Our first hike of 2010! February 21, 2010 to be exact.
We started the year off relatively easy with the Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls trail. Located in the Columbia River Gorge, this hike is popular due to its relative flatness and high concentration of waterfalls (not to mention the lush green rainforest, basalt cliffs, and dizzying narrow trails blasted right out of cliff faces). I wasn’t sure what to expect this time of year, but it turns out the Gorge is gorgeous in the winter!
Now guide books told us that this trail is a 12 mile out-and-back with about 1,640 feet in elevation gain; however our GPS read somewhere around 17 miles with almost 1,900 feet elevation gain. I am not sure which is more accurate, so we’ll say it was somewhere in the middle (but definitely felt closer to 17 miles!).
Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls
Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side)
Total hike distance: Somewhere around 17 miles
Total elevation gain: Somewhere around 1,900 feet
Click the image for the full GPS data.
The first couple miles of this trail are particularly crowded, especially on the weekends, and can include lots of families. Luckily the crowds aren’t too bad in the middle of February. 🙂 This stretch also happens to be where some of the most breathtaking scenery is.
Matleko Falls, about 1.5 miles in.
At about the two mile mark is Punchbowl Falls, a 35-foot fall with a bowl-shaped basin. You have the option to take a side trail down to the bottom for a head-on view, or you can just continue on the trail for an overlooking viewpoint. For the love of mother, take the side trail. It is well, well worth the few extra steps. You can splash around in the swimming hole at the base of the falls, dive off of cliffs into a lower falls, or just lounge on the surrounding rocks and catch some sun.
Looking straight at the falls, after tiptoeing over some rocks and then balancing on a fallen tree trunk.
Most people make Punchbowl Falls their turning point, so the trail is significantly less crowded carrying on from here.
Approaching Tunnel Falls, the sun shining through the mist.
We finally reached our destination, 175-foot Tunnel Falls. The name references the trail itself, as it actually goes through a tunnel crossing right behind the rushing falls. The work to carve out this tunnel was done in 1910, and has not been touched since!
Headed back… I just love this spot!
About halfway back we stopped for lunch along the creek. Paul has been experimenting with backpacking meals for when we start doing overnighters; freeze-dried stuff, certain pastas, and generally stuff that only requires adding water. And might I say, the stuff he’s come up with has been delicious. We went with orzo mac n’ cheese for this trip, and also got to try out our camp stove and cookset outdoors for the first time. Oh, and of course cans of Caldera IPA. 🙂
Does it get any cuter than this?!
I highly recommend this hike to anyone. It’s long, but it makes the elevation gain seem like less work when it’s so spread out. It’s also one of the most scenic in the Gorge, so great for visitors (even if they only want to do the first couple miles). I am really looking forward to more trips to Punchbowl Falls in the summer… that swimming area will be awesome on a 90 degree day.