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Indian Point Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Indian Point, seen from a viewpoint on the Gorton Creek Trail
Kneeling angelica (Angelica genuflexa), Gorton Creek Trail (bobcat)
Blackened trunks on the Gorton Creek Trail (bobcat)
The view east from the highly exposed rock saddle at Indian Point
View to the two forks of Herman Creek and top of Mt. Hood, Nick Eaton Trail (bobcat)
Rough-leaved aster (Eurybia radulina), Nick Eaton Trail (bobcat)
Trail map of Nick Eaton Ridge - Gorton Creek loop to Indian Point from Herman Creek Trailhead.
  • Start point: Herman Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Indian Point
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 7.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2730 feet
  • High point: 2,935 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: On summer weekends
Falling
Poison Oak

Contents

Hike Description

The Indian Point loop travels along forested trails to a memorable viewpoint. The loop will be described clockwise, using the gentler Gorton Creek Trail on the ascent and then the steep, switchbacking Nick Eaton Trail on the descent although it's your choice as which direction you wish to follow. Much of the area was affected by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, but most sections of this loop still enjoy a relatively intact and shady forest canopy even while the undergrowth was burned to the ground. The plants of the forest floor are returning from their roots, and hikers can still enjoy spring and early summer wildflowers along the way. Indian Point itself is a basalt spire perched on the edge of a sheer cliff: It invites a scramble, but with a great deal of care, and the views are not more fantastic than from the ridge behind it. The trip can usually be made at all seasons except when there is a lot of low level snow. You can hike a longer loop by using the Deadwood Trail, and an even lengthier outing employs the entire length of the Nick Eaton Trail (See the Nick Eaton Ridge Loop Hike).

The loop hike involves three trails named after early locals: James H. Herman was an early settler near Cascade Locks; a man named Edward Gorton had a homestead claim near the mouth of Gorton Creek in the 1890s; Nick Eaton was a farmer who lived between Cascade Locks and Wyeth at the beginning of the 20th century.

The trail drops from the trailhead, but then switchbacks up twice before traversing. There are two more switchbacks in shady big-leaf maple, hemlock, Douglas-fir woods. Reach the powerline corridor and cross it, heading up to the right to reenter the woods. Here, you'll begin to see the effects of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, with the understory burned away but slowly recovering and the conifer canopy mostly intact. The path winds through an area of large, moss-covered boulders, and then passes an old forest track leading off the left (This track drops down to Herman Creek Road). Pass around the nose of a ridge, switchback twice, and traverse up to the junction with the Herman Bridge Trail #406E, 0.6 miles from the trailhead. Keep up on the main trail to switchback and then reach a bend in an old forest road. Stay right and head up the road, which levels in Douglas-fir, hemlock, and maple forest. You'll arrive at a five-way junction after 1.3 miles where the Herman Creek Trail reaches Herman Camp.

For the Gorton Creek Trail, go left and take the second trail on the right (The first trail leads a short distance to Herman Camp). Now you're entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness although wilderness signs in this area are still posted higher up at the pre-2009 boundaries. The Gorton Creek Trail rises, steepens, and then makes a long traverse through a scorched understory. Pass a large Douglas-fir, and switchback twice into an area of crown fire. However, Oregon grape, fairy bells, violet, thimbleberry, and vine maple are all leafing out again from their roots. Two more switchbacks afford you views of the Columbia River through the burned trees. Make a long traverse up, and cross a lush gully of large Douglas-firs and an intact understory. Another couple of switchbacks take you into a second old-growth gully. Cross a creek, round the nose of a ridge, and switchback. Make a rising traverse and, at the next traverse, you can go off trail to the left to get a view down to the basalt pinnacle at Indian Point. Across the river is the microdioritic intrusion of Wind Mountain. After one more switchback, you'll come to the Gorton Creek-Indian Point-Ridge Cutoff Trail Junction, 3.9 miles from the Herman Creek Trailhead. Forty yards farther on, you'll see a steep user trail that descends on the left, the Indian Point Trail #408C.

The Indian Point Trail descends steeply for almost 200 feet to the Indian Point outcropping. You can go along the steep-sided ridge to the pinnacle and ascend it if you're a confident scrambler. However, a fall could be fatal, so use your best judgment.The Gorge town of Stevenson, as well as Wind Mountain and Dog Mountain, can be seen across the river. On a good day, the snowy peaks of the Washington Cascades are clearly visible. The vegetation on this ridge is an interesting mix: chinquapin, manzanita, ocean spray, Douglas-fir, western red-cedar, Pacific yew, and common juniper.

After admiring the views, return to the Gorton Creek-Indian Point-Ridge Cutoff Trail Junction (Another option, which extends this loop 1.3 miles, is to continue along the Gorton Creek Trail to the Deadwood Camp and use the Deadwood Trail to connect with the Nick Eaton Trail higher on the ridge).

The Ridge Cutoff Trail is steep for a little while and then proceeds on the level the rest of the 0.8 miles to the Nick Eaton-Ridge Cutoff Trail Junction. Go right, and keep to the west side of rocky knoll under dead trees but with healthy forest just to your right. Wind down the nose of the ridge. Here, many species of flowering plants have come back from their roots since the burn, including dogbane, white spiraea, candy flower, miner's lettuce, lupine, and aster. Make six switchbacks down through steep grassy meadows where most of the oak trees are coming back from their bases. At one hanging meadow, you'll get a great view up to the two forks of Herman Creek with Mount Hood's snowy summit peeking up behind Waucoma Ridge. You can also see west along the Columbia River to Beacon Rock and the Bonneville Dam. From now on, you'll generally have a shady canopy as you continue this long descent. Nine more switchbacks will take you through two more small oak meadows, and then you'll get a vista down to Government Cove and the mouth of Herman Creek. Make four more switchbacks, and then traverse through a denuded understory before three further switchbacks carry you to a massive, living, but blackened Douglas-fir. The last two switchbacks on the trail take you to more large Douglas-firs whose thick bark has kept them alive through probably more than one conflagration although some are weeping resin from the stress of their latest encounter. Wind down through the bracken, and pass the concrete Nick Eaton Way marker. A few yards later, reach the Herman Creek-Nick Eaton Trail Junction, and make a right to rejoin the crowds to hike back past Herman Camp and down to the trailhead.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Herman Creek Trail #406 (USFS)
  • Gorton Creek Trail #408 (USFS)
  • Nick Eaton Trail #447 (USFS)
  • 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 required
  • Restrooms, information kiosk, picnic table at trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; revised by Jim Yuskavich
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L Sullivan
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • Columbia Gorge Hikes: 42 Scenic Hikes by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 35 Hiking Trails: Columbia River Gorge by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill

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.