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Trails: Eagle Creek

Metlako Falls on Eagle Creek Oregon TrailPhoto by Steve Berardi.

My favorite trail run, hands down, is the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia River Gorge. It has a variety of views that highlight the best of the Northwest, with moss-covered trees, waterfalls, foot bridges, rocky cliffs and views of the canyon below. It’s breathtaking! I take all of my out-of-town guests on this trail, and it has never disappointed.

The path is not as steep as many hikes in the gorge, making it a challenging but doable trail run. Caution is advised as there are several narrow ledges above sheer drop-offs, and these ledges can be slippery when wet. Take your time and watch your footing. All part of trail running fun right?

The Eagle Creek trailhead is also only about 40 minutes due east from Portland and not far from Hood River where there are several great spots for a post-run meal and beverage. The only drawback is that the trail is also very popular for families and hikers. So be prepared to say “on your left” frequently, at least at the start and finish of your run. The farther you get from the trailhead, however, the fewer people you’ll encounter.

The Eagle Creek trail has a distance for everyone. Below are several great turnaround locations. Double the distance listed to get the total mileage for your run. Keep in mind that distances on the trail will take longer than distances on the road.

2 miles (from the car): Punch Bowl Falls

Like it sounds, this is a waterfall that looks like a punch bowl. Water spills 100 feet into a blue-green pool. It’s a good place for a little dip, if you are brave…because it’s cold! Many times we have taken friends who wanted to hike instead of run. Little tip: Have the hikers carry a pack with snacks, and then meet them back at Punch Bowl Falls for a picnic before hiking the two miles back to the car with them.

3.3 miles: High Bridge 

Also just like it sounds, you are high above the rushing creek with the narrow canyon below you. The bridge is narrow but has railings on both sides, so you feel pretty safe. It’s a beautiful old bridge.

4.5 miles: Low Bridge 

There is a low bridge 4.5 miles from the trailhead. There isn’t anything too impressive about this bridge, but it’s a good turnaround destination if you want to run 9 miles.

6 miles: Tunnel Falls 

It’s amazing! You get to run through a tunnel with a waterfall flowing above you, a deep pool of crisp, glacial run-off below, and canyon walls beside you lined with moss and ferns! This is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in Oregon, and I highly recommend the 12-mile run it takes to get there and back!

Directions: To get to the Eagle Creek trail from Portland, travel east on Interstate 84 to exit #41. Take a right at the end of the off ramp and follow the signs to the picnic area and trailhead. One final point of caution: Because the trail follows a cliff-edge, it is not suitable for small children. More information here.

-Christina Overbeck