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Starvation Creek Waterfalls Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Revision as of 14:36, 9 August 2018 by Justpeachy (Talk | contribs)

Lower tier of Lancaster Falls (Steve Hart)
Dog Mountain from the Historic Columbia River Highway (bobcat)
Rest circle, Historic Columbia River Highway (bobcat)
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), Historic Columbia River Highway (bobcat)
Broad-leaf stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium), Mt. Defiance Trail (bobcat)
Cascade rock cress (Arabis furcata) along the trail (cfm)
Hole in the Wall Falls (Steve Hart)
The route described shown in yellow; other trails in orange (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Starvation Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point:Lancaster Falls
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back with spurs
  • Distance: 4.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 145 feet
  • High point: 285 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

NOTE: As of August 2018 the Starvation Ridge Cutoff Trail is closed due to a landslide.

This hike is the easiest way to see four Columbia River Gorge waterfalls from the Starvation Creek Trailhead. The other, perhaps more scenic, option is the Lower Starvation Loop Hike, which offers high views and wildflowers, but also steep inclines and a lot of poison oak! On this hike, you will be sticking mostly to the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, with a short spur off of it up to Lancaster Falls. You can hike the historic highway as far as Lindsey Creek; construction continues in 2018, however, to push the paved trail west to Wyeth. All of the falls except Lancaster Falls are universal access.

Your first waterfall will be Starvation Creek Falls. In the parking area, you’ll see a plaque commemorating the beginning of construction on the Columbia River Highway in 1912. As noted on a smaller plaque above, this information was once posted about two miles west at Shellrock Mountain, but was moved here because of new highway construction. The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail heads east above the restrooms. Below the restrooms is a shady picnic area circled by a paved loop trail that uses a footbridge over Starvation Creek. At a junction for the Waterfall Picnic Area, you’ll see an interpretive sign telling about a train that got stranded in a snow bank here in December 1884. Passengers were trapped for three weeks, but Gorge residents helped out by skiing in with supplies. Although nobody died, this incident gave the creek and waterfall their current names. Hike up to the small picnic area and a view of 190-foot, two-tiered Starvation Creek Falls. The lower tier is partially obscured by a huge boulder that peeled off from the cliffs above. A user trail crosses the creek and heads up for a closer look, but you won’t really get a better sighting than the picnic area offers.

Return to the Starvation Creek Trailhead, and begin hiking west next to the freeway on the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Get views to the the twin microdioritic intrusions of Shellrock Mountain and Wind Mountain as well as Dog Mountain right across the river. Enter shady maple woods, and look down to see markers dedicating this restored section of the Historic Columbia River Highway. Then pass the Historic Columbia River Highway-Starvation Ridge Cutoff Trail Junction. In spring, candy flower blooms profusely alongside the paved surface. Reach two-tiered, 220-foot Cabin Creek Falls, where a huge fallen basalt boulder creates an almost hidden amphitheater. The waterfall sprays directly into this hidden area. A scramble trail leads up to a rock overhang and the base of the falls.

The Historic Columbia River Highway heads back out to the freeway under a Douglas-fir/big-leaf maple canopy. At an open area, arrive at the Historic Columbia River Highway-Mount Defiance Trail Junction. You'll be turning off here to head the short distance to Hole in the Wall Falls and Lancaster Falls, but first keep going west to reach the Warren Creek Bridge, opened in 2016 but emulating the style of the old highway bridges. A couple of ponderosa pines at the west end of the bridge remind us that we are, indeed, in the east Gorge! Pass a circular rock rest area on the left, and then reach the freeway again. A road track leads up the slope to the power line corridor (This is also a way to reach Lindsey Creek Falls as well as the route of the original Mt. Defiance Trail.). Get more fine views of Dog Mountain, and reach the crossing of Lindsey Creek. There are two more waterfalls up the creek: multi-tiered Harrison Falls is closer to the highway, while Lindsey Creek Falls is half a mile above Harrison Falls. There are no official trails to either, and this spot also marks the end of the open section of the Historic Columbia River Highway going west.

Return to the Historic Columbia River Highway-Mount Defiance Trail Junction, and take a right on a paved trail that passes through a circular picnic area. The Mount Defiance Trail picks up its normal tread here, and 95-foot Hole in the Wall Falls can be viewed from the picnic circle. This waterfall is an unusual manmade affair. Highway crews drilled a tunnel through the rock and diverted Warren Creek here in 1938 to resolve issues with the creek undermining the highway. The water emerges from a lengthy tunnel and immediately falls, creating the waterfall. Hikers looking for a little more historical interest can follow the old creek bed a little to the original location of Warren Creek Falls, which now runs only in a rainstorm.

From here, you'll take the footbridge below Hole in the Wall Falls. The trail begins a modest climb, gaining about 140 feet in elevation. You'll reach the powerline corridor, where there's another trail junction, this time with the Starvation Ridge Trail. Honeysuckle, snowberry, stonecrop, and white spiraea bloom here in the spring. Stay to the right. Soon the trail reaches Wonder Creek and the lower tier of Lancaster Falls. The waterfall seems small at first glance, but from the right angle, the tall 250-foot upper tier is visible through the trees (The best place to get an accurate impression of Lancaster Falls is by traveling the freeway westbound and pulling off at the weigh station west of the Starvation Creek Trailhead. From late fall to the beginning of spring, before the maples leaf out, you'll get a clear view of the waterfall above. You should only attempt this stop when the weigh station is closed, usually on weekends.).

After enjoying the spray from Lancaster Falls' little 20-foot lower tier, return down the Mount Defiance Trail to to your vehicle.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Historic Columbia River Highway Bike Map (Oregon State Parks)
  • Green Trails Maps: Hood River, OR #430
  • 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: Zigzag Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Regulations, facilities, etc

  • Restrooms and picnic areas
  • Dogs on leash

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Oregon: The Creaky Knees Guide by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; revised by Jim Yuskavitch
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • The Columbia Gorge: Short Trips and Trails by Oral Bullard & Don Lowe
  • Waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge - Volume One: Oregon by Zach Forsyth
  • Waterfall Lover's Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson

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.