Punchbowl Falls in the distance.
Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls
Possibly as impressive as the Gorge itself is the story of how the recreational area was built. It was created in the early 1900s as part of an effort to begin preserving parkland areas in the Columbia River Gorge, where industry was rapidly encroaching. In some sections, workers used dynamite to blast the trail into the side of the cliffs. Soon thousands of people could enjoy areas that were impossible to traverse otherwise. The original trail has remained nearly unchanged to this day.
The Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls hike is one of the shorter options for taking in the beauty of the Gorge, and perhaps the most popular.Starting at the trailhead, take the wide, well-groomed trail along the creek for a stretch, then alternating in and out of a young deciduous forest before beginning to take on elevation.
Before you've gone a half-mile, you'll find yourself high above the creek, which has now opened up to a glorious valley. Many months the fog hangs low in the canyon, blocking your view of the snow-encrusted cliff-sides towering around you. In places, the trail is narrow and the drop-off is quite steep. Cable lines were built into the walls in sections to provide some stability.
Greenery abounds along the Eagle Creek trail. As the trail steadily gains elevation, it begins to divert away from the creek. You'll notice the quiet as you ascend away from the rushing water and deeper into the lush old-growth forests of Douglas fir, cedar and hemlock. Dewy ferns, moss-covered rocks, and sometimes poison oak blanket the forest floor. You will be surprised at the beauty and quiet of these sections, which at times are like scenes from a fairy tale
(Description by PortlandHiker.org member Jeff Statt)
Coming from Portland, travel eastbound on I-84, and turn off at Exit #41. At the bottom of the ramp turn right. Go about 1/2 mile to the end of the road. You will go passed a footbridge (that takes hikers up to Wauna Viewpoint) as the road narrows to one lane. Continue a short ways to a large parking lot, parking only in designated spaces. (Coming from the east, be aware, there is no westbound exit at Eagle Creek. You must continue on I-84 and get off at the Bonneville Dam exit, get back on the interstate and backtrack to exit #41.) There are really a couple a major trailheads here. The Eagle Creek Trail starts at the end of the road. All of the Eagle Creek hikes start there. The Wauna Viewpoint Hike starts by crossing the suspension bridge. All of the other hikes start at the bridge, as well, but begin by walking away from the bridge up the campground road.