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)