Cascade Locks West Loop Hike
From Oregon Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Cascade Locks Trailhead
- End point: HCRHT-Gorge Trail Junction near Cascade Locks
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Hike Type: Loop
- Distance: 3.0 miles
- Elevation gain: 100 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
- Seasons: Year round
- Family Friendly: Yes
- Backpackable: No
- Crowded: No
This hike starts at the Cascade Locks Trailhead, beneath the Bridge of the Gods. From here, cross the road, walk up through the park past the Bridge of the Gods Trailhead and pick up the Crest Trail. This is probably the most urban section of the entire PCT. You'll hike for a short distance a few feet from the freeway, then you'll come to Moody St. Turn right, head under the freeway and then straight ahead up the gravel road. In a few steps, you'll come to the PCT Winter Trailhead. From here the PCT goes to Dry Creek Falls, Benson Plateau and of course, eventually Mexico.
For this hike though, head west on the Gorge Trail. The Gorge Trail is an unusual beast. Over 30 miles long, it connects over a dozen trailheads on the Oregon side of the Gorge, creating all kinds of multi-day loop trips. It's also a well-maintained, low altitude trail, that provides hiking year round. If this area was ever logged it was long ago, and much of the trail is quite scenic in a "deep forest" sort of way, with old trees and rocky crags.
The Gorge Trail's downside is its proximity to Interstate 84. For almost the entire trail, your eyes will tell you that you're in a rare, low altitude wilderness and your ears will be telling you that you're under the Marquam Bridge near downtown Portland. That creates an interesting mindset probably improved with some good, loud music piped directly into your ears.
This section of the Gorge Trail is no exception. The first portion is arrow straight adjacent to an old fence designed to keep people off the Interstate. Then the trail winds up and down small knolls and old rocky landslide debris. In the fall, the understory is yellow and the firs are deep green, creating interesting contrasts. Springtime brings blooms of candy flower and herb robert.
After about a mile, the area gets rockier and the trail climbs a 100 foot rocky point with two switchbacks on each side. There are views through the trees of the cliffs and a decent view of the Bridge of the Gods. About a mile and a half west of Moody Street, the Gorge Trail joins the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail (the HCRHT). When the modern I-84 was constructed it crossed the old highway here, leaving two disconnected sections. When the HCRHT was restored, trail builders were faced with a dilemma. It was solved by creating a new tunnel under the freeway. The new construction has been faced with stone similar to that used during construction of the old highway.
To complete your hike, cross under the freeway and walk east on the paved HCRHT. Here you are likely to see more people than on the Gorge Trail. The old road meanders down a bit through the woods, then climbs a bit. After about a mile, you'll come to the shoulder of the Cascade Locks I-84 entrance ramp. The old highway here was transformed into the modern freeway access, so all the trail builders could do was create a protected freeway shoulder for the trail. In a couple hundred yards, you'll be back to your car.
- Maps: Hike Finder
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- Stevefromdodge (creator)