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Rudolph Spur Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

This page is marked as a Lost Hike. The "trail" may be dangerous and hard to follow and is not recommended for beginning hikers without an experienced leader. Carry detailed maps of the whole area and/or a GPS unit and compass.
Overlook from the Rudolph Spur trail to the Bridge of the Gods and the town of Cascade Locks (Pablo)
Mossy tread on the lower end of the Rudolph Spur Trail (bobcat)
Hairy manzanita (Arctostaphylos columbiana) on the Rudolph Spur Trail (bobcat)
Vision quest pit on the Ruckel Creek Trail (bobcat)


Hike Description

NOTICE: This route is considered "off-trail" and is closed until further notice because of damage from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. Please check the list of Columbia Gorge trail closures before you plan for a hike.

Hikers in good condition and possessing fair route finding skills will find much to like about the Rudolph Spur Loop as described in this guide. This particular loop follows the route given as hike #25 in Don and Roberta Lowe's book, 50 Hiking Trails Portland & Northwest Oregon, with a strenuous hike up Rudolph Spur and a return on the Ruckel Creek Trail.

To reach the PCT/Rudolph Spur junction from the Bridge of the Gods Trailhead go south on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to pass under the freeway and up a short distance on Moody Street to the well signed PCT Trail. Continue south on the PCT, at 1 mile crossing a power line road and another 0.75 mile to just before Dry Creek Road. Rudolph Spur branches off to the right and is a light path easily overlooked. There is a PCT marker post 10-15 feet past the start of the trail so going beyond that post means you've gone too far and you need to back up a bit.

Once on the Rudolph Spur trail you'll head southwest, first along a gentle slope following the slightly overgrown track, going over and under some blow down until arriving at a talus slope. Follow the trail along the talus slope until reaching a short steep pitch - and it is steep. Only about 100' but a slope easily in the 40-50% range. There is a downed tree with notches cut into the side you can use as an aid and there are plenty of green leafy hand holds to use. This section takes you to the ridge line where the real fun begins. For the next 0.5 mile you will gain 1300' in elevation to arrive at the best viewpoint along this part of the trail, a clearing at 2700'. In this 0.5 mile is where you'll test your conditioning as there are few switchbacks, some scrambling, blowdown to cross, and mostly straight up the ridge.

Take your time here at this viewpoint and enjoy the sights below of Cascade Locks, Bridge of the Gods, Wauna Lake, Greenleaf Peak and ship traffic on the Columbia. There is a natural bench at the top of the clearing perfect for a sitdown rest and snack.

Beyond this clearing the trail takes on a different character with a section that actually loses a bit of elevation. The track is easy to follow for most of the way skirting the east side of the ridge. The general direction is south with some switchbacks. The goal at this point is the Benson Plateau and the Ruckel Creek Trail. To achieve this goal, you'll use your route finding skills to follow the trail as it grows fainter on the approach to the Benson Plateau. Watch for yellow blaze on trees when the tread vanishes. As you approach the Ruckel Creek Trail you may see ribbons as well as the yellow blaze, both get you to the junction, the yellow blaze is likely to be there long after the ribbons are gone. Be careful not to overshoot the Ruckel Creek Trail.

Turn right on Ruckel Creek Trail and for 0.5 mile do a steep descent into the canyon. Soon enough the trail levels out for a 1.3 mile section where a couple of hanging meadows provide views of Ruckel Ridge and beyond. The trail comes up to a 500' cliff overlooking the Columbia River and turns left to switchback down along the cliff edge. Along this part are several places off the trail for picture taking but observe the exposure at these off-the-trail viewpoints is serious and not for people with an aversion to heights.

Follow the trail to the paved, non-vehicular section of the old Columbia Gorge Highway and turn right in the direction of Cascade Locks. Proceed along the highway to just before it goes under the freeway, taking the #400 Gorge Trail to return to Moody Street and the Bridge of the Gods Trailhead.


Map of Rudolph Spur Trail from GPS track (Pablo)

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required at Bridge of the Gods Trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Afoot and Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain

More Links


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.