Columbia River Gorge Hikes:
1872 Wagon Road and a Hidden Waterfall

There’s a great book called Curious Gorge (buy it at that recently taught me about two hikes that sounded short and cool: one (#31) to an 1872 wagon road and another (#32) to a hidden waterfall off a section of the old Columbia River Highway.

Gorge Hikes: 1872 Wagon Road
Over the rail we go — onto the bed of the Historic Columbia River Highway

The trailhead was pretty much right on the shoulder of the interstate, and I love it when the first bit of instruction is “hop over the guardrail.” (I once told people in my 60 hikes book to hop over a BPA gate and ignore the no trespassing signs.)

After a minute in the woods, we broke into a clearing and followed what turned out to be access paths for the powerlines up above. We were looking for the remains of an 1872 (!) wagon road, still intact up there. Amazing.

And sure enough, there was the old road! Kind of amazing it’s still there. We followed the bed for a bit, then it disappeared into an area of cliffs. No idea where it used to go! (The picture I took is at the top of this post.)

So we backtracked and kept following the powerline access trails up — there’s a whole network of them, since vehicles can’t get to all these places. We even found steps!

Gorge Hikes: 1872 Wagon Road
Up onto the access trails — see the steps to the left? That was a goof.

The trail dumped us out onto the Historic Highway again, and we followed that back down. It’s lovely in there, all carpeted in grass and moss. Some day they will “restore” it and completely screw it up.

Best fall colors hikes near Portland.
A moss-covered section of the old highway.

We had to follow a “faith trail,” which I call it because we couldn’t really see where it was leading us, or if it even still existed. But it led us along the cliff face, above the highway and below the big rock formation, then down to the little gully where we “had faith” the waterfall was. Then a mildly sketchy “trail” led us over some rocks, along a sidehill, and then down to the tiny creek, where we saw an introductory, 15-foot waterfall. Then it was up the canyon to see the main attraction, 50-foot Summit Creek Falls. This was some hand-over-hand action, including a creek crossing or two. Good times!

Summit Creek Falls Columbia River Gorge
Summit Creek Falls

And then it was a back along the shoulder — briefly, thank goodness! — to the car. Ah, wilderness.


Gorge Hikes: Hidden Waterfall
Ah, wilderness!

This was a nice little gorge hike, perfect for the day: we left town at 8:30 and were eating lunch by the fireplace at Multnomah Falls Lodge by 1. That’s what Gorge hiking is all about!

For all the details on this little hike, buy Curious Gorge today!