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Nick Eaton Falls Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Nick Eaton Falls, Herman Creek Trail (bobcat)
The trail follows the old Herman Creek Road at the beginning of the hike (bobcat)
Leafy pea (Lathyrus polyphyllus), Herman Creek Trail (bobcat)
Junction with the Nick Eaton Trail, Herman Creek Trail
The short hike to Nick Eaton Falls using the Herman Creek Trail (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Herman Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Nick Eaton Falls
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 970 feet
  • High point: 1,020 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes
Poison-Oak

Contents

Hike Description

The Herman Creek Trail runs 11 miles to join the Pacific Crest Trail on Waucoma Ridge near Wahtum Lake. There are several possible destinations if you are day hiking the trail (See the Herman Creek Hike.), but one of the most picturesque is just over two miles from the trailhead. Nick Eaton Falls, unofficially named after the high ridge above, is on an unnamed creek and splashes down a basalt face into a shallow pool. It is the highest waterfall on the trail and is a worthy destination for a short morning or afternoon hike. The area was burned during the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, and for most of the hike, you'll be in the burn zone. Both James H. Herman and Nick Eaton were early settlers near the mouth of Herman Creek.

The path 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. The actual campsite is up the first trail to the right if you turn left here; in the 1970s, this spot was also a trailhead - if you were willing to risk your vehicle on the slow drive up the narrow road.

Keep right at this junction to stay on the old road bed. You're now entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness as per the new boundaries drawn up in 2009. Three hundred yards from Herman Camp, pass the Herman Creek-Nick Eaton Trail Junction (See the Nick Eaton Ridge Loop Hike.). The road bed dips into a bowl that experienced crown fire, but notice that numerous species of understory plants are staking their claim on the ravaged slopes; these include bracken, Solomon plume, fireweed, trailing blackberry, fairy bells, phacelia, sword fern, candy flower, miner's lettuce, snowberry, pathfinder, poison oak, thimbleberry, and spiraea. As the trail drops, you'll be able to hear Herman Creek rushing below, and you can see down to the ramparts of the narrow defile through which it funnels at this stage of its course. The path narrows after the old road bed ends, and you'll cross several trickling seeps before passing below some massive basalt battlements. Head into a lush gully where, 2.1 miles from the trailhead, you get to admire tall Nick Eaton Falls splashing down a mossy vertical face. The waterfall is a sight even in late summer. You can tarry awhile to imbibe the mist splash at the base of the falls. If you're interested in exploring the Herman Creek Trail farther, see the Herman Creek Hike.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Herman Creek Trail #406 (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 (or America the Beautiful Pass) required
  • Restrooms, information kiosk, picnic table at trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; revised by Jim Yuskavich
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L Sullivan
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Short Trips and Trails: the Columbia Gorge by Oral Bullard & Don Lowe
  • 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.