Good, tough day-hikes in NW Oregon/SW Washington
Here are a few good workouts that I've used to prepare for backpacking trips. Several are steep, a few are somewhat spooky, but all are worthwhile destinations in their own right - they are simply too short for backpacking!
- Eagle Creek Loop
An all-day sucker! This route follows beautiful Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls, then strikes out uphill on the Eagle-Benson trail. At 4000' it reaches Benson Plateau, which is followed north (on the Pacific Crest Trail!) a few miles to the Ruckel Creek trail. This descends steeply to a spot on the old Gorge Highway which returns swiftly to Eagle Creek. I've done this one twice.. ouch!!
Storms have occasionally closed the Eagle Creek trail for repairs; the last few winters have been rough in the Columbia Gorge!
- Herman Creek - Casey Creek - Eaton Ridge loop
Another monster loop in the Columbia Gorge, a bit shorter but no less strenuous. In fact, it ascends slightly higher than Benson Plateau so its grade is tougher. Eaton Ridge is the next high ridge east of Benson, and it was chilly and breezy the day I tackled it. My legs were weak after descending the Nick Eaton trail back to the lowlands.
- Mt. Defiance
A stiff hike from the Columbia River to 4950', the highest point in the Gorge. This one remains with me even though I only did it once, in 1973 while preparing to climb Mt. Hood.
- Kings Mountain
One of the meanest hikes in the Coast Range, it crawls relentlessly uphill to great scenery on those rare clear days. I've been there three times, having been beaten back once by perpetual fog and mist.
- Saddle Mt. (Coast Range)
This one is nearly painless compared to the others, but it's a pretty hike.. unless no one has emptied the trash cans on top.
- Vista Ridge - Barrett Spur
A quick route to the north side of Mt. Hood, with great views north to Mts. Adams, St.Helens and Rainier. Barrett Spur is the prominint hump visible from Portland on the north side; I was stopped just short of its high point by an unsettling cloud-cap formation on the summit of Hood. Since those imply troublesome weather on its way, I respectfully backed off.