Friday, October 12, 2012

Eagle Creek and Tunnel Falls

There are a number of alternate trails on the PCT in Oregon and I took three of these because of the promised scenery.  As a south bound hiker I actually started off on one of the alternates, the Eagle Creek Trail.  This moderately difficult trail starts a couple of miles west of Cascade Locks on the Columbia and travels along the Eagle Creek for the first few miles before climbing up to join the PCT at Indian Springs, a distance of about 15 miles.  Eagle Creek flows through a fairly narrow, but deep, canyon that cuts through the basalt cliffs on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.  In the first 6.5 miles, heading south, this trail passes along shear cliffs, deep gorges and a lot of waterfalls.

If you are traveling the PCT, and willing to take alternates, this one is highly recommended.  If you are just looking for a day hike and are in the Portland area, it would be hard to beat the 13 mile round trip up to Twister Falls.  This trail was constructed in 1910, and is probably not reproducible today: using dynamite in wilderness areas is frowned upon.

Punchbowl Falls has about a 35 foot drop into a big bowl.  This area is very popular and can be crowded with people coming to enjoy the view, play in the water and jump off the cliffs into the deep pools.  It is a fairly step side trip down the the creek from the main trail, but is worth the extra few minutes, 

Loowit Falls drops about 90 feet into a pool just above Eagle Creek.  This fall  is on the far side of the creek  but is near the High Bridge that crosses the creek and there is a way trail to the base of the falls.

This is a sample of what portions of the trail are like.  The trail is blasted out of the cliff and is visible to the top left of the picture.  The creek is flowing over 100 feet below the trail, and nearly straight down.  

Tunnel Falls is easily the highlight of this trail and is almost 6 miles south of the trail head.  The fall has a 175 foot drop with the trail blasted out of the cliff wall behind the falls.  You can see the tunnel entrance and exit on either side of the fall about halfway up the cliff.  The trail, especially to the right, is also blasted out of the cliff and has a cable attached to the cliff to use as a hand rail for those who are acrophobic.

Twister Falls, or Eagle Creek Falls, is about a half mile south of Tunnel Falls.  This fall cascades and drops about 200 foot altogether although is is not possible to get a picture of the entire falls from any one place: this picture is just the upper portion.  You can see the trail running past at the top left of the falls and this is a good place to stop for a snack, or even lunch.  It also makes a good turnaround point for a 13 mile day hike.

A portion of the Vertigo Mile between Tunnel and Twister Falls.  The cliff falls up to 200 feet down to the creek and is pretty shear.  You can see the cliff wall above overhangs the trail.  You can also see the attached cable to the right of the trail.  This is a pretty cool section of the trail, but is not for those afraid of heights.

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