Why the Eagle Creek Trail is still one of Oregon’s greatest hikes > Oregon

There are moments along the Eagle Creek Trail when you completely forget that it was the birthplace of one of Oregon’s largest and most notorious wildfires of the last decade.

In the fall, the canyon turns golden as waterfalls cascade down the cliffs from every direction, reminding hikers why this has long been considered one of Oregon’s top five hikes.

Even in the places that are burned — and the effects are clear — the burn scar isn’t overwhelming for much of the hike. There are many low-intensity fires, often referred to as “good fires,” where trees have black burn marks but the canopy is intact and the forest floor is covered in ferns, moss, or the golden color of Bigleaf Maple.

The Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge near Cascade Locks features waterfalls, fall colors and high bridges.  The trail was the site of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire and left burn scars throughout the hike.

But every once in a while you hear it – the loud cracking and cracking of a fire-weakened tree splintering and falling down the ravine. Because while the trail from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire has largely “healed,” the blazes from five years ago will make this an unstable and dynamic site of falling trees and landslides for years to come.

“The vast majority of the trees that died in the fire are still standing with weakened root structures, which means they are falling fairly regularly,” said Karen Davis, spokeswoman for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. “Also, debris and mudslides are common. Even though it’s been five years since the fire, there are still many dangers, or at least things to watch out for, especially after big storms.”

More:Oregon’s “Green Friday” brings free entry to fishing and state parks, waterfalls and tree felling

Punchbowl Falls seen from the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge near Cascade Locks.  The trail features waterfalls, fall colors, and high bridges.  The trail was the site of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire and left burn scars throughout the hike.

Even after the Eagle Creek Trail officially reopened last year, it has been closed or blocked several times by landslides. And that will probably happen again.

But at least for the time being – from November – the route for the spectacular 3.3 miles to the High Bridge is free. Additionally, there are some landslides on the next 3 miles after Tunnel Falls which make for a difficult hike and at least one semi-difficult creek crossing, but it remains open and doable.

And it’s still one of the best hikes in Oregon, especially among those that typically stay open throughout the winter, barring a few low-altitude snowstorms and the aforementioned landslides.

The Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge near Cascade Locks features waterfalls, fall colors and high bridges.  The trail was the site of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire and left burn scars throughout the hike.

As always, there are a million things to appreciate along the way, including the fall colors, hiking the edges of high cliffs and views of the endless waterfalls – including Punchbowl Falls.

“The fire opened up the view, so after a rainstorm you can see dozens of waterfalls that were previously obscured by live trees,” Davis said.

What I’ve always appreciated is how it can perfectly set up the type of day you want to have.

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