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Herman Creek Pinnacles via the PCT Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Two of the Herman Creek Pinnacles (bobcat)
Dry Creek below Dry Creek Falls (bobcat)
Feathery solomon plume (Maianthemum racemosum), Pacific Crest Trail (bobcat)
Dry Creek Falls (bobcat)
Pacific Crest Falls in winter (bobcat)
The PCT route to the Herman Creek Pinnacles and Pacific Crest Falls (click to enlarge)
Poison-Oak

Contents

Hike Description

There used to be no bridge crossing for the Pacific Crest Trail where it came down off of Dog Mountain and resumed on the Oregon side at the Herman Creek Work Center (formerly the Columbia Gorge Ranger Station), near the Herman Creek Trailhead. With right-of-way acquisitions in the 1980s, a major reroute took the trail from Big Huckleberry Mountain in southern Washington past Table Mountain to the Bridge of the Gods. On the Oregon side, a connection was made between Dry Creek Falls and what is now the Herman Bridge Trail to hook up with the original route that takes hikers up to the Benson Plateau. The undulating tread of this hike will take you below the cliffs of the Gorge face to two attractive waterfalls and the Herman Creek Pinnacles, large chunks of basalt that slid off the cliff face above in ancient landslides. Almost the entire area of this hike was affected by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. You'll see blackened tree trunks and a recovering understory, but most of the canopy is still intact. Alternative trailheads for this hike are the PCT Harvey Road Trailhead and the Cascade Locks Trailhead. See the Herman Creek Pinnacles Hike for a shorter route to the pinnacles via the Herman Creek and Herman Bridge Trails.

This hike starts you at the Bridge of the Gods Trailhead. From the trailhead, cross the road and head up the Pacific Crest Trail parallel to I-84. There's an old safety fence on your right. Soon, you'll come to Moody Street as it crosses under the freeway. Walk the road uphill to the right, passing under the freeway. When the road angles left, keep right on a gravel road a short distance to a couple of parking pullouts. Altogether the road walking here is about 100 yards. The trail to the right is the Gorge Trail headed toward the Ruckel Creek Trail and the Eagle Creek Campground. You'll take the trail to the left, the Pacific Crest Trail, which also doubles as the Gorge Trail #400 heading east from here.

The Crest Trail heads gradually uphill, never too steep, through a pretty, dappled sun kind of forest dominated by Douglas-firs and big-leaf maples, the latter providing a colorful display in the fall. In the spring, forest wildflowers including columbines are common here. Almost immediately, you'll see evidence of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. The trail swings right and then loops back along a slope of larger Douglas-firs and hemlocks. About one mile in, you'll come to a powerline access road. Turn right here and follow the road a short distance under the powerlines to the resumption of the trail in the woods. Pass an impressive Douglas-fir on the left side of the trail. Soon after the powerline road, you'll make a traverse along a very steep slope. Then the trail begins a gradual descent to Dry Creek. This section of trail heads gradually downward through an interesting area of large lava boulders and trees for almost another mile.

At Dry Creek, the trail comes to another dirt road (Ten yards before this road is the almost invisible junction with the abandoned Rudolph Spur Trail). Across the road, you'll see the Pacific Crest Trail crossing Dry Creek on a wooden footbridge. To get to Dry Creek Falls, instead of crossing the bridge, turn right here and head up the rough track about 0.2 miles to Dry Creek Falls. The waterfall spouts through a basalt defile and drops 74 feet into a fern-drenched amphitheater. Trees at the top of the falls were more heavily damaged by the Eagle Creek Fire than those below. At the base of the falls are the remains of a water diversion works. In the 1930s, the rapidly expanding town of Cascade Locks got its water supply from this location during the construction of the Bonneville Dam. The creek was channeled into a tunnel and thus ran "dry" on its original bed. Dry Creek hasn't run dry since the diversion apparatus was decommissioned, and the falls put on a pretty display throughout the year, although with much greater volume in the wet months. After enjoying the quietude of this lush spot, return to the Dry Creek Bridge, and continue hiking east on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Hike through a forest of blackened Douglas-firs in a vine maple understory that was burned to its roots. Cross a slope of downed trees: These all came down in a big November 2015 windstorm, but crews were quick to get in and clear the trail. The landscape of large hummocks here suggests a succession of landslides. The trail becomes the northern boundary of the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness. Swing around the head of the gully, and cross a mossy talus slope to get a view across the Columbia River of Stevenson, Greenleaf Peak, and Table Mountain. Then head into vine maple/thimbleberry gully. The trail rises more appreciatively and then drops, offering glimpses of the high basalt ramparts at the northern edge of the Benson Plateau. Cross a heavily eroded gully (Take care here!), and then pass one of the largest Douglas-firs on this section of trail.

About 1 3/4 miles from the Dry Creek Bridge, a mossy talus field appears on the left and then the short spur trail to the Herman Creek Pinnacles, all chunks of basalt that fell from the heights above in an ancient landslide. There are three main pinnacles and a few smaller ones scattered about. Scramble trails lead up the knoll to the west of the pinnacles from which you can get restricted views across the river. Don't stop here though. Just beyond the three big pinnacles, smaller fins of rock jut from the forest floor. The brush here was burned back during the 2017 fire, so for a time at least, these features are more obvious. Be careful wandering off trail in this area: Poison oak abounds! It's only about 0.1 miles farther to the last feature on this hike, where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the unnamed creek that funnels Pacific Crest Falls, a two-tiered, 100-foot spate that pours through a narrow slot in the rock face above.


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
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required at Bridge of the Gods Trailhead
  • Restrooms and picnic tables at the trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; revised by Jim Yuskavitch
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Afoot and Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Waterfall Lover's Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A.Plumb
  • Waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge, Volume One: Oregon by Zach Forsyth

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.