Creating a World-Class Trekking Network Encircling the Gorge
Learn more about the initiative to create a 200-mile loop trail network in the Gorge.
On the Trail
This state park offers two very different short walks: One is an easy, 0.4-mile paved loop atop the cliffs; it is accessible to all users and offers spectacular views — bring binoculars to look across the river to the cliffs of Cape Horn. The other is a 0.6-mile out-and-back hike to the base of Bridal Veil Falls, a 118-foot waterfall that can only be seen by taking this short hike. The latter is not wheelchair accessible.
Permits & Pets
This site is managed by Oregon State Parks. No passes are required. Dogs are required to be leashed at all times.
- Access both trails near the park restrooms. For the paved loop, stay atop the bluff on the paved path. Overlooking the Columbia, the path offers scenic nooks with tables for a picnic and outstanding views across the river of Archer and Hamilton mountains in Washington. On the river’s banks are the 400-foot cliffs at Cape Horn, and farther east, the basalt pillar of Beacon Rock. In the river is Phoca Rock, a 30-foot-high island at the base of Cape Horn. During the wet season, this trail offers the best place to view the 600-foot-high (in several tiers) Cape Horn Falls, which plunges off the cliff to the river.
- The last viewpoint looks west up the railroad tracks at the remaining Pillars of Hercules, free-standing basalt columns. In 1884, the first rail line through the Gorge threaded itself right between two of them, then called “the Needles.” Later, many of the pillars were dynamited to make way for expanded road and rail lines. Also to the west are Sand Island (accessible on foot from Beacon Rock State Park at low water) and Crown Point, with its Vista House.
- The park’s other trail descends to Bridal Veil Creek, with a grand view of two-tiered Bridal Veil Falls, so named for its shape.
- Please always stay on the trail and clean your boots before and after you hike. Hikers and their dogs are common vectors for spreading invasive seeds.
- Restrooms are near the parking area.
Bridal Veil Creek is the largest of Larch Mountain’s creeks. Downstream of the falls, a paper mill was built in the 1880s by Willard Hawley, who soon left the area and built the large paper mill in Oregon City, which operated under various names until 2011. A planing mill came later, and higher up on Larch Mountain was the Palmer Mill, which lives on only in a road name. That mill sent rough-cut lumber down this creek valley in a log flume. After a 1937 fire, and because most of the old-growth timber had by then been logged, the mill at Bridal Veil was converted to manufacture wooden boxes for Kraft Cheese, and ammunition boxes during World War II. The box mill closed in 1960, and the company town of Bridal Veil began to fade. Most of its structures have been demolished, including the town’s church. The Bridal Veil Post Office persists; it’s popular as a place for batch-mailing of wedding invitations.
Across the Historic Columbia River Highway from the park is a 1927 inn, one of the few remaining inns from the road’s early days of auto tourism.
Combine these short walks with equally short walks to two nearby waterfalls. This is especially rewarding in winter, when the waterfalls run at maximum volume, in inverse proportion to traffic on the Historic Highway. Shepperd’s Dell State Natural Area is 1 mile west of Bridal Veil on the Historic Highway. Latourell Falls is 2 miles west. Continue on the Historic Highway 2.4 miles beyond Latourell Falls for a stop at historic Vista House. Get an espresso drink and browse its store, which carries local books, art, and crafts. Most of all, enjoy the views at this promontory, the site of thousands of photos (and many lost hats). Don’t miss the views from the balcony.
Hikes at or Near This Trailhead
Eastbound I-84: Take exit 28/Bridal Veil and drive uphill on Bridal Veil Road; at the top, turn right on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Drive 0.75 mile to Bridal Veil Falls State Park.
Westbound I-84: Take exit 35/Ainsworth Park and drive 8.3 miles west on the Historic Highway to Bridal Veil Falls State Park.