Lately it smells like campfires and moss outside, which creeps into the window every night as I fall asleep. I like to think of this as a sign that the world is waking up again, even though it is still way to early to be thinking about spring. Thankfully, the lack of snow in Western Oregon means that avoiding cabin fever is as easy as heading out into our backyard- the Columbia River Gorge.
Gus and I picked up a Pacific Northwest Trail guide recently and decided to start with a hike called “Angel’s Rest,” which is about 20 minutes east of our apartment. It turns out our guide isn’t terribly detailed, so we had no idea what kind of elevation changes we had in store or what kind of destination we were trekking towards.
The hike turned out to be a steady, but relatively gentle, climb up to a rocky ledge. From the parking area (free with no NW Forest Pass required) it was a short jaunt to Coopey Falls. The falls are below the path and it isn’t the most spectacular view of a waterfall in the Gorge, but it was a pleasant welcome to the trail. Due to the season, the path was icy and muddy at times, but once we came to sun-exposed hills it felt like a mild September afternoon.
Getting to the summit took some minor, minor scrambling, which is always my favorite part. At the top, it looks as if the entire Gorge is spread out beneath you. It is definitely an impressive view for a pretty easy climb. Be advised that the wind can get pretty vigorous up there. For me it felt decently mild, but I did grow up in a town where things like this happen.
Unfortunately, this was not a very isolated hike. When we arrived at the trail-head, we couldn’t even find a place to park in the overflow parking. However, all the fellow hikers were super friendly and courteous. I would recommend this hike for locals who are looking for a way to take advantage of a sunny afternoon or for tourists who want to experience the Gorge but want to avoid the massive crowds at Multnomah Falls. I’m hoping to soon have some trail recommendations for those looking for a more intense hike!
For another trail guide, check out my description of Paintbrush Canyon in Grand Teton National Park here!
Directions: Coming from Portland, take I-84 East to exit 28. Follow road through the junction with the Columbia River Highway, following signs for the Angel’s Rest/Wahkeena Falls Trail Head.
Note: Difficulty ratings for this hike range from mild/moderate to difficult. According to the Oregonian, this is a 1500 ft climb. Be sure to pay attention to your body, take breaks when needed, and bring plenty of water!