Anyone who lives in or regularly visits Oregon and Washington should make a pilgrimage to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area several times a year.
True, the Gorge can be rather ominous at times during the cold season. But hiking during the best days of fall, winter and spring can help you stay in shape for the more demanding treks of summer, when the snow melts and opens up higher hiking trails in the Cascade Mountains and volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest.
No matter the season, the Gorge is boundless with beauty and wildlife.
Munra Point is a very challenging hike, but also quite brief (six miles round-trip). Its solid steep trail leads to great views.
Here’s what you need to know to tackle this hike:
Elevation: 1,814 feet with 1,764 feet vertical gain
Distance: 3 miles up, 6 miles round-trip from Wahclella Falls trailhead
Duration: 1.5–2 hours up, 3 hours round-trip
Difficulty: Very challenging. Slender ridge at times, some exposure, super-steep, brief scrambling
Trip Report: Cold in winter through early March with several feet of snow possible, including drifts near the top (watch for cornices). Sunny with wildflowers in early May and enjoyable most of the summer without much traffic. Rain or a wet trail won’t work here, however, because of the steep pitch. Northwest Forest Pass or $5 fee required at Wahclella Falls trailhead, and there is a portable outhouse.
Trailhead: Take I-84 to exit 40 (Bonneville Dam) and turn south for 1⁄4 mile to the Wahclella Falls tiny parking lot on Tanner Creek. Alternatively you can take I-84 E from Portland and park off the shoulder of the Interstate under the second big brown sign for exit 40 (“Fish Hatchery Sturgeon Cntr exit 40”) next to an overgrown driveway just west of the big sign; the early bird will get one of only a couple of spots. Or take I-84 W from Hood River and carefully exit the highway to the left at Moffett Creek immediately west of the bridge with no off-ramp or much room to slow down, precisely across from the milepost 39 marker, onto a short driveway with a gate (room for a half-dozen vehicles without blocking the gate).
Route: From the official trailhead, backtrack toward the Interstate and walk left (west) on Gorge Trail 400, soon crossing over Tanner Creek Bridge, and proceed south steeply up a little hill and then 1.5 miles southwest very easily to the narrow trail on the left (south) just east of Moffett Creek. If you don’t mind parking next to the busy Interstate, you’ll save about 2.5-mile round-trip of boring walking parallel to the Interstate as you walk 100 feet up the access driveway to Gorge Trail 400 and turn right (southwest) 1⁄2 mile to the Munra Point Trail on the left. For those who parked at milepost 39 from I-84 westbound, follow the paved HCRH State Trail right (south) under the Interstate bridge toward the white guardrails, but turn left (northeast) onto Trail 400 over the Moffett Creek Bridge and walk up briefly to the Munra Point Trail on the right (only 1⁄4 mile from the gate). There’s a “trail not maintained” sign on a tree with “Munra” scratched in underneath 50 feet up from Trail 400.
Begin up one of the steepest climbs on a known trail in the Gorge, fortunately only for about 1.5 miles to the ridgelined little summit above the trees. The trail east is surprisingly worn 1⁄4 mile to a crossroads where you turn right 10 feet, then continue left much more steeply 1⁄4 mile where all remaining forks lead up to the very narrow ridge. There is a short spur path down to the left (north) out to a viewpoint once you reach the ridge crest. Resume upward, being mindful of the poison oak around you, as the panorama and wildflowers become better with every step. It’s especially steep and fun before the top, as you must scramble the looser rock 100 feet up just left (east) of the cliffy ridgeline, hanging on to whatever you can for help. Follow a switchback above this area that heads back to the more solid, super-thin ridge above most of the trees.
There are some intimidating drop-offs along the high ridge, but it’s not as steep and the rock is more solid to the nearby point. Carefully scramble more steeply straight up the last 10 feet or proceed left (north) below the petite summit block on the path around and out to a lookout of Bonneville Dam. Munra Point’s pinnacle on the open ridge above the highway provides some of the most exceptional views of the Gorge without having to climb 3,000–4,000 feet or take all day.
Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from “Day Hikes in the Columbia River Gorge: Hiking Loops, High Points & Waterfalls Within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.”