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Tanner Creek to Eagle Creek Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

TKO put tools to trail here.png
Bonneville Dam, Table Mountain, and Greenleaf Peak from the Gorge Trail (bobcat)
Old fish hatchery flume at Tanner Creek, Gorge Trail (bobcat)
The Eagle Creek Bridge servicing the Gorge Trail (bobcat)
A pair of spawning coho salmon below the Eagle Creek Bridge (bobcat)
The observatory on the Eagle Creek Bridge, Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail (bobcat)
The loop using the Gorge Trail #400 and the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail between Tanner and Eagle creeks (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start point: Wahclella Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Eagle Creek Day Use Trailhead
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 5.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 835 feet
  • High point: 605 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year-round except during winter storms
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Poison-Oak

Contents

Hike Description

The Gorge Trail between Tanner Creek and Eagle Creek was completed in the 1980s, connecting existing roads and trails for Tanner Creek, Tanner Butte, and Wauna Viewpoint. The trail makes use of a bench below Wauna Point for the major part of its traverse, an alignment also used by BPA powerlines. Returning along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail (HCRHT), you'll take the Tooth Rock Viaduct to get elevated views across the Columbia River. The area, especially along the Gorge Trail, was heavily impacted by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire and wasn’t reopened to the public until 2020. Perhaps because of the closeness of the power lines (Gorge Trail) and the freeway (HCRHT), this is a little used loop. You can also use the Tooth Rock Trailhead (which doesn't require a fee) for this loop.

Walk back up the road from the Wahclella Falls Trailhead, and bear right at the junction, looking for a small sign denoting the Gorge 400 Trail. The trail switchbacks up from the road in a Douglas-fir/big-leaf maple forest, passing a covered flume that once serviced the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. You’ll get a view down to the Wahclella Falls Trailhead before switchbacking and traversing through a forest that was scorched by the 2017 but still supports a canopy. An unsigned trail leads down to the left, a shortcut from the Tooth Rock Trailhead beginning near a large concrete water tank. The trail switchbacks gain, making a long traverse on a steep slope. You’ll get a glimpse of Beacon Rock at the next switchback. Now well within the fire zone, you’ll find the tread overgrown with trailing blackberry. At a signpost, the trail joins an old road bed on an alder/maple bench and crosses an area of springs to pass across a powerline corridor. Hamilton Mountain, Aldrich Butte, Cedar Mountain, and Table Mountain are all visible from here. You’ll join the powerline track, and after about 60 yards, branch left on a grassy road to keep to the route of the Gorge Trail. Through the burned maple snags, you can see Wauna Point rearing above to your right. The track soon joins the Tanner Creek Road, where you should turn left to head down to a tight bend.

At the bend, find the Gorge Trail leading up past a rootball into a desolate forest of standing snags. Soon, you’ll be on a wide trail bench hiking through a brushy groundcover of fireweed, blackcap raspberry, trailing blackberry, thimbleberry, and Oregon grape. Large fire-killed Douglas-firs tower overhead, and views open up to the Bonneville Dam, Table Mountain, and Greenleaf Peak. When you reach the rock-buttressed junction with the Wauna Viewpoint Trail, keep left, taking a moment to admire the old concrete trail sign embedded at the junction.

As you descend gradually, you’ll get views east to the Bridge of the Gods and steep Ruckel Ridge. A switchback offers a view down to Eagle Creek and the Cascade Fish Hatchery. Three more switchbacks, the last at an old cable railed viewpoint, offer views to the mouth of Eagle Creek and prominences on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. A traverse down a soggy slope offers views to the Eagle Creek Bridge (the fourth incarnation of that structure), and you enter a bottomland of scorched old-growth Douglas-fir to bypass the Gorge-Shady Glen Trail Junction and take passage through a fallen 350-year-old Douglas-fir to descend to the Eagle Creek Bridge.

Wide Eagle Creek flows under this new bridge, which offers a great vantage point of fall-running coho salmon. Turn left on Eagle Creek Lane, and walk down below the historical day use area, once part of the Forest Service’s very first campground, to the Eagle Creek Day Use Trailhead. Then pass the Cascade Fish Hatchery to turn left on the freeway exit ramp, where there’s a bike lane you can use as you cross the classic Eagle Creek Highway Bridge, which is faced with native basalt. At the west end of the bridge, you’ll find an “observatory” jutting out towards the creek. Keep following the bike lane below a steep crumbling slope of the Eagle Creek Formation, layers of volcanic conglomerate and breccia laid down before the Columbia River Basalts. Soon, you’ll reach the Eagle Creek Staircase, where two flights of steps with a bicycle groove take you up to the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Near a Stop sign, you’ll pass the now invisible junction with a short, steep connector to the 1856 Tooth Rock Portage Road, once used by hikers to reach destinations such as Wauna Viewpoint, Dublin Lake, and Tanner Butte. Since the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, the route has been abandoned and is now given up to rampant revegetation (for serious bushwhackers only - see the Tooth Rock Loop Hike).

As you hike west, the jutting basalt prominence of Tooth Rock appears ahead, with the rock’s eastern "tooth" visibly protruding on its forested pate. Cross a narrow section of pathway constructed in 1996 to replace a part of the original roadway that collapsed. Then you’re on the Eagle Creek Viaduct, half built in to the basalt face. A cozy little overlook on the right, the Eagle's Nest, gives great views downstream to the Bonneville Dam, with Hamilton Mountain behind. The whole area around Table Mountain is clearly visible. After a one-car pullout, the old highway makes use of another viaduct to gain a solid foundation on the west side of Tooth Rock.

The historic highway trail, lined by white railings, now parallels the closeby freeway. Only a narrow screen of Douglas-firs separates you from all the traffic. Pass the west end of the overgrown old portage road, indicated by a small "To Tanner Butte" sign, and then a power substation, where a plaque honors BPA employee William S. Acton. The paved trail takes you past the Tooth Rock Trailhead and then down next to the on-ramp from Tanner Creek. Go left and then straight ahead to reach the Wahclella Falls Trailhead.


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

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required
  • Limited parking; trailhead gets full early on weekends
  • Share trail with mountain bikes

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Oregon: The Creaky Knees Guide by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; revised by Jim Yuskavitch
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Best Bike Rides: Portland, Oregon by Lizann Dunegan & Ayleen Crotty (HCRH Trail)

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.