Munra Point

  • Date: April 17, 2016
  • Location: Columbia River Gorge
  • Start: Wahclella Falls Trailhead
  • Distance: 5.8 miles
  • Duration: 4 hours (breaks included)
  • Elevation gain: 1870 feet
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Map: Green Trails Map 428S: Columbia River Gorge-West
  • References: Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider

We did it! We finally made it up to Munra Point! Third time’s a charm I guess. Or maybe Cassie, our new adventure pup, brought along some beginner’s luck; this was her first time hiking in the Columbia River Gorge!

Since we already did the more scenic route (i.e. the route that includes Elowah Falls) back in January, we opted for the slightly shorter option starting at the Wahclella Falls Trailhead. The trek up the steep, unmaintained trail leading to Munra Point was much easier this time around since the ice and snow was completely melted. Cassie made her way up with ease, hopping and scrambling over massive rocks and tree roots like a little mountain goat (all while attached to my waist via OllyDog leash).

The chimney, where we had to turn around last time, ended up being a cakewalk (even with Cassie in tow) now that the rocks weren’t covered in ice. It felt so good to finally make it up to the ridge. And the view definitely didn’t disappoint. Being a beautiful Sunday morning, there were already a number of people climbing and crowding the summit, so we decided to take a break along one of the ridges and wait our turn.

Approaching Munra Point after climbing the chimney
Water break on the ridge

Ironically enough, the climb up to the Munra Point summit was actually easier than the scramble up the chimney. Initially, it didn’t seem worth it to make the climb because of the crowds. I’m happy we changed our minds. Although the view of the gorge from the ridge is stunning, it’s nothing compared to the breathtaking 360 degree view from the highest point. We shared it with another couple who kindly offered to take a family photo for us.

We greatly enjoyed our first CRG outing with Cassie and are so proud that she was able to tackle such a tough initiation hike!

Family summit photo!

Mount Adams in the distance

 

Advertisements

Rock of Ages

  • Date: February 20, 2016
  • Location: Columbia River Gorge
  • Start: Horsetail Falls Trailhead
  • Distance: 10.2 miles
  • Duration: 6 hours 37 minutes (breaks not included)
  • Elevation gain: 2940 feet
  • Type: Loop
  • Map: Green Trails Map 428S: Columbia River Gorge-West
  • References: Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; Oregon Hikers

If you’re looking for a challenging hike (steep climbs, rock scrambling, exposure, creek crossings, poison oak) that still offers incredible views, beautiful scenery, interesting geological formations, and, surprisingly, solitude, then the Rock of Ages Trail hike is for you!

Despite recent rain, this past Saturday turned out to be a lovely day for a romp outside. We began at the Horsetail Falls Trailhead, where we were greeted with our first gorgeous waterfall (Horsetail Falls) of the day. We continued on towards Ponytail Falls (called Upper Horsetail Falls on the signs). The steep side trail that is the Rock of Ages Trail appears on the left just as Ponytail Falls comes into view. It’s easy to miss if you’re distracted by the falls in the distance.

Horsetail Falls
The beginning of the Rock of Ages Trail (marked by the tree root staircase on the left)

This portion of the hike is the steepest of the entire 10-mile loop. From the trailhead, you gain nearly 3000 feet before reaching the junction with Horsetail Creek Trail #425 (about 3 miles in). Fortunately, the Rock of Ages Arch (the “go-to”/”must-see” spot on this trail) is less than a mile in! After scrambling over rocks and deadfall, slipping and sliding in the mud, we were rewarded with the arch (and what should’ve been an amazing view of the gorge, including the Rock of Ages and Saint Peter’s Dome, if it hadn’t been for the morning fog). If you’re only up for doing  a short hike, you could turn back here and carefully descend the way you came. But if you’re interested in the extra mileage and a more gradual descent, keep reading.

Rock of Ages Arch

One last look at the arch

After pausing briefly to enjoy the arch, we continued along the steep ridgeline before breaking out of the trees onto the exposed, rocky spine of the Devil’s Backbone. By then, most of the clouds had cleared, the sky was blue, the sun was shining down, and the gorge could be seen in all its glory. We re-entered the forest, navigating the increasing amount of deadfall, until we finally reached the junction with Horsetail Creek Trail after nearly 3 hours of hiking. Take a right here, then it’s all (gradually) downhill.

