Hiking Tour of Mt. Hood and the Gorge

January 22, 2015 (Updated May 1, 2018)

Traveler Alert: Some areas were impacted by the recent Eagle Creek Fire. Before you head out, please check with USFS for the most up-to-date information on closures.

There is no shortage of world-class hiking options in the Mt. Hood/Columbia River Gorge region.  The most challenging part of any day spent exploring this area may be making a decision about where to go. While producing this video, we were faced with the daunting task of showing the amazing variety of hiking options throughout the region in a single day. While our shooting itinerary may not be recommended for those more keen on the journey than the destination, it is quite possible to enjoy stunning high alpine glacial vistas in the morning, and lush rainforest waterfall swims in the afternoon.

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We start our day with breakfast and a campfire at the Pioneer Tollgate Campground.  A quick map review shows that we could make an efficient driving loop around Mt. Hood and down into the Columbia Gorge, along which numerous hiking trailheads are available. Fueled up with a strong cup of fresh coffee, we load the car and are on our way.

We begin hiking up Trail #600 which quickly ties into the Timberline National Historic Trail, circumnavigating Mt. Hood.  Moss-laden spruce trees open up to reveal breathtaking views of Mt. Hood’s northeast face and the the impressive presence of the Elliot Glacier.  Extending high up the mountain is Cooper Spur, a moderate open slope adorned with wildflowers and dominated by Oregon’s highest peak.  Here, the intrepid mountaineer has no shortage of technical climbing options on Mt. Hood, and the novice hiker can bask in a rugged mountain landscape.

Fully elated by the glacial views, we run down to the trailhead and drive to Hood River to grab a quick bite to eat.  Our next stop is Eagle Creek, one of the significant tributaries that flows into the Columbia Gorge, and also home to an impressive early fall Salmon run in the lower pools.  Eagle Creek Trail #440 follows the canyon nearly 14 miles upstream past numerous waterfalls and along adrenalin-pumping cliff faces.

Feeling a bit weary from some trail miles in the warm afternoon sun, a swim is in order and nearby Elowah Falls is the perfect answer.  A short hike up Gorge Trail #400 reveals the stunning 289 ft waterfall plunging into an expansive amphitheater with an enticing swimming pool at the base. It’s easy to forget for a moment that you are in Oregon, until the cold refreshing water reminds you that it only looks tropical.

Recharged by the exhilarating dip, we’re ready for adventure, and drive a short distance west to Oneonta Gorge. Accessible right off of the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway, Oneonta Gorge is an impressive slot canyon that slices deep into the basalt rock cliffs rising steeply up from the Columbia River. No maintained hiking trail exists into the gorge, so some water shoes and a regard for scrambling are useful. Navigating across a tangled log jam at the entrance of Oneonta Gorge requires some care, and then a half mile trek through the shallow creek will leave your head turned upward, and your jaw on the ground. The narrow gorge terminates at a beautiful waterfall and deep pool beckoning those who still feel inclined for a brisk swim.

But it’s getting cool in the late afternoon and we’ve heard that Columbia Gorge sunsets can change your life, so we jump in the car and drive west along the winding Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway to Crown Point.  Gazing out across the Columbia Gorge the golden light does not disappoint, and we reflect back upon a day of glaciers, volcanic peaks, waterfalls, swimming pools, old growth forests, and spectacular views, all easily accessible with our own two feet.

About The
Author

John Waller
A native Oregonian, John Waller has dedicated his life to exploring and discovering the natural beauty that the world has to offer. The founder of Uncage the Soul Productions, John has spent more than two decades producing and directing films, from commercial shorts to award-winning adventure documentaries. If he’s not behind the camera or in front of the editing screen, he can be found exploring the Oregon backcountry, summiting a local peak or planning the next globetrotting adventure.

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