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Difference between revisions of "Tooth Rock Loop Hike"

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

(Add warning)
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Start at the [[Tooth Rock Trailhead]] and hike the Historic Highway eastward. The first part of the path is little more than a freeway shoulder but soon you'll veer away from the freeway a bit as the old highway works it way through the trees. After a half mile or so, you'll come to a [[HCRHT-Portage Road West Trail Junction|trail junction]] marked by a small sign for the Tanner Butte Trail posting the way up the overgrown Old Portage Road.  
 
Start at the [[Tooth Rock Trailhead]] and hike the Historic Highway eastward. The first part of the path is little more than a freeway shoulder but soon you'll veer away from the freeway a bit as the old highway works it way through the trees. After a half mile or so, you'll come to a [[HCRHT-Portage Road West Trail Junction|trail junction]] marked by a small sign for the Tanner Butte Trail posting the way up the overgrown Old Portage Road.  
  
<b>WARNING! The Old Portage Road is less than half a mile long, but it's a bushwhack the entire way since the Eagle Creek Fire. The entire area was burned and, without much of a canopy, the old track has numerous downed trees and is covered with vegetation. The most vicious of the plants are the blackberry and blackcap raspberry. This is why you will need thick gloves and a machete. There is also a lot of poison oak in the vicinity of [[Tooth Rock]].</b>
+
<b>WARNING! The Old Portage Road is less than half a mile long, but it's a bushwhack all the way since the Eagle Creek Fire. The entire area was burned and, without much of a canopy, the old track has numerous downed trees and is covered with vegetation. The most vicious of the plants are the blackberry and blackcap raspberry. This is why you will need thick gloves and a machete. There is also a lot of poison oak in the vicinity of [[Tooth Rock]].</b>
  
 
Turn off the old highway and head up the hill here. This road was built in the 19th century to allow wagons to be portaged around the Cascades. You'll climb steadily, twisting and turning, to a summit. Right at the top is a use path branching off to the right, that heads steeply up the hill to the Gorge Trail and [[Tanner Road-Gorge-Portage Road Connector Trail Junction|Tanner Road #777]]. Now the old wagon road drops as steeply as it climbed. It's not hard to drift back in time and picture men struggling with wagons and oxen up and down these hills. Soon you'll reach a spot where the old road was blasted out of existence during construction of the Historic Highway in the early 1900s. A switchbacking informal trail leads 20 feet down to the Historic Highway Trail.
 
Turn off the old highway and head up the hill here. This road was built in the 19th century to allow wagons to be portaged around the Cascades. You'll climb steadily, twisting and turning, to a summit. Right at the top is a use path branching off to the right, that heads steeply up the hill to the Gorge Trail and [[Tanner Road-Gorge-Portage Road Connector Trail Junction|Tanner Road #777]]. Now the old wagon road drops as steeply as it climbed. It's not hard to drift back in time and picture men struggling with wagons and oxen up and down these hills. Soon you'll reach a spot where the old road was blasted out of existence during construction of the Historic Highway in the early 1900s. A switchbacking informal trail leads 20 feet down to the Historic Highway Trail.

Revision as of 19:11, 22 April 2021

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.
The Historic Columbia River Highway Trail winds around Tooth Rock (Steve Hart)
File:ToothRock2.JPG
Moss and ferns on the old stone walls (Steve Hart)
File:ToothRock3.JPG
The old wagon road (Steve Hart)

Contents

Hike Description

When the original Columbia River Highway was designed by Samuel Lancaster and others it was decided to skirt Tooth Rock on a pair of viaducts. The construction of Bonneville Dam in the 1930s forced the relocation of the highway and the original route was abandoned in 1937 when a new tunnel was drilled through the rock. The old viaducts remained in place largely forgotten for almost 60 years. In 1996 this portion of the old highway was refurbished as a hiking and bicycling path. The Eagle Creek Viaduct was repaired from the rockfall damage and a new pedestrian bridge was built over the east portal of Tooth Rock Tunnel. This hike explores all of these areas on one leg but begins with a brushy foray on the Old Portage Road, abandoned and much overgrown since the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. If you're not up for what is now really a bushwhack (you'll need thick gloves, a machete and pruning saw, and some nimbleness to climb over downed trees), then just follow the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail for an out and back excursion.

Start at the Tooth Rock Trailhead and hike the Historic Highway eastward. The first part of the path is little more than a freeway shoulder but soon you'll veer away from the freeway a bit as the old highway works it way through the trees. After a half mile or so, you'll come to a trail junction marked by a small sign for the Tanner Butte Trail posting the way up the overgrown Old Portage Road.

WARNING! The Old Portage Road is less than half a mile long, but it's a bushwhack all the way since the Eagle Creek Fire. The entire area was burned and, without much of a canopy, the old track has numerous downed trees and is covered with vegetation. The most vicious of the plants are the blackberry and blackcap raspberry. This is why you will need thick gloves and a machete. There is also a lot of poison oak in the vicinity of Tooth Rock.

Turn off the old highway and head up the hill here. This road was built in the 19th century to allow wagons to be portaged around the Cascades. You'll climb steadily, twisting and turning, to a summit. Right at the top is a use path branching off to the right, that heads steeply up the hill to the Gorge Trail and Tanner Road #777. Now the old wagon road drops as steeply as it climbed. It's not hard to drift back in time and picture men struggling with wagons and oxen up and down these hills. Soon you'll reach a spot where the old road was blasted out of existence during construction of the Historic Highway in the early 1900s. A switchbacking informal trail leads 20 feet down to the Historic Highway Trail.

This piece of the original Columbia River Highway was built in 1914 and abandoned in 1937. Just as the wagon road was demolished to make room for the highway, so too was this older version of the highway destroyed to make room for the new. To connect these various pieces as a trail, modern trail builders had to resort to a staircase to link the different levels together.

Walk west on the old highway and you'll soon come to a modern footbridge across the east end of the freeway tunnel. Just beyond that is the Eagle Creek Viaduct. This viaduct is actually a "half-viaduct", with half the road resting on a narrow ledge blasted from the rock and half the road on the viaduct. The railing here is the same as the standard arched, rubble masonry walls used as guardrails on much of the highway. Much of the original railing was lost and the viaduct was heavily damaged by a rock slide during the construction of a new powerhouse at the dam. The deck and railing have been repaired for trail use. The old road loops around Tooth Rock with some amazing views of Bonneville Dam, the Columbia River and the westbound freeway lanes constructed in the 1950s. There's even an improved viewpoint at the Eagle's Nest. Soon you'll come to Tooth Rock Viaduct, which is basically a bridge pinned to the side of the mountain. A section of this viaduct had collapsed from the weight of accumulated rock and was repaired in 1996. Railings here are similar to the Moffett Creek Bridge and the Shepperds Dell Bridge. The old highway crosses the modern freeway and meanders west back to the trailhead.

Maps

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Picnic tables
  • No overnight parking

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon - 3rd Edition, by William L Sullivan

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.