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Fort Rains Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Obviously this was more than a trail - probably an old railroad grade (Steve Hart)
Candy flower along the PCT (bobcat)
Yellow iris blooming at Ice House Lake (bobcat)
The PCT route to the site of Fort Rains (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS)
  • Start point: Ice House Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Fort Rains Site
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back
  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 80 feet
  • High point: 175 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

This short hike takes you on a short stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, the first on the Washington side of the Columbia River after crossing the Bridge of the Gods. Day hikers have rarely used this section of the trail since the construction of the Bonneville Trailhead. The area is interesting geologically and historically. The trail crosses the Bonneville Landslide, a massive slope collapse that occurred around 1450 A.D., perhaps as a result of a big earthquake. The landslide involved gigantic slippage of the south faces of Table Mountain and Greenleaf Peak, temporarily dammed the Columbia River, and created the Cascades on the Columbia. Numerous depression lakes, including Icehouse Lake at the trailhead, exist in the area. Historically, the trail takes you close to the site of Fort Rains, one of four blockhouses built on the portage route around the Cascades between 1848 and 1856 to defend it from Indian attack.

From the Ice House Lake Trailhead, head up the Pacific Crest Trail past a sign mentioning that it's 507.2 miles to Canada. The trail parallels Highway 14 for about 1/10 of a mile, and then it drops to the remains of some kind of earlier road or railroad. The next 0.7 miles are nearly flat as the trail follows the earlier right of way. This path may be the route of Cascades Railroad Company built by the Oregon Steam Navigation Company in 1863. This railroad extended six miles from a upper landing near modern Stevenson to a terminus across the Columbia from Tanner Creek. Photos from the era show the Cascades Railroad line as existing above the earlier rail lines.

This piece of the PCT is rarely traveled. The entire path is close to Highway 14 and you'll never escape the traffic noise. On the other hand, you will rarely encounter other hikers and the people racing back and forth on the highway are oblivious to the existence of the nearby trail. You'll likely be alone here. There's a leafy canopy of big-leaf maple, Douglas-fir, and western hemlock and forest wildflowers in the spring. When you reach Wauna Lake Road, you can turn left (going right is onto private property) and walk out to Highway 14 past a couple of private homes and a supply yard for highway maintenance crews. On the south side of Highway 14 are interpretive signs describing Fort Rains, built in 1855, and the construction of the North Bank Railroad. Fort Rains survived the "Cascades massacre" of 1856, when a number of settlers in the area were killed. The blockhouse was torn down in 1876, but a replica was erected in 1927. However, this building also was demolished decades ago.

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
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management: Columbia River Gorge
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • None

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Washington by Tami Asars
  • Washington's South Cascades Volcanic Landscapes by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Fire, Faults, and Floods: A Road & Trail Guide Exploring the Origins of the Columbia River Basin by Marge & Ted Mueller

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.