Located about an hour from Portland, the Columbia River Gorge is a top choice for weekend campers and hikers. Ask any Oregon hiker for a Gorge recommendation and there’s a strong chance that you will be sent to one of the three essential hikes: Eagle Creek, Oneonta Gorge, and Angel’s Rest. Each hike showcases the best-of-the-best trails and viewpoints in a unique way all its own.
Out of all of the Columbia River Gorge hikes, Eagle Creek is the classic go-to choice for local hikers. Set in the Columbia River Gorge just outside of Cascade Locks, Eagle Creek was carved from the cliffs in the 1910s by the Columbia River Highway project. The trail weaves in and out of the forest for stunning views of tree lines and waterfalls. Although the hike itself is on even ground and doable for most fitness levels, it is not for those afraid of heights. When coming out of the trees, the trail becomes increasingly narrow around a few tight bends that drop off into the canyon below. The Eagle Creek offers a variety of mileage options ranging from 2.0 miles to the popular Punch Bowl Falls to 13.1 miles where the route junctions with the Pacific Crest Trail. Eagle Creek is also a top choice for weekend backpacking excursions.
The Adventure: Oneonta Gorge
If you’re up for an adventure, Oneonta Gorge is an Oregon hike unlike any other. Although only 1.2 miles round trip, there is no traditional trail. Instead, the “trail” is a hike upstream the river-bend and a
scramble over a looming, slippery log jam. Summer and early fall are the best times to go when the weather is warm and water levels are low. Some swimming is involved unless you have a little experience rock climbing— and in that case you can traverse the rocks around the deeper end to reach the finish line. The reward is Lower Oneonta Falls, a private waterfall with a shallow pool surrounded by the moss-covered canyon walls of the gorge. Oneonta Gorge is beautiful albeit an adrenaline rush. As it is one of the most fun and popular hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, be sure to go on a weekday or early enough in the day to miss the heavy crowds on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Best View: Angel’s Rest
Angel’s Rest boasts arguably the best view of the Columbia River Gorge. The incredible 280-degree vista is hard earned over a 1,540 ft. elevation gain. At over 4.8 miles round-trip, the path crosses through a beautiful mature forest in the Cooper Creek valley before making the ascent to Angel’s Rest. It’s a well-known route for hikers and trail-runners and, like most Gorge hikes, it’s busy on the weekends. Early birds will have the best luck of experiencing the breathtaking views in peace and quiet. Ambitious hikers can opt to trek on to Devil’s Rest from the fork before the Angel’s Rest summit.
Chloe Highberger is a freelance writer and photographer based in the Pacific Northwest. As a life-long Oregonian, Chloe is an avid hiker and loves to explore all of the best-of-the-best experiences that her home state has to offer. Follow Chloe’s latest adventures via her online portfolio and via Twitter @ChloeHighberger.