Recently, we’ve had a number of questions about the Columbia River Gorge’s “new” waterfalls.
Are there actually new waterfalls in the Gorge??
Well, yes and no.
In September, Oregon State Parks, Oregon Department of Transportation, and their partners opened a new 1.3-mile section of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. This section starts at Starvation Creek Trailhead (Exit 55, eastbound only) and is a westward out-and-back hike or bicycle ride to Lindsey Creek. The trail connects with an existing 1.2-mile section of the State Trail that runs from Viento State Park to Starvation Creek Trailhead – making for a nice 5-mile hike or ride if you’re looking for an afternoon outing. The section is a part of a larger effort to connect a 73-mile stretch of the Highway from Troutdale to The Dalles.
This new section of trail also boasts views of three waterfalls. While these falls have always been accessible to hikers; now, for the first time, they are accessible from a paved, well-graded universal trail.
Four in One
For those of you who have never been to Starvation Creek, there are actually four waterfalls awaiting you in about a 1-mile stretch. Below, from east to west, are your three “new” waterfalls in addition to the “old” Starvation Creek Falls – an often overlooked waterfall a short jaunt east of the Starvation Creek Trailhead.
DISTANCE FROM STARVATION CREEK TRAILHEAD (approximate)
- Starvation Creek Falls 0.1 miles east
- Cabin Creek Falls 0.3 miles west
- Hole-in-the-Wall Falls 0.6 miles west
- Lancaster Falls 0.8 miles west
Want to Learn More?
For more history about this area and a loop hike, check out the WyEast Blog
For this same loop hike and links to others starting from Starvation Creek Trailhead, check out the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Hikes
And for the history buff, our ranger go-to site for Gorge history, read up on on the Lindsey to Starvation Creek section of the Highway at Recreating the Historic Columbia River Highway
As many of you have heard, Cheryl Strayed’s popular book Wild about the author’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is coming out in movie-form on December 5, 2014. What does this have to do with the Gorge and Oregon State Parks? Well, as it turns out, quite a bit.
First, Strayed completed her hike of the PCT at our very own Cascade Locks in the Columbia River Gorge. The Bridge of the Gods is the PCT route’s through the Gorge.
Second, it is a little known fact that Oregon State Parks manages the Cascade Locks Trail Head right under the bridge. And although it is not officially part of the PCT, many thru-hikers take the Eagle Creek canyon route to get to the Gorge — completing their final miles by walking the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail to Cascade Locks.
Third, parts of Wild were shot in the Columbia River Gorge. If you thought you spied Reese Witherspoon in the Gorge last fall, you just might have.
And finally, in 2012, I took a leave of absence from Oregon State Parks to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I started on April 30, 2012 and finished on September 27, 2012. 151 days, 2660 miles, more than 6 million steps. And this coming Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to share my story here in the Gorge.
Please join me for a talk on the Pacific Crest Trail, “The Good, the Bad, and the Unforgettable” on Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 2 PM at the Bonneville Lock and Dam, Bradford Visitor Center.
In 2012, I took a leave of absence from Oregon State Parks to hike the Pacific Crest Trail . . . this coming Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to share my story . . .
Most of us, when we go to Latourell Falls, pull off the Historic Columbia River Highway into the parking lot, walk the 25 yards or so to the viewing point, snap a few photos, and then jump back in our vehicles to zoom off to the next waterfall. I’ll admit, I’ve done this very thing numerous times.
A few of us walk down to the base of the falls and then wind around under the Highway to find ourselves in some weird park we’ve never seen before and then scurry back to where our vehicles are parked. I’ve done this, too.
Even fewer of us do what I (after rangering for nearly 7 years in the waterfall wonderland of Silver Falls) now highly recommend. Which is this: Park at Guy W. Talbot State Park on the north side of the Historic Columbia River Highway just west of Latourell Falls (follow a state park shield with a picnic table) – technically, Latourell Falls is IN Guy W. Talbot, but few know this or park here. Use the very nice restroom if needed. Follow the braided, paved path uphill, keeping right.
What you’re about to do is hike the Latourell Falls loop backwards.
Backwards, you ask? Yes. Here’s why. If you’re willing to hike 2+ miles, it is worth it to see the upper and lower falls at Latourell – most of us, as I mentioned, only see the lower falls and miss out the upper. Waterfalls, as we all know, are quite a treat. So, for this (and I’d argue, all) waterfall hikes, do the work first – hike uphill in the forest first, and then, as you wind downhill, you’ll be rewarded with first the upper falls, and, finally, the lower falls. A couple more hundred yards, and you’ll be back at your vehicle. And a nice restroom.
I just hiked the loop backwards (having already completed frontwards) and confirmed, at least for myself, that it is the best direction. And don’t worry, your forested hike up has a few things in store for you, too. Take a look . . .