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Elevator Shaft

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking down from the top of Elevator Shaft (Jeff Statt)
Archer Mountain across the Columbia River (Jeff Statt)
Switchbacks on the Elevator Shaft (Jeff Statt)


Elevator Shaft is one of great challenges in the Columbia River Gorge. Part trail, part talus slope, and all switchbacks — this steep section of abandoned trail climbs 1,200 feet in a mile. Although forgotten by many book authors and no longer maintained by the United States Forest Service, locals and old salts know it well (some by its former name, "The Fire Escape"). After hiking it, you'll understand the appropriateness of both names.

The Elevator Shaft is about a 1/2 mile east of Multnomah Falls running north/south almost vertically. You can pick it up off of the Gorge Trail #400. The first 300 vertical feet of the scree field is obvious, but the "trail" itself is a bit hard to spot if you don't know what you're looking for. You literally hike up a the rocky slope, about 900 feet high and 60 feet across — certainly the result of a rock slide. Local hikers have counted the switchbacks at more than 100! They are short and tight, and almost indistinguishable in the often mossy and always slippery rock. But do your best to stick to the trail as best you can — it will preserve the trail for future generations.

The trail has three somewhat distinct segments. The lower section is a mix of talus and undergrowth — mostly poison oak, blackberry, and young deciduous trees. The middle section is all open rock face, while the top section enters the forest high above Multnomah Falls and eventually connects to a light east/west trail.

Hikers will generally take advantage of one of two options when getting to the top. If they travel westward, there is a very nice viewpoint overlooking the Gorge, where you can see the Multnomah Falls parking lot 1,200 feet below. Experienced climbers have been known to descend this rock face and pick up a trail that empties out near the upper Multnomah Falls viewpoint, but this is very dangerous and not recommended. Most hikers will pick up the trail heading east up to the Multnomah Basin at 1,800 ft., and then Cougar Rock, Franklin Ridge, and back into to the upper sections of Multnomah Creek along the Larch Mt. Trail.

The Trails Club of Oregon owns Nesika Lodge, a unique parcel of private property, on the eastern edge of the Multnomah Basin. The club opens up the lodge to the public a few times a year.

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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.