Tag Archives: East Fork Hood River

Gorton Creek Falls, Punchbowl Falls Park, and Lost Lake

After striking out on a view of Mt. Hood during our previous hike on the Boulder Ridge Trail (post) we planned on trying again during our next outing by visiting Lost Lake. The hikes around Lost Lake and up Lost Lake Butte had been on our schedule in both of the previous years but changes in those plans had bumped it back to this year.

A featured hike in Sullivan’s NW Oregon book (hike #74 in the 4th edition) it presented an issue with our rule to not have our driving time be longer than our hiking time. At a little under 8 miles for both trails we figured the hike would wind up taking us around 4 hours based on our typical pace leaving us an hour short of the 5 hour round trip driving time. Our solution was to add a pair of stops along the way where we could do a couple of short hikes which would bring the times closer in line with each other.

Our route to Lost Lake would be via Interstate 84 through the Columbia River Gorge to Hood River so for our first stop of the day we chose the less than a mile and a half round trip to Gorton Creek Falls. This hike began at the same trailhead (at Wyeth Campground) that we had used in 2016 for the Wyeth Trail (post) which REMAINS CLOSED after the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.
Wyeth Trailhead

In fact with closures still in place over numerous parts of the gorge we stopped to consult the closure map both at the trailhead and then at the fence erected blocking access to the Wyeth Trail at its junction with the Gorge Trail.
Eagle Creek Fire closure map

With Gorton Creek outside of the closure area and no visible signs of closure we followed the unofficial trail along Gorton Creek from the junction.
Trail along Gorton Creek

A nice path follows the creek for about a half mile where it ends near Emerald Falls, a small 10′ cascade.
Emerald Falls

Emerald Falls

The much taller Gorton Creek Falls is another 100 yards up the creek and requires a bit of scrambling along the left side of the creek over boulders and through trees.
Gorton Creek

Gorton CreekLooking down the scramble route.

Obstacles along Gorton CreekSome of the obstacles

Gorton Creek below Gorton FallsFirst sight of Gorton Creek Falls through the trees.

Gorton Falls

It is a nice two tiered waterfall but the upper tier is only visible from certain angles.
Gorton Falls

Gorton Falls

After admiring the falls we headed back down to the trailhead completing the very nice 1.3 mile hike. We then continued driving east on I-84 to Hood River where we took exit 62 and followed our GPS to the Punchbowl Falls Park Trailhead. Not to be confused with the more famous Punch Bowl Falls which is located on Eagle Creek (also CLOSED due to the Eagle Creek Fire) this Punchbowl Falls is located on the West Fork Hood River in a county park established in 2016 after the land was purchased by the Western Rivers Conservancy. Trailkeepers of Oregon have since constructed trails (with a new one set to open this year) allowing for a short loop hike through oak woodlands and past a pair of waterfalls.

The trail starts at a gated service road.
Punchbowl Falls Park

Just beyond the gate are a signs for the park and trails.
Punchbowl Falls Park

Trail sign in Punchbowl Falls Park

We took the West Fork Trail which led to an open hillside with a few lingering ookow in bloom overlooking the West Fork Hood River.
West Fork Hood River

Ookow

The path followed the river gorge through the oak woodland where there had been a nice lupine display by the looks of it.
West Fork Trail

Lupine

As we neared Punchbowl Falls we could see the crumbling remains of a staircase that had led down to a fish ladder along the river.
Old staircase to a fish ladder

Old staircase to a fish ladder

A very short side trail led to a viewpoint overlooking the falls and the wide bowl at the base.
Punchbowl Falls

Pool below Punchbowl Falls

We could also see the top of Mt. Hood rising up above the trees up river. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen near the mountain which was a great sign for our hike up Lost Lake Butte later.
Mt. Hood above the trees

Mt. Hood

From the viewpoint we continued on the West Fork Trail toward Dead Point Falls.
Trail sign in Punchbowl Falls Park

Another viewpoint along the way looked back up river to Punchbowl Falls and Mt. Hood as well as across the gorge to Dead Point Falls.
Punchbowl Falls

Dead Point Falls

Dead Point Falls

Just a little further along was a signed spur trail to another viewpoint of Dead Point Falls and the confluence of Dead Point Creek and the West Fork Hood River.
Sign for Dead Point Falls

Dead Point Falls

Beyond the Dead Point Falls viewpoint we came to a junction with the Dogwood Trail which could be used to make a short loop back to the trailhead. We stuck to the West Fork Trail which descended slightly to another viewpoint, this time of the confluence of the West and East Forks of Hood River.
Trail junction in Punchbowl Falls Park

