A Wintry Hike to Pacific Crest Falls

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Cascade Locks Area

Winter hiking in the Columbia River Gorge’s rain forest is a stark scene. The autumn leaves have fallen off the hardwood trees, the lower canopy bushes have died back, there are no colorful wildflower displays and everything appears as a wide continuum of drab browns and greens.

But look closer and subtle beauty remains. There are snowberries, burgundy leaves from autumn remaining on Oregon grape plants and bright yellowish-green lichen hanging from tree branches.

An early January day presented the promise of a cool and rainy outing with snow at higher elevations. It was a good excuse to drive to the Herman Creek Campground east of Cascade Locks.

In a little over one mile I had hiked over a ridge and down to a footbridge over Herman Creek. There was much evidence of the 2017 Eagle Creek Wildfire.

The Herman Creek Canyon forms the east side of the 4,000-foot Benson Plateau (the Eagle Creek Canyon forms the west side.) I enjoyed the beautiful area while hiking to the west, meeting the Pacific Crest Trail in less than one mile at about 1,000 feet above sea level.

Instead of turning uphill for the five-mile hike to the Benson Plateau, I continued west. In less than one-half mile the 40-foot Pacific Crest Falls was reached, two wispy waterfalls hidden in a dark canyon.

There was several inches of fresh snow on the trail, and lots of ice where the creek crossed the trail. Since it was still raining, I decided to eat a small snack and then return to the trailhead.

A wet, but pleasant hike indeed!

Herman Creek

I had been the only hiker on this stretch of the PCT in the last day or two

Impact of the Eagle Creek Wildfire on the lower trail

Oregon Grape

PCT crossing a talus slope

An old PCT marker

The northern cliffs of the Benson Plateau rising above the PCT

The front of an old building west of the Herman Creek Campground

Pacific Creek Falls

Pacific Crest Falls (taken on a previous hike during the springtime)

Categories: Columbia River Gorge HikesTags:


  1. Love these photo’s. Makes me want to go camping again.

  2. Looks like a nice hike for reflection and taking in the wintry beauty of the trail. It relieves me to see that despite the evidence of the wildfire, life continues to find a way. Love the way the greenery dots the lower trail.

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