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Difference between revisions of "Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls Hike"

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

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{{RelatedDiscussions|Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls}}
 
{{RelatedDiscussions|Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls}}
  
== Guidebooks that cover this hike ==
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=== Guidebooks that cover this hike ===
 
* ''Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge'' by Don J. Scarmuzzi
 
* ''Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge'' by Don J. Scarmuzzi
 
* ''Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge'' by Craig Romano
 
* ''Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge'' by Craig Romano
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* ''Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest'' by David L. Anderson
 
* ''Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest'' by David L. Anderson
  
== More Links ==
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=== More Links ===
* See more information at [http://www.splintercat.org/EagleCreek/EagleMainPage.html Splintercat.org]  
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* [https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/crgnsa/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=29912  Eagle Creek Trailhead & Trail (#440) (USFS)]
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* [http://www.nwhiker.com/CGNSAHike37.html  Tunnel Falls Hike (Northwest Hiker)]
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* [https://www.muddycamper.com/hikes/eagle-creek-to-tunnel-falls-hike/  Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls Hike (Muddy Camper)]
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* [https://gorgefriends.org/hike-the-gorge/eagle-creek-to-tunnel-falls.html  Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls (Friends of the Columbia Gorge)]
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* [https://www.outdoorproject.com/united-states/oregon/eagle-creek-hike-tunnel-falls  Eagle Creek Hike to Tunnel Falls (Outdoor Project)]
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* [https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/7022469/eagle-creek-trail-to-tunnel-falls  Eagle Creek Trail to Tunnel Falls (Hiking Project)]
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* [https://www.oregon.com/recreation/hike-eagle-creek  Hike Eagle Creek (Oregon.com)]
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* [https://kristidoespdx.com/2014/05/tunnel-falls-eagle-creek/  Tunnel Falls @ Eagle Creek (Kristi Does PDX)]
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* [https://www.musthikemusteat.com/sw-wa-portland/eagle-creek-to-tunnel-falls/  Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls (Must Hike Must Eat)]
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* [https://www.oregonlive.com/travel/2019/10/new-bridges-installed-on-eagle-creek-trail-but-hiking-remains-off-limits.html  "New bridges installed on Eagle Creek Trail, but hiking remains off-limits" (Oregon Live)]
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* [https://www.pcta.org/2019/rock-slide-eagle-creek-trail-64850/  "A massive rock slide and the effort to reopen the Eagle Creek Trail" (Pacific Crest Trail Association)]
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* [https://www.oregonlive.com/travel/2021/01/what-you-need-to-know-before-hiking-the-reopened-eagle-creek-trail.html  "What you need to know before hiking the reopened Eagle Creek Trail" (Oregon Live)]
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* [https://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com/waterfall/Sorenson-Falls-3895  Sorenson Falls (Northwest Waterfall Survey)]
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* [https://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com/waterfall/Metlako-Falls-3896  Metlako Falls (Northwest Waterfall Survey)]
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* [https://wyeastblog.org/2017/01/31/metlako-landslide/  Metlako Landslide! (WyEast Blog)]
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* [https://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com/waterfall/Punch-Bowl-Falls-3881  Punch Bowl Falls (Northwest Waterfall Survey)]
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* [https://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/waterfalls/pacific-northwest-punch-bowl-falls/  Punch Bowl Falls (World of Waterfalls)]
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* [https://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com/waterfall/Loowit-Falls-3894  Loowit Falls (Northwest Waterfall Survey)]
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* [https://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com/waterfall/Skoonichuk-Falls-3892  Skoonichuck Falls (Northwest Waterfall Survey)]
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* [https://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com/waterfall/Wyeast-Falls-4020  Wy'east Falls (Northwest Waterfall Survey)]
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* [https://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com/waterfall/Grand-Union-Falls-4021  Grand Union Falls (Northwest Waterfall Survey)]
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* [https://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com/waterfall/Tunnel-Falls-4019  Tunnel Falls (Northwest Waterfall Survey)]
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* [https://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com/waterfall/Twister-Falls-4018  Twister Falls (Northwest Waterfall Survey)]
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* [https://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com/waterfall/Sevenmile-Falls-4017  Sevenmile Falls (Northwest Waterfall Survey)]
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* [http://oregonwildflowers.org/viewlocation.php?ID=34  Eagle Creek (OregonWildflowers.org)]
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* [https://www.oregonlive.com/travel/2016/07/now_100_years_old_eagle_creek.html  "Now 100 years old, Eagle Creek helped revolutionize camping in the 20th century" (Oregon Live)]
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* [http://www.splintercat.org/EagleCreek/EagleHistory.html Eagle Creek History (Splintercat)]
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* [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eagle_Creek_Fire  Eagle Creek Fire (Wikipedia)]
  