Punchbowl Falls Park

The East Fork Hood River was noticeably siltier having the clouded color indicitive of glacier runoff.
Confluence of the West and East Fork Hood Rivers

At a junction just beyond the viewpoint we turned right at a point for the East Fork Trail opting not to continue down to the river which was only a tenth of a mile or two away but we didn’t really feel like climbing back up.
East Fork Trail sign

By the end of this year the East Fork Trail will extend out along the East Fork Hood River but for now this path brought us to the gated serviced road which we turned right onto and followed back toward the trailhead.
Punchbowl Falls Park

After about 150 yards we came to the Dogwood Trail as it crossed the road where we turned uphill to the left.
Dogwood Trail

A lone pink pyrola was blooming along this trail which we followed through the wood for two tenths of a mile to signboards and completing a .9 mile loop.
Pink pyrola

Dogwood Trail

From Punchbowl Falls Park we drove back the way we’d come a mile to Lost Lake Road were we took a right and followed a car with Florida license plates nearly the entire 13.5 paved miles to the entrance to the Lost Lake Campground. I bring this up to ask that if people aren’t comfortable driving on the narrow curvy forest roads that’s fine but when you have cars following you and are going 20 mph below the speed limit and have multiple chances to pull over, please do it (end mini-rant).
Lost Lake Campground entrance

There is currently a $9 day-use fee charged to enter the Lost Lake area but the OregonHkers Field Guide mentioned a possible starting point along gated Jones Creek Road just before the campground entrance. We parked at a small pullout here (room for a couple of cars).
Pullout near Lost Lake Campground

The precursor to the Pacific Crest Trail, the Oregon Skyline Trail (now the Old Skyline Trail) could be accessed here and followed up to the Lost Lake Butte Trail. The only problem was we didn’t read the field guide closely enough. It states that there is a sign for the Old Skyline Trail at the road junction, but the GPS map showed the trail leaving the road a little beyond the gate. Having missed that detail we headed up the road watching for the trail which didn’t materialize. Just under a quarter mile from the gate the road forked and we followed the left hand fork which led toward the location of the trail on the map. Approximately 100 yards later we found the unsigned Old Skyline Trail crossing the road.
Old Skyline Trail

We turned right onto the trail and followed it through the forest looking for a four way junction where we would turn onto the Lost Lake Butte Trail. That trail was also not where the map on the Garmin indicated it would be. The junction was about a tenth of a mile further south than shown on the map but it was obvious and well signed.
Lost Lake Butte and Old Skyline Trail junction

Old Skyline Trail junction with the Lost Lake Butte Trail

At the junction we took the Lost Lake Butte Trail and began the 1000 plus foot climb to the summit. A Forest Service Crew had just come through the weekend before to do maintenance, so it was in great shape.
Lost Lake Butte Trail

Lost Lake Butte Trail

The forested route offered no views to speak of and there was as an unusual lack of flowers along the route but it wasn’t a bad climb and in 45 minutes we were passing the remains of the Lost Lake Butte lookout tower.
Foundation from the old lookout on Lost Lake Butte

Although much of the former 360 degree view is now blocked by trees the view south to Mt. Hood remains and is spectacular.
Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Hood from Lost Lake Butte

To the right of Mt. Hood we also had a pretty good view of the upper portion of Mt. Jefferson.
Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Jefferson from Lost Lake Butte

It was also possible to look north across the Columbia River and see Mt. Adams.
Mt. Adams from Lost Lake Butte

Mt. Adams from Lost Lake Butte

After spending some time enjoying the view and talking with a couple form Astoria who were staying at the Lost Lake Lodge we headed down. When we arrived back at the four way junction we crossed over the Old Skyline Trail and followed the trail down to a paved road crossing.
Trail crossing of the Lost Lake Camground road

Google has this marked as the Old Growth Trailhead but the sign here called this the Rhododendron Trail which led to the Old Growth Trail.
Rhododendron Trail to the Old Growth Trail

Rhododendron Trail

We followed this trail through the forest to a junction where we turned left onto the Old Growth Trail.
Rhododendron Trail

Trail sign at Lost Lake

The Old Growth Trail is an interpretive trail with a number of informational signboards along the way. It joined the Shrader Old Growth Trail (post) as one of our favorite interpretive trails. Much of the trail was boardwalk and there were a few pullouts with benches where one could sit and enjoy the forest.
Interpretive sign along the Old Growth Trail

