Cape Horn
Western Gorge, Washington
Breathtaking view from Cape Horn trail. (photographer: Christopher Baker)
Hike Details
Type:
Loop
Distance:
7.2 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:
1300 feet
Difficulty:
Strenuous
Trail Features
Family Friendly:
No
Restrooms:
Yes
Trailhead Pass:
No
Trail Details
WildflowersWaterfallWaterfallBeautiful ViewsIce Age FloodsIce Age FloodsBird Viewing
COVID-19 advisory from our partner Ready, Set, GOrge! (readysetgorge.com): 

Increased visitation puts increased pressure on the Gorge’s limited resources.  If you’re planning a trip to our region, please help keep our communities safe by following CDC and local health guidelines and respecting the requests of individual businesses. Please plan before you go and always have a Plan B in case your destination is too crowded or closed. Crowds lead to closures. When recreating on trails, maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other hikers and bikers.

Falcon advisory: Every year, from February 1 to July 15, Cape Horn’s lower slopes are closed to protect nesting peregrine falcons. The closed area includes the trail section from about 0.5 mile below the western SR 14 pedestrian underpass to the dead end of Cape Horn Road (view map for details). Failure to respect the closure can result in a $5,000 fine. Future use of the trail is dependent on hikers respecting this closure.


Learn About Friends' Public Engagement Work

Building a diverse cross-section of public support is critical to sustaining our efforts to preserve the Gorge.

On the Trail

Permits & Pets

Cape Horn trails are administered by the U.S. Forest Service. No permits are required. Although the Forest Service does not require dogs to be leashed, for their protection, a leash is highly recommended. Steep cliffs have taken the lives of dogs here.

Trail Notes

  • Cross Salmon Falls Road to the trailhead and take the right fork. The first mile is the steepest, as the trail ascends under a canopy of bigleaf maple along a northeast-facing slope. Side trails offer increasingly impressive views of foothills and meadows. Reach a lookout at the 1.2-mile mark, after climbing about 800 feet. Views to the east include Hamilton Mountain, Beacon Rock, and Multnomah Falls.
  • In 0.1 mile, bear left on a short spur trail to Pioneer Point, with its tipping tree and views southwest that include Angel’s Rest and Devil’s Rest. This makes a great destination for a 2.5-mile, out-and-back hike.
  • Return to the main trail, which crosses the wide, wooded summit. The trail gradually descends and intersects an abandoned forest road. Bear left at this intersection. After 0.6 mile, reach paved Strunk Road. Cross the road, then turn left onto a footpath that leads to a wide, gravel path. After 0.2 mile on the path, turn left at a signed intersection to the Nancy Russell Overlook. This is a great lunch point. Sit atop a handcrafted stone wall and enjoy views for miles. Turn around here for a 5-mile, out-and-back hike.
  • From the overlook, switchback downhill 1.2 miles under sprawling bigleaf maple and Oregon white oak. In spring, the understory is lush, green, and full of wildflowers — notably delphinium or larkspur, traditionally in full bloom around Mother’s Day. Come to SR 14, and cross under it via a pedestrian underpass. Continue on the trail, taking short spurs to two more stone overlooks with expansive views. The first is Cape Horn Falls Overlook and the second, Oak View Overlook. Beyond Oak View, the trail is closed during falcon nesting season. Turn around here for an 8-mile, out-and-back hike.
  • When the entire route is open, continue west and switchback downhill. The trail veers east with occasional river views and a stunning view of Cigar Rock, a basalt pillar at the river’s edge. The trail climbs and drops through two moss-covered talus slopes and crosses a bridge at Cape Horn Falls. Continue to where the trail pops out of the woods near the end of paved Cape Horn Road. Walk the road uphill 1.2 miles, enjoying expansive views of the cliffs above and pastoral fields. Near the top of the road, turn left to walk a path through a pedestrian tunnel under SR 14 that leads back to the start (see a Cape Horn Conservancy trail map).
  • 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 located at the Park and Ride lot.

History

Cape Horn is very special to Friends of the Columbia Gorge. Our history with this spectacular place dates back to Friends’ earliest days, before the Gorge was protected as a National Scenic Area. In the 1980s, Cape Horn’s heights were platted out for a 16-lot subdivision of view properties. Prior to the protections put in place by the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act in 1986, no legal means existed to stop the development.

To preserve Cape Horn’s vistas for the public, in 1983, Friends’ founder, Nancy Russell, and her husband, Bruce Russell, took out a bank loan for $300,000 and used the funds to make a no-interest loan to the Trust for Public Land. The funds enabled the Trust to buy 12 of the 16 lots, effectively stopping the subdivision. The U.S. Forest Service then purchased the land from the Trust. That led to further interest in purchasing land to the east and west of the purchased subdivision. Soon, with the help of Columbia Land Trust and conservation buyers including Nancy, a land connection was created to allow for a public trail system.

In 2006, the newly created Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust purchased the one lot in the subdivision that had been developed, which had a 5,500-square-foot home and 6,000-square-foot barn. The land trust also secured an option to purchase the other, privately held rim-view lot. Friends of the Columbia Gorge raised more than $4 million in funds with the 2005 Campaign for Cape Horn to purchase the two properties, remove structures, and build what has come to be known as the Nancy Russell Overlook. From it are some of the Gorge’s most awe-inspiring views. Because of Nancy’s vision, everyone can walk Cape Horn’s woods and enjoy its vistas, wildflowers, waterfalls, and serenity.

Post-Hike Explorations

Travel SR 14 10 miles west of the trailhead into Washougal. Get a bite and a beer in one of its brewpubs or in a floating cafe at the Port of Camas-Washougal. Or explore its small but mighty Two Rivers Heritage Museum, visit a century-old woolen mill and its outlet store, and watch the sun set along the Columbia on the beach at Captain William Clark Park.



Directions & Travel Tips

On SR 14, near milepost 26, turn north on Salmon Falls Road and immediately right on Canyon Creek Road. In 300 feet, turn right into the Salmon Falls Park and Ride lot. If you park on Cape Horn Road (to hike the trails in the opposite direction from this description), do not park in front of a gate, driveway, or private entrance.

Car-Free Travel

A seasonal weekend shuttle stops at this trailhead. View schedule and fare information.