  
 
== Contributors ==
 
== Contributors ==
 
* [[User:jeffstatt|jeffstatt]]
 
* [[User:jeffstatt|jeffstatt]]

Revision as of 03:07, 24 July 2021

Tunnel Falls (Steve Hart)
Punchbowl Falls (Tom Kloster)
Metlako Falls along the Eagle Creek trail (Jeff Statt)
File:TwisterFalls.jpg
The 'Vertigo Mile' near Twister Falls (Jeff Statt)
The Potholes (Jeff Statt)
Map, GPS track in jpeg format
  • Start point: Eagle Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Tunnel Falls
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back
  • Distance: 12.0 miles (round trip)
  • Elevation gain: 1640 feet
  • High point: 1,080 feet
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Crowded: Yes
Falling
Poison-Oak

Contents

**Falling Hazard**

Be careful with dogs or small children on the Eagle Creek Trail. On many sections, there is a steep cliff to one side of the trail. This isn't the best trail for dogs or kids.

Hike Description

The hike to Tunnel Falls is a popular day-hike option. At about 6 1/2 miles round trip, and with a mere 840 feet of elevation gain, this outing gives you a great balance of effort vs. reward, and will hopefully whet your appetite for return visits that take you far farther up the gorge. As compared to the shorter excursion to Punch Bowl Falls, you'll get slightly smaller crowds, more waterfalls, an additional pretty waterfall, and a lot more dangerous cliff exposure. The 2017 Eagle Creek Fire burned hot in this section of the gorge, so you will be constantly reminded of that conflagration. In addition, two bridges, the Fern Creek Bridge and the High Bridge itself, had to be replaced because of fire damage. The PCTA (Pacific Crest Trail Association) has done a magnificent job in restoring the trail, however, and the tread is in good shape. Bear in mind that it is only above the High Bridge that overnight camping is permitted on the Eagle Creek Trail.

Starting at the trailhead, pass a weir, and then follow the wide well-groomed trail above the creek for a stretch. The steep slopes above you are composed of conglomerates from the Eagle Creek Formation, sedimentary deposits laid down by the ancient Columbia River millions of years before the Columbia River Basalt Flows. In fact, you'll soon pass a large fossil tree stump, now much diminished because of the depredations of decades of souvenir snatchers. Also, you'll notice blackened conifers from the 2017 fire almost immediately, and most of the maples went up in flames but are vigorously sprouting back from their lignotubers. You'll pass into a dripping grotto festooned with maidenhair fern. Soon, you'll rise above the Eagle Creek Formation and reach cliffs of Columbia River Basalts where the trail was blasted out of the rock. Here there is the first set of handrail cables, one of several along the trail. Penstemon, arnica, and saxifrage cling to the rocky fastness. Looking across the gorge, you can see different layers of basalt entablature separated by narrower bands of colonnade. Many months, the fog hangs low in the canyon, blocking your view of the sheer basalt walls towering above you. In places the trail is narrow, and you need to take care when passing others.