Old Growth Trail

Old Growth Trail

Bench along the Old Gowth Trailone of the pullouts

Interpretive sign along the Old Growth Trail

Interpretive sign along the Old Growth Trail

The Old Growth Trail ended at another paved road crossing (it was a mile one-way in between the two roads).
Connector trail between the Old Growth and Lakeshore Trails

We crossed the road and followed a pointer for the Lakeshore Trail.
Connector trail between the Old Growth and Lakeshore Trails

The Lakeshore Trail, as it’s name suggests, loops around the shore of Lost Lake. We turned left when we reached the trail and started our way clockwise around the lake.
Lost Lake

We passed the Huckleberry Mountain Trail which connects up with the Pacific Crest Trail on the ridge above Lost Lake. We had passed the upper end of the trail on our visit to Buck Peak in 2016. (post)

Lakeshore Trail junction with the Huckleberry Mountain Trail

The trail looped around to the west side of Lost Lake where the hillside was much steeper than that of the opposite side where Lost Lake Butte rose up from the forest.
Forest along Lost Lake

Lost Lake Butte from Lost Lake

There was one short section where the trail was under water and a brief but steep detour led up the hillside and back down. Other than that the trail was in good shape. Flowers including rhododendron, anemones, bleeding heart and wild bugbane were in bloom.
Lakeshore Trail

Rhododendron blossoms

Anemone

Bleeding heart

Wild bugbane

The trail briefly becomes a boardwalk as it passes over the lake’s inlet creeks where small fish and rough skinned newts could be seen swimming.
Lakeshore Trail

There were some little fish swimming here

Rough skinned newt

As we made our way around the lake Mt. Hood finally began to come into view.
Mt. Hood across Lost Lake

Numerous side trails led down to the shore between the boardwalk and the Lost Lake Resort providing excellent views of Mt. Hood and lots of newts to watch in the clear water.
Mt. Hood from the Lakeshore Trail

Rough skinned newts

Rough skinned newt

Bench along the Lakeshore Trail

Mt. Hood from the bench

Things were pretty hectic as we neared the day-use area and only got busier as we neared the lodge.
Sign for the Lost Lake General Store

We left the Lakeshore Trail near the lodge and cut up through the resort toward the entrance road in hopes of following it back to our car. We had just popped out of some trees onto that road when a pickup passed us and we heard someone call out my name. We turned to look as the truck stopped and realized it was my cousin Lance and his family. They were visiting the lake for the first time too and were planning on doing some kayaking. It was quite the random encounter. After saying hi we went our separate ways and returned to our car and headed home. We wound up taking Highway 35 to Highway 26 around Mt. Hood instead of returning via I-84 after pulling up Google traffic and seeing that there were at least two accidents holding up traffic on the Interstates.

Our route on the trails at Lost Lake added up to 7.7 miles giving us 9.9 miles combined. It turned out to be a nice combination of hikes with varying scenery and different types of trails and best of all we got to see Mt. Hood this time around. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Gorton Creek Falls, Punchbowl Falls Park, and Lost Lake

Tamanawas Falls

It is our goal to eventually visit each of the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes” series of guide books.  One of the things that I have been working on during our current off-hiking season is figuring out how to accomplish this.  One of the difficulties is that some of the hike distances are such that the amount of time we would spend on the trail is quite a bit less than the amount of time we’d spend driving to and from the trailhead.  At first glance the hike to Tamanawas Falls fell into this category for us.  At a little over two hours away the 3.8 mile round trip was too short and an alternate return route suggested by Sullivan would only extend the hike to 5.9 miles which was still likely too short to balance out the driving time. While rereading the description in the book and reviewing the accompanying map I found the solution which was to extend the hike along the East Fork Trail southward.

This trail incurred heavy damage during a flood event and no longer  ties into the Robin Hood Campground to the south.  It continues as far south as the Nottingham Campground but there is no bridge at that point making it the unceremonious end of the trail. We just needed some extra distance on a trail though so this would give us the ability to hike south at least a mile or two and increase our hiking time enough to top our driving time.

Now that the we had a plan that fit this hike into our hike-to-drive ratio requirement we needed to figure out when to visit.  The hike to Tamanawas Falls is very popular given its shorter length and its location along Highway 35 on the east side of Mt. Hood. We decided that early Spring might be our best bet when the wildflowers had begun blooming in the Columbia Gorge and there would still be some snow along the Tamanawas Falls Trail.

We arrived at the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead just before 7am (our other trick for avoiding crowds) on what promised to be a beautiful mostly sunny day.

Tamanawas Falls Trailhead

It was a crisp 37 when we arrived and the remaining snow was packed and a little slick on the way down to a footbridge across the East Fork Hood River.

