There’s something special about the first hike of Fall. The air is cooler, filled with the smell of retired leaves and dampness, and the multi-color visual display is heart-warming. I celebrated the new season with a simple hike to the Gorge’s Elowah Falls. This destination is a gem – far from the Multnomah Falls crowds, and simple for the whole family, no matter what age.
Elevation Gain: 250 feet
Time: 1-2 hours (if you walk slowly)
Difficulty: Easy-Medium effort
How to Get There: From Portland, take I-84E to exit 35 (Ainsworth). Make a left and then an immediate right. For a more gradual hike, take the road to the trailhead after John B. Yeon State Park. The incline is easier for people newer to hiking and needing a kinder ascent. Personally, I prefer the John B. Yeon State Park trailhead. I find the views are prettier, you’ll be a little further from the highway, and the “big reveal” of Elowah Falls is more impressive from this entry. If you chose the latter route, you will have a more steep incline, but still just a medium grade.
Trail Condition: The trail is well maintained throughout the year, but it will be slippery after heavy rainfall.
From the first Elowah Falls Trailhead, it’s just shy of a mile to the falls. A short distance from the trailhead, is a sign guiding you to Nesmith Point Trail #428, Gorge Trail #400 or Nesmith Spur Road, but not to Elowah. Luckily, a directions-conscious person added it to the sign, so follow to the left and up a slight ascent (about 200 feet up). In about 20 minutes or so, you’ll come around the bend and down a short switchback trail before arriving in front of the falls.
The area is just beautiful. The water has helped carve out the rock wall, and the falls themselves almost feel like a shower toward the base. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful view. If you care to elongate your trek, you can continue to the second trail head (just another 1/2 mile). This portion of the trail is not as scenic, although you will have a nice shot of Beacon Rock through the trees.