Soon you'll reach your second cliff face, also with a cable handrail. The small oaks on this steep slope were burned but are coming back from their bases. Conifers at the bottom of the canyon survived the fire with a full canopy, but you'll pass through a scorched area where fireweed, thimbleberry, poison oak, and ocean spray flourish. After you walk between two large Douglas-firs, you will see up the narrow gorge to the lower horsetail of 100-foot Sorenson Falls splashing off the east rim. Then 82-foot Metlako Falls spouts on Eagle Creek itself, where it makes a tight turn east. This will be your best sighting of Metlako Falls as the former overlook, on a now abandoned spur trail off the trail ahead, disappeared in a landslide in December 2016. As you turn into a gully, you'll get a glimpse of the top of Metlako Falls across the gorge and then cross Sorenson Creek, with its round concrete steps.

At the junction with the Lower Punch Bowl Trail #440B, you can descend 300 feet down into the gorge to see Lower Punch Bowl Falls and a 2018 landslide that blocked the creek (see the Eagle Creek to Punch Bowl Falls Hike). Otherwise, stay on the Eagle Creek, and cross a massive crib wall constructed by the PCTA at a spot where the trail slid away. Soon, you'll come to the Punch Bowl Falls overlook, where you can view Punch Bowl Falls spouting into its circular amphitheater and magnificent deep pool below. You may recognize this viewpoint from photos and postcards. Please stay inside the guardrails. Every year, there is a story about someone falling from this spot and injuring themselves.

There's another view to Punch Bowl Falls as you continue along the Eagle Creek Trail, and then you'll cross the Tish Creek Bridge, this version installed in 2017 and miraculously a survivor of the fire later that year. After you cross a scree slope, the valley becomes more V-shaped with the slopes across scorched by a raging crown fire. The trail turns into a gully and passes over the Fern Creek Bridge, one of two bridges on the trail that had to be replaced after the fire. At the next scree slope, you should hear the alarm calls of the resident pikas, who survived the fire huddled in cool crevices below the surface. The trail negotiates its third cable-railed section on a high cliff with views to massive boulders that have tumbled into the creek below. At an exposed cliff viewpoint, you can see across to Loowit Falls splashing in a thin pretty veil down to a pool with a final short drop to Eagle Creek. Loowit Falls is framed by two small drops on Eagle Creek itself.

Rounding a corner at a rocky viewpoint, you can see ahead to the High Bridge, which spans a spectacularly narrow sheer-sided gorge. the fourth cabled section of the trail takes you along a cliff 120 feet above the creek. Little succulent-leaved stonecrop plants bloom here in late spring. Standing on the High Bridge, you can see down the narrow gorge and also up the creek to small cascades. The bridge was damaged in the Eagle Creek Fire, with its floorboards completely burned, so it was replaced in October 2019, with the new version being airlifted in by helicopter. (The Eagle Creek Trail didn't reopen until 2021, however.)

After crossing the High Bridge, walk high above the creek to get a good view, more open since the fire, of 50-foot Skoonichuck Falls, which plunges in two big tiers below a 400-foot cliff. You'll reach the location of Tenas Camp, the first area of permitted camping on the Eagle Creek Trail (but campfires are not allowed). The campsites to the right of the trail were obliterated by two large Douglas-firs, which fell in early 2017. There are a couple of small sloping campsites below the trail. From this area, you can get a view back to a pinnacle formation on the west side of the Eagle Creek Gorge; this needle had been concealed by tall conifers before the Eagle Creek Fire. A user trail takes you through high brush to the top of Skoonichuck Falls.

Past Tenas Camp, the forest was heavily burned in the 2017 fire. (A sign that used to be further uptrail described a forest fire that swept through this area back in 1902.) Pass along another cliff face to reach Four and a Half Mile Bridge, only the second time you'll cross Eagle Creek. Before the bridge, a trail leads down to the cobbled shore and a swimming hole, a nice place to cool off on a hot day. Four and a Half Mile Bridge is quite a contrast to its downtrail cousin, the High Bridge, sitting a mere four feet above the water!

