Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls
Central Gorge, Oregon
Punchbowl Falls (photographer: Margot Kelley)
alert Trail Alert, Jan 14, 2021: The U.S. Forest Service - Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area: "The Eagle Creek Recreation Area and the Eagle Creek Trail are closed until further notice in order to remove debris deposited from flooding and repair damage sustained following a rainstorm that took place earlier this week.

"The Forest Service is partnering with the Pacific Crest Trail Association to remove large fallen trees, landslides and to address anticipated damages sustained on the Eagle Creek Trail. The cleanup will begin as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.

"The Columbia River Gorge has a complex history involving volcanic lava flows, ice-age floods, tectonic plate collisions, and other dynamic geologic phenomenon. The steep slopes and loss of vegetation from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire throughout the waterfall corridor make the area prone to landslides, rockfall, and debris flows from heavy rains. Hikers should use caution when entering burned areas. "
alert Trail Alert, Jan 8, 2021: The Lower Punchbowl Falls trail (#440B) remains closed due to Eagle Creek fire damage.
Hike Details
Type:
Out and back
Distance:
3.8 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:
500 feet
Difficulty:
Easy
Trail Features
Family Friendly:
No
Restrooms:
Yes
Trailhead Pass:
Trail Details
WildflowersWaterfallWaterfall
Possibly as impressive as the Gorge itself is the story of how this 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.
 
- Hike descriptions were collaboratively written with the generous support of oregonhikers.org.


Directions & Travel Tips

Eagle Creek Trailhead:  Traveling eastbound on I-84, take Exit #41. At the bottom of the ramp turn right. Go about 1/2 mile to the end of the road. You will go past a footbridge (that takes hikers up to Wauna Viewpoint) as the road narrows to one lane. Continue a short ways to a large parking lot; park only in designated spaces. NW Forest Pass required. Coming from the east, there is no westbound exit at Exit #41/Eagle Creek. You must continue on I-84 and get off at Exit #40/Bonneville Dam, get back on the interstate and head east for one mile to Exit #41. At the bottom of the ramp turn right. Go about 1/2 mile to the end of the road. You will go past a footbridge (that takes hikers up to Wauna Viewpoint) as the road narrows to one lane. Continue a short ways to a large parking lot; park only in designated spaces. NW Forest Pass required.