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Casey Creek Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

High meadow on Casey Creek Way (bobcat)
On Casey Creek Way (bobcat)
Tiger lily (Lilium columbianum), Nick Eaton Way (bobcat)
View back to Woolly Horn Ridge, Nick Eaton Way (bobcat)
Nick Eaton Falls, Herman Creek Trail (bobcat)
Loop route shown in red (bobcat)

Contents

Hike Description

The Casey Creek Loop is one of the Gorge's more challenging day hikes. After a pleasant amble up the Herman Creek Trail, the very steep connection to Nick Eaton Ridge via the Casey Creek Trail - over 2,500 feet in elevation gain in two miles - is singularly demanding. Once you have survived this, however, it's an undulating crest hike along Nick Eaton Ridge, taking in a few vistas and oak-rimmed meadows before you drop to Herman Camp and then the trailhead.

From the parking area at the Herman Creek Trailhead, head down the Herman Creek Trail #406 under big-leaf maple, Douglas-fir and western hemlock. The trail drops a little and then switchbacks up five times to a powerline corridor. Ascend to the right through the powerline corridor and enters a mossy boulder field with a contorted Douglas-fir looming over it. The trail traverses upward and switchbacks twice. Reach the Herman Creek-Herman Bridge Trail Junction and keep left. The trail rises and then levels. From a gap in the trees, one can see the Pacific Crest Trail cutting across scree slopes below the Benson Plateau. At a bend, keep right and head up the old road track in lush forest. The road bed levels and reaches the junction at the Herman Creek Forest Camp with the Gorge Trail and the Gorton Creek Trail going off to the left. Keep right here on the Herman Creek Trail.

Soon, pass the Herman Creek-Nick Eaton Trail Junction in alder, cedar, Douglas-fir, hazel, hemlock, and vine maple forest. The trail drops to a gully and rises. Herman Creek rushes below, but one can’t actually see it. The road bed ends and the trail crosses a trickling brook. Walk below a rock face and pass across an opening. The trail drops again to another lush gulley and then heads up to an unnamed creek sporting the tall sprig of Nick Eaton Falls. Keep rising to a steep oak meadow and into the deep gully that houses Camp Creek. A sign tells you that you are entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness. The trail drops to the Camp Creek Crossing and then traverses and a talus slope. After this, cross a creek with a small waterfall coming down from an oak bench. The path heads up into a dry gully and continues to rise in quiet Douglas-fir/hemlock forest as it distances itself from Herman Creek. Vine maple, salal, lady fern and Oregon grape make up the understory. There’s a campsite to the right and then you reach the Herman Creek-Casey Creek Way Trail Junction just before another campsite.

The Casey Creek Trail heads up among large Douglas-firs. This trail is very steep and unmaintained. Especially on the lower sections, there is old blowdown to clamber over. Switchback up four times, traverse steeply up and make another six switchbacks before passing below a rock outcropping. Switchback up to this grassy outcrop, cross it, make two short switchbacks, and then head up to a ridge crest. The trail rises steeply and then drops around several uprooted trees before traversing upward, making two switchbacks, and traversing up again. Pass through an ocean spray thicket. There are views through the trees to the forks of Herman Creek and Woolly Horn Ridge. Cross an open area rimmed with Douglas-fir, ocean spray and oak. Then head up a ridge crest and rise steeply just below the crest. Cross a narrow oak/ocean spray meadow blooming with lupine and woolly sunflower in summer, and then rise again. Pass mossy boulders in shady woods and make a long traverse up, crossing a small talus slope. The trail passes above a large talus slope and then crosses a third heavily-vegetated talus slope. Wind up to the left as noble firs begin to appear. Switchback and wind up to the Nick Eaton-Casey Creek Way Trail Junction. A spur goes straight to a rocky lookout above a boulder slope, from which you can see Mount Defiance and the Columbia River. The Gorton Creek Trail runs across the boulder slope far below.

Go left on the Nick Eaton Trail, which rises to a bouldery crest of boxwood and noble fir. The trail drops to the left and then rises to the crest again and then drops steeply to the right in silver fir/noble fir woods. Reach the crest again and drop steeply down the nose of the ridge. The forest becomes mostly Douglas-fir and silver fir. The trail levels and then drops below the ridge crest. At a talus slope, there’s a view of Wind Mountain, Dog Mountain, and the Columbia River. The trail drops steeply and then heads down the nose of the ridge. The path levels, passes a wilderness sign and then the Nick Eaton-Deadwood Trail Junction. Note the carpets of invasive smooth hawkweed on this ridge crest. The trail rises over the crest and drops to a saddle. The path loops up the west side Peak 3152, reaches a grassy meadow, and continues to rise. Cross an open, gravelly slope and drops past mats of manzanita and common juniper. Reach the Nick Eaton-Ridge Cutoff Trail Junction and keep left. The trail drops past another wilderness sign, reaches a saddle, and then rises. Descend again in Douglas-fir woods, first gradually and then steeply down the nose of the ridge. Wind down and traverse a grassy slope with oak, manzanita, Douglas-fir and ocean spray. There are views back to the Forks of Herman Creek and Woolly Horn Ridge. The trail switchbacks down twice on another grassy slope and then switchbacks four more times to the Nick Eaton Viewpoint. There’s an open vista across the Herman Creek drainage to Bonneville Dam. Head into Douglas-fir forest and switchback down six times, cross a small, grassy expanse, and switchback five times times into old growth forest with vine maple, big-leaf maple and large Douglas-firs. There are five more switchbacks and then the trail winds down past a stone trail marker to the Herman Creek-Nick Eaton Trail Junction, where you go right and head for home.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Bonneville Dam, OR #429
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
  • Geo-Graphics: Trails of the Columbia Gorge
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass required

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider

More Links

Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.