Across the creek, you'll may notice little Tenas Falls, where a tributary splits around a rock to make a twin plunge into Eagle Creek. Next, you'll see the mouth of Opal Creek, which flows steeply down from the bowl below Tanner Butte. The trail crosses a rocky wash above thickets of willow on the creek, and tiger lilies bloom in early summer. A spur leads down to some campsites, and the view up the creek is of a lush green canyon with living trees! You'll soon reach Wy'East Camp, where the former campsites along the trail have been decommissioned and staked out with "Site Restoration" signs. A path leads up to some sites on a bench above the trail, and there are more campsites below. The trail passes the boundary sign for the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness and enters a shady defile to cross Wy'East Creek. Tall, ribbon-like Wy'East Falls plunges from a blast rampart - a short scramble up the creek will get you a better view of these falls which shrink to a drip by the end of summer. Then you'll pass under a cliff face to reach the junction with the Eagle Benson Trail #434. (The Eagle Benson Trail, which rises 2,900 feet to the Benson Plateau, has not been maintained since the 2017 fire.)

Below the trail, on a bench above Eagle Creek, you'll see the campsites at Blue Grouse Camp. The trail crosses scree slopes that bloom with stonecrop in late spring. Then you'll negotiate another cable-railed cliff face on hexagonal "paving stones", actually columns of basalt sheared off by the original trail builders. (This is a section of trail sometimes called the "The Potholes".) You'll get a view to Grand Union Falls down on Eagle Creek; these falls are just below the confluence of the East and West Forks of Eagle Creek. The trail enters a lovely amphitheater, dripping with moss and maidenhair fern, where Tunnel Falls plunges 175 feet to a shallow pool.

As the name implies, your path with pass through a tunnel behind the falls about midway up the drop. Consider, as you enter the tunnel, that work to build trail was completed before 1920, and the trail bench has been virtually unchanged since! The falls convey the East Fork Eagle Creek from the bluffs above to the creek bed below, and then downstream into the main Eagle Creek run. After you pass through the tunnel, you'll see yellow-blooming steambank arnica clinging to the cliff face and reach the sixth cable cliff section of the hike. Many people stop here to take photos of the falls and their amphitheater.

If you still feel like you still have some energy, the last two major waterfalls, both on the West Fork Eagle Creek, can be seen in the next half mile. These are both worth visiting, and the trail grade continues to be gentle. As you hike out along the cliff from Tunnel Falls on the sixth cabled section of the trail, you can see down to where the East Fork Eagle Creek plunges through a defile to its confluence with the West Fork. then you'll get a view up the West Fork to the lowest tier of 148 foot tall Twister Falls (sometimes called "Crossover Falls" or "Eagle Creek Falls"). Many have referred to this stretch of trail as the "Vertigo Mile". It is the most dramatic section of the hike for its vertical rise above the gorge floor. You'll reach the top of Twister Falls, with its necktie "crossover" of two streams of water. There are rock benches on the stream here where you can take a break, a small drops above on the creek where there are swimming holes.

It's another quarter mile of shady, intact canopy to Sevenmile Falls, which plunges 52 feet into a deep pool. If you're day hiking, you can turn around here. If you're looking for a campsite, Seven and a Half Mile Camp is a little farther up the trail.


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

Regulations, fees, etc

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required; fee kiosk at the trailhead
  • Restrooms, picnic tables, information kiosk, nearby campground
  • Dogs on leash
  • Limited parking; if lot is full, go back to the Eagle Creek Day Use Trailhead
  • Overnight camping permitted above the High Bridge; campfires not allowed!

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • One Night Wilderness: Portland by Douglas Lorain
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Best Hikes Near Portland, Oregon by Fred Barstad
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Pokin’ Round the Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; revised by Jim Yuskavich
  • Columbia Gorge Getaways by Laura O. Foster
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • 50 Hikes in Oregon by David L. Anderson
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Oregon’s Wilderness Areas by George Wuerthner
  • 35 Hiking Trails: Columbia River Gorge by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 42 Scenic Hikes: Columbia River Gorge by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 100 Oregon Hiking Trails by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Steinstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Best Dog Hikes: Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Fire, Faults, and Floods: A Road & Trail Guide Exploring the Origins of the Columbia River Basin by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Waterfall Lover’s Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb
  • Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest by David L. Anderson

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.