Cool rainbow circle near the Devil’s Backbone

Traversing the backbone

Within the next 2 miles, you’ll cross three forks of Horsetail Creek. The heavy rainfall of the past few weeks meant the water levels were high. The first two crossings were fairly simple. The third would’ve been, but the log we used was slippery with remaining snow and situated a few feet above the creek. Following the Horsetail Creek crossings, the trail switchbacks down to Oneonta Creek. Although it’s possible to ford here, I wouldn’t recommend it, especially when water levels are high. We decided to stay on the trail, paralleling the creek until we reached the bridge at the top of Triple Falls.

The first crossing of Horsetail Creek

Second Horsetail Creek fork
Third (and scariest) Horsetail Creek crossing
My turn! Thankfully you can’t see the horrified look on my face…
Pink log indicates the continuation of the trail (in order to avoid fording Oneonta Creek)
Maneuvering through a landslide area
Crossing the bridge above Triple Falls

Cross the bridge here and take in the beautiful view of Oneonta Creek. At this point, you’ll probably start running into more crowds. Triple Falls is an easily accessible (and, therefore, popular) hike. Continue on the trail, passing Triple Falls and one of the Oneonta Falls (upper or middle; I’ve seen people call it both) until you reach the junction with Horsetail Falls Trail #438. Take the right onto #438 to get back to the trailhead. Along the way, you’ll get one last reward: a refreshing walk behind Ponytail Falls.

Oneonta Creek
Triple Falls
One of the Oneonta Falls (either upper or middle)
Ponytail Falls

Elowah Falls-Munra Point

  • Date: January 10, 2016
  • Location: Columbia River Gorge
  • Start: John B Yeon Trailhead
  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Duration: 4 hours 26 minutes (breaks not included)
  • Elevation gain: 3010 feet
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Map: Green Trails Map 428S: Columbia River Gorge-West
  • References: Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; Oregon Hikers

Disclaimer: Due to snow/ice conditions, we weren’t able to complete the summit to Munra Point; we look forward to trying this one again in the summer!

Munra Point has been on our “to-hike” list for the past couple of years. We actually attempted it back in March 2013, but navigation errors early on in the hike prevented us from finishing. As indicated in the opening disclaimer, we still haven’t fully completed it, but at least we got a little bit closer (and there were no navigation issues).

This hike hits two fantastic landmarks in the Columbia River Gorge in one fell (yet tedious) swoop. Elowah Falls is first on the route. The distance and elevation gain to this magnificent waterfall is minimal, so if you’re not in the mood for anything challenging, you can enjoy this beautiful spot then head back to the trailhead. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can stay on the Gorge Trail (#400) another 2 miles, paralleling the freeway for most of it. You’ll cross the bridge over Moffett Creek and, soonafter, come across a side trail heading up on the right (marked by a “trail not maintained” sign). This is the final stretch to Munra Point and the most difficult part of the hike.

Elowah Falls
Trail leading up to Munra Point

The steep scramble is comparable to those on Elk Mountain and Table Mountain, and the addition of ice and snow made it much more challenging (and, in more exposed sections, kind of nerve-racking). Mack and I were grateful to be wearing microspikes for added stability! As we neared the rock formation that is Munra Point, we noticed the footprints we’d been following stopped a few yards short of the base. After some deliberation, we decided to break trail towards the steep scramble chimney that leads to the summit. The snow was deep and frozen over the top, which meant punching and kicking to break through it at times. I stayed at the base of the chimney while Mack carefully scrambled and maneuvered himself to the top. Unfortunately, when he reached the top, there was still some climbing to do to complete the summit and access the ridgeline, and our way was covered in ice. Mack shouted these details back down to me and we decided it was too dangerous to keep going.

Hiking/scrambling up the steep path
Beneath the Munra Point summit
Looking disappointed that we weren’t able to summit

Despite the disappointment of not finishing the Munra Point hike AGAIN, we were still rewarded with some amazing views of the gorge as we descended. I imagine when the snow and ice melts we’ll be able to finish the final climb without as much risk. Until next time!

