Eagle Creek Trail, Columbia River Gorge

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Eagle Creek Trail

Spectacular Eagle Creek Trail, traversing canyons, chasms, and cliffs on its way past six major waterfalls, serves as a Columbia River Gorge hiking mecca attracting both tourists and locals.

  • 13.3 miles provide both day hikes and backpacking options.
  • Moderate to difficult, with 400-1200 gain in elevation.
  • Trailhead: I-84 East to Exit 41.

Overview

The Eagle Creek Trail through the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area owes its popularity to the picturesque waterfalls cascading nearby. The trail wends through sheer cliffs, towering cedars, and maidenhair fern beds, even through a tunnel behind 120-foot Tunnel Falls. The trail is open year-round; visitors can choose between moderate and difficult hikes, camping or backpacking opportunities.

Trailhead

From Portland, Oregon take I-84 east to Eagle Creek Exit 41. Turn right and travel up the creek to the parking lot. There’s no access to Exit 41 from the west, so westbound travelers must exit at Bonneville Dam (Exit 40) and backtrack about a mile to the exit.

Details

Distance: The entire Eagle Creek Trail stretches 13.3 miles to Wahtum Lake, where it connects with the Pacific Crest Trail. Shorter hikes along Eagle Creek are popular, for example:

  • At the 1.5 mile mark, take one of the short side trails on the right down to a viewpoint of 100-foot Metlako Falls.
  • Punchbowl Falls is a 4.2-mile hike from the trailhead with 400 feet of elevation gain.
  • Tunnel Falls represents a 12-mile trek and gains 1200 feet elevation.

Difficulty: Trail difficulty varies based on the hike and distance, from moderate (Punchbowl Falls) to difficult (Tunnel Falls, Wahtum Lake).
Trail Type: Eagle Creek Trail is a turnaround trail, but connects with other trails along its length to provide looping options for seasoned hikers.

Plan & Prepare

When parking at the trailhead, avoid leaving valuables in your vehicle as break-ins are common. You’ll need a Northwest Forest parking permit to use the lot.

While the Punchbowl Trail is suitable for children and dogs, the lower 7.5-mile portion of Eagle Creek Trail is cut along sheer cliffs hundreds of feet above the creek, and can be quite hazardous.

Oregon weather is changeable, so dress in layers and bring raingear. As with any hike, be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks.

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