On the last day of January I returned to the Benson Plateau, one of my favorite destinations.
The Plateau lies at roughly 4,000 feet above the small town of Cascade Locks, bounded to the west by the deep Eagle Creek slot canyon and to the east by the Herman Creek gorge. The area is unique in that it represents some of the original Cascades’ summit surface.
I took the easiest, though unfortunately not the shortest, way to reach the Plateau – – – the comfortably-graded Pacific Crest Trail.
After a series of lengthy, sweeping switchbacks, I stopped at a dramatic vista of the Columbia River Gorge at 3,000 feet, five miles into the hike. After several more switchbacks I was finally on Benson Plateau.
For the next two miles the PCT stayed on the eastern edge of the Plateau. I stopped at noontime for a well-desired lunch break.
Then, it was an enjoyable eight miles back to the trailhead with more than 4,000-feet of elevation loss.
Few places near Portland provide this much solitude and true wilderness experience.