Heading back down

Reflections on a First Trip: Backpacking the Columbia River Gorge

(Original post date: July 13, 2015)

  • Date: May 23-25, 2015
  • Location: Columbia River Gorge
  • Start: Eagle Creek Campground
  • Distance: 37.4 miles
  • Duration: 3 days
  • Type: Loop
  • Map: Green Trails Map 428S: Columbia River Gorge-West
  • References: Backpacking Oregon by Douglas Lorain

Though not as grand, wondrous, or exotic as many of the places we hope to explore one day, the Columbia River Gorge seems to be our home away from home. It was only right that our first backpacking trip together take place in the gorge. It was a trip of many firsts: backpacking (neither of us had ever done more than camp before this), hanging our food (though it probably wasn’t necessary), carrying a load of more than 12 lbs (each of our packs, with food and 4 liters of water, weighed between 30 and 35 lbs), wearing the same clothes for 3 days, and, of course, disposing of human waste via cathole.

The route we decided on comes from Douglas Lorain’s Backpacking Oregon: From Rugged Coastline to Mountain Meadow. We deviated from the route slightly on the second day after missing a junction, but I personally think this only added to our trip.

Columbia River Gorge Backpacking Trip
Green Trails Map 428S: Columbia River Gorge-West

 

Day 1: Eagle Creek Campground to Ridge Camp (14.6 miles; 7 hours 20 minutes, breaks not included)

Simply put, day one was ROUGH. Not only were our packs at their heaviest, but the first day also encompassed the greatest mileage and elevation gain. Fortunately, we started hiking around 6 am and were able to make it to Ridge Camp before 4 pm. We even had time along the way for a side trip to Indian Point, a rock spire that can only be reached by way of a narrow and exposed ridge. (We actually attempted this walk back in January, but it was so dangerously windy and painfully cold that we ended up turning around before reaching the ridge.) Ridge Camp itself is a beautifully isolated, single campsite in the woods; the perfect spot to unwind after all that elevation gain. Since it is quite a trek to reach the campsite, we didn’t see a single person the rest of the day.

Breakfast selfie
Walking along the exposed ridge of Indian Point

Scrambling up the spire
View of CRG from Indian Point
Cozy in our little quarter dome tent
Ridge Camp

 

Day 2: Ridge Camp to Indian Springs Campground (11.3 miles; 5 hours 8 minutes, breaks not included)

Although we didn’t start as early as we did the day before, day two was fairly quiet until we reached popular Wahtum Lake. Despite the lack of sun and the lake being shrouded in mist, there were many people camping around the lake and enjoying the surrounding trails. Wahtum Lake was our planned stop for the day, but since we arrived earlier than expected, we decided to keep going towards Eagle Creek. However, we accidentally missed the side trail that met up with the Eagle Creek Trail. I didn’t realize my navigational error until we were a mile (maybe more) past this trail, so we decided to take the PCT to Indian Springs. Although it would’ve been nice to camp along Eagle Creek, the Indian Springs Campground offered much more solitude since there was only one other group staying there (and they were several sites away from us).

A misty Wahtum Lake
Indian Springs Campground

 

Day 3: Indian Springs Campground to Eagle Creek Trailhead (11.5 miles; 4 hours 59 minutes, breaks not included)

Eagle Creek is one of my favorite trails in the gorge. It was nice to finish our trip in such a magical section. We got an early start and rewarded ourselves with breakfast once we reached the junction with the Eagle Creek Trail (about 2 miles in). By the time we reached the more popular section of Eagle Creek (i.e. day hikers galore), the sun, which had been obscured the previous two days, was now high in the sky, illuminating the entire canyon. I’ve never hiked Eagle Creek on a sunny day, so, despite the enormous Disneyland-esque crowds, I enjoyed seeing my favorite sections in a different light (literally).

View along Indian Springs Trail

Junction with Eagle Creek Trail
Walking along Eagle Creek
Tunnel Falls
One of my favorite sections of Eagle Creek Trail
Punchbowl Falls
First backpacking trip complete 🙂

 

Final thoughts:

This trip was the perfect introduction to backpacking for us. The majority of our hike took place on trails we’d hiked on previous occasions (with the exception of Wahtum Lake and Indian Springs), so it was fairly easy to navigate. Although we found it to be physically demanding, it could easily be broken up into 4 or 5 days to become a less strenuous trip. In addition, most of the climbing takes place on the first day and gets easier afterward. The most scenic parts of the trip were probably Wahtum Lake and Eagle Creek (which is why they are so popular and, generally, crowded), but this doesn’t in any way diminish my opinion of the rest of our hike. On the contrary, much of it provided a clear window into what makes the Pacific Northwest such a beautiful place to live. I can’t wait to explore other areas (old and new) of the Columbia River Gorge through backpacking! I encourage other avid CRG hikers to do the same. You will fall in love with the area all over again!