams. Though it's a 2-hour drive from Portland, this short trail packs a punch with less elevation gain than other Columbia River Gorge hikes. Sherrard Point on Larch Mountain is a close second, and it is easily accessible in the summer. It makes a great 9-mile snowshoe in the winter.

Viewpoint With The Best View

The Vista House along the Old Columbia Gorge Highway is a great stop to see the Gorge, and the drive will take you by some beautiful waterfalls.

Hike With The Most Elevation Gain

Though many of the hikes in the Gorge offer a great workout, perhaps none are better than Mount Defiance and its 5,000 feet of net elevation gain. Again, like many of the other hikes in the Gorge, the views will make each foot of elevation worth it. Table Mountain is a good alternative with 3,650 feet of net elevation gain.

Hike With The Least Elevation Gain

While most of the hikes in the Gorge include some elevation, the Klickitat Trail, Harms Road Trailhead is as flat as they come and is ideal for hiking or biking along the river. 

Best Hike For Wildflowers

Dog Mountain could be in a number of categories. It has amazing views and the hike is a great workout, but it really shines with a spectacular display of wildflowers in the spring. A good runner-up is the Mosier Plateau Trail.

Best Place To Catch A Sunset

Beacon Rock is one of the easiest and most accessible hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. After you watch the sunset over Portland, a headlamp will help you ease your way back down the paved trail. 

Sunset view from Beacon Rock. Photo by Shane Kucera

Best Hike On A Hot Day

By this point you've probably been wondering why Eagle Creek hasn't made the list. Well here you go, best for a hot summer day! The trees offer shade from the summer sun and there are some great swimming holes along the trail. 

If you're only interested in seeing the Gorge's waterfalls, make your way around this waterfall loop from Portland out Interstate 84, cross the bridge in Hood River, and drive back via HWY 14.

Browse the featured adventures below for more amazing hikes in the Columbia River Gorge.

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