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Lower Starvation Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

A hiker rests at one of the lower viewpoints on the Starvation Ridge Trail (Jeff Smith)
Herald of summer (Clarkia amoena caurina), Starvation Ridge Trail (bobcat)
View to Lindsey Pond, Starvation Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Dog Mountain view, Starvation Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Taper-tip onion (Allium acuminatum), Starvation Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Lancaster Falls (Steve Hart)
Looking up at Starvation Creek Falls from the picnic area (bobcat)
Map of the hike (Splintercat)
  • Start point: Starvation Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Lancaster Falls
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 3.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 795 feet
  • High point: 790 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year Round
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Falling
Poison Oak

Contents

Hike Description

This is a hike for those that haven't the time or the stamina to do Mount Defiance. It gives you a quick sample of what the big hill is like, as well as views and waterfalls. As with most Gorge trails, watch for poison oak in open areas and especially forest margins: it crowds the trail in several spots and is not so easily avoided, so make sure you can identify it. This and some sheer drops along the way mean you should think twice before bringing children or pets on the hike. A final caveat is that highway and railway noise is noticeable at several points along the way. However, the combination of great scenery, spring wildflowers, and interesting features makes it easy to ignore the rumble of traffic. An easier low-level hike that also takes in the waterfalls, but not the views, wildflower meadows, and poison oak, is the Starvation Creek Waterfalls Hike.

Your first waterfall will be Starvation Creek Falls. In the parking area, you’ll see a plaque commemorating the beginning of construction on the Columbia River Highway in 1912. As noted on a smaller plaque above, this information was once posted about two miles west at Shellrock Mountain, but was moved here because of new highway construction. The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail heads east above the restrooms. Below the restrooms is a shady picnic area circled by a paved loop trail that uses a footbridge over Starvation Creek. A junction for the Waterfall Picnic Area, you’ll see an interpretive sign telling about a train that got stranded in a snow bank here in December 1884. Passengers were trapped for three weeks, but Gorge residents helped out by skiing in with supplies. Although nobody died, this incident gave the creek and waterfall their current names. Hike up to the small picnic area and a view of 190-foot, two-tiered Starvation Creek Falls. The lower tier is partially obscured by a huge boulder that peeled off from the cliffs above. A user trail crosses the creek and heads up for a closer look, but you won’t really get a better sighting than the picnic area offers.

Return to the Starvation Creek Trailhead, and begin hiking west next to the freeway on the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Get views to the the twin microdioritic intrusions of Shellrock Mountain and Wind Mountain as well as Dog Mountain right across the river. Enter shady maple woods, and look down to see markers dedicating this restored section of the Historic Columbia River Highway. Then pass the Historic Columbia River Highway-Starvation Ridge Cutoff Trail Junction. In spring, candy flower blooms profusely alongside the paved surface. Reach two-tiered, 220-foot Cabin Creek Falls, where a huge fallen basalt boulder creates an almost hidden amphitheater. The waterfall sprays directly into this hidden area. A scramble trail leads up to a rock overhang and the base of the falls.

The Historic Columbia River Highway heads back out to the freeway under a Douglas-fir/big-leaf maple canopy. At an open area, arrive at the Historic Columbia River Highway-Mount Defiance Trail Junction. Go left on a paved trail that passes through a circular picnic area. The Mount Defiance Trail picks up its normal tread here, and 95-foot Hole in the Wall Falls can be viewed from the picnic circle. This waterfall is an unusual manmade affair. Highway crews drilled a tunnel through the rock and diverted Warren Creek here in 1938 to resolve issues with the creek undermining the highway. The water emerges from a lengthy tunnel and immediately falls, creating the waterfall. Hikers looking for a little more historical interest can follow the old creek bed a little to the original location of Warren Creek Falls, which now runs only in a rainstorm.

From here, you'll take the footbridge below Hole in the Wall Falls. The trail begins a modest climb, gaining about 140 feet in elevation. You'll reach the powerline corridor, where there's another trail junction, this time with the Starvation Ridge Trail. Honeysuckle, snowberry, stonecrop, and white spiraea bloom here in the spring. Stay to the right. Soon the trail reaches Wonder Creek and the lower tier of Lancaster Falls. The waterfall seems small at first glance, but from the right angle, the tall 250-foot upper tier is visible through the trees (The best place to get an accurate impression of Lancaster Falls is by traveling the freeway westbound and pulling off at the weigh station west of the Starvation Creek Trailhead. From late fall to the beginning of spring, before the maples leaf out, you'll get a clear view of the waterfall above. Don't stop here if the weigh station is open; it's usually closed on weekends.).

Return to the junction, and keep right on the Starvation Ridge Trail. Note that on this south leg of the loop, poison oak crowds and even overhangs the trail in several places. Continue hiking up the powerline corridor, and then pass above the rim of a cliff where lupine, desert parsley, and woolly sunflower bloom. Look west to get views down to Lindsey Pond and Wind Mountain. Hike up a steep, grassy slope which hosts a display of taper-tip onions in the spring. Pass under stunted oaks, and enter lush maple/Douglas-fir forest to cross Warren Creek on a log. Switchback up twice to traverse an open slope nodding with purple cluster lilies. Dog Mountain looms across the river, and the twin guardians of Shellrock Mountain and Wind Mountain are to the west: you can see where tongues of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire scarred the east face of the former. Switchback three times through paintbrush, lupine, cinquefoil, and scattered manzanita bushes to reach a spur leading to a clifftop viewpoint. From here, you can see down to the Starvation Creek Trailhead. It's three more switchbacks to the high point on this loop under another powerline pylon. Watch for bald eagles and ospreys soaring below you from this sometimes windy vantage point.

Drop down through a dense patch of poison oak, and take a trail spur left to another viewpoint. You can see the trailhead below and also across to Dog Mountain. A couple of Douglas maples cling to the cliff, and buckwheat and onion bloom here. Make five short switchbacks down into Douglas-fir/big-leaf maple woods to cross Cabin Creek. Hike up to the Starvation Ridge-Starvation Ridge Cutoff Trail Junction. You can take a 0.1 mile diversion here up to a viewpoint now partially blocked by shrubbery. It's several switchbacks on the Starvation Ridge Trail and half a mile steeply up to a powerline pylon and high wide-ranging views. Otherwise, descend the Cutoff Trail #414B down the nose of a ridge in an oak savanna. Descend steeply, and switchback through a thimbleberry thicket to cross a dangerous slide. A set of short switchbacks takes you to the Historic Columbia River Highway-Starvation Ridge Cutoff Trail Junction, whence you can go right to return to the trailhead.

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Historic Columbia River Highway Bike Map (Oregon State Parks)
  • Green Trails Maps: Hood River, OR #430
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
  • Geo-Graphics: Trails of the Columbia Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management: Columbia River Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Regulations, facilities, etc

  • Restrooms and picnic areas
  • Dogs on leash

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Day Hike! Columbia River Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Oregon: The Creaky Knees Guide by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; revised by Jim Yuskavitch
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • Columbia Gorge Hikes: 42 Scenic Hikes by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • The Columbia Gorge: Short Trips and Trails by Oral Bullard & Don Lowe
  • Waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge - Volume One: Oregon by Zach Forsyth
  • Waterfall Lover's Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson

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.

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