Footbridge over the East Fork Hood River

Footbridge over the East Fork Hood River

From the bridge a small waterfall cascaded down into the river and a pair of Harlequin Ducks paddled about along the far bank.
East Fork Hood River

Harlequin Ducks

We were headed north on the East Fork Trail toward a junction with the Tamanawas Falls Trail. The trail climbed a bit and was still covered in snow in sections.
East Fork Trail

After .6 miles we reached the signed trail junction and turned left on the Tamanawas Falls Trail.
East Fork Trail junction with the Tamanawas Falls Trail

We were now heading downhill toward Cold Spring Creek and another footbridge.
Footbridge over Cold Spring Creek

We then followed the trail up along picturesque Cold Spring Creek for almost a mile to a trail fork.
Cold Spring Creek

Tamanawas Falls Trail and Cold Spring Creek

Cold Spring Creek

The Tamanawas Falls Trail continued straight ahead at the fork, passing through a rock field while the Tamanawas Tie Trail headed uphill to the right. We would be taking the tie trail on our return trip but first we headed into the rock field and onto the slickest portions of trail we’d encountered.
View from the junction

The snow had been packed down to ice in sections and we were glad to have had our trekking poles with us. We also had brought along some traction devices for our shoes which Heather used in this section on the way back.
Tamanawas Falls Trail

We felt the falls before we could see them. As we made our way up the trail a faint breeze met us. The air had the unmistakable feel of waterfall, cool and containing a hint of moisture. I admit to not expecting much from the falls themselves. For some reason the pictures I’d seen had left me with the impression that the falls were smaller than what they turned out to be. I was pleasantly surprised when they first came into view.
Tamanawas Falls

Tamanawas Falls

We hung around for awhile exploring and having a snack. We were the only people at the falls but we were joined by an Ouzel.
Tamanawas Falls

Ouzel

After admiring the falls we made our way back to the junction with the Tamanawas Tie Trail. We turned uphill on this trail and began the short climb up to the Elk Meadows Trail.
Tamanawas Tie Trail

Sign at the junction with the Elk Meadows Trail

We followed the signs for the Polallie Campground and began descending a forested ridge. The Elk Meadows Trail had obviously seen less traffic and some sections still had a decent amount of snow. There was also some light blowdown to step over or around and lots of small pine tree limbs on the trail.
Elk Meadows Trail

Elk Meadows Trail

Although the ridge was forested we did get our only glimpses of Cascade peaks along this trail.

Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood

The trail had gradually made its way toward the Polallie Creek Canyon and we headed off trail just before the trail took a sharp right-hand turn around the ridge end to check out it out. A reported 80 foot deep flash flood scoured the canyon and washed out miles of Highway 35 in 1980 but there was no sign of that kind of power in the creek now.
Polallie Creek

After a brief descent we arrived at yet another trail junction. This was the East Fork Trail that we had been on before turning up the Tamanawas Falls Trail earlier in the morning.
Elk Meadows Trail junction with the East Fork Trail

We turned right to complete our loop. Along this 1.1 mile stretch we could often see the highway below, but it wasn’t without its sights including a neat little spring that flowed out of the ground into a small pool then quickly disappeared once again.
Spring along the East Fork Trail that disappeared back underground after a couple of feet

The trail had a few ups and downs before finally dropping down to Cold Spring Creek.
Cold Spring Creek

We crossed the creek on a footbridge and climbed back up to the junction with the Tamanawas Falls Trail that we had passed earlier. We had not seen anyone else on the trail yet that day but now that we were back on the main route we began to see a handful of others. When we arrived back at the East Fork Hood River crossing we stayed on the West side of the river and continued on the East Fork Trail to get our needed time in.

This section of the East Fork Trail alternated between being along the river and above it in the forest.
East Fork Hood River

East Fork Hood River

East Fork Trail

After about a mile the trail headed further uphill away from the river and entered an old snowy clear cut where the trees were much younger.
East Fork Trail

When the trail reentered older forest it switchbacked up just below an abandoned road. We had decided that we would continue on from here until the trail began to drop back down toward the river because we didn’t want to have to climb back up. We left the stand of older trees and entered another old clear cut where the trail did begin to head downhill. From this area we had a nice view of the Lookout Mountain area across Highway 35 to the East.
Looking toward Lookout Mountain from the East Fork Trail

A quick glance at the time told us that by the time we were back at the car we’d have hiked long enough to surpass our driving time so we declared victory and headed back. The parking area at the trailhead was packed but we’d encountered less than a dozen others on the trails.

All in all it was a great final off-season hike and the next time we head out our 2016 hiking season will be officially under way. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157666743878315