A Fiery Fall on the Eagle Creek Trail

As cool weather settles into Oregon and fog hangs on the banks for the Columbia River Gorge, the Eagle Creek Trail illuminates in the fiery tones of fall. Following its colorful path – especially against the evergreen backdrop and contrasting grey sky – I savored and soaked in the mists of the new hiking season.

Eagle Creek

This recreation area featuring several routes of various lengths is a popular hiking spot for locals all summer long. However, once the crowds hunker down inside for Oregon’s rainy season, the true beauty of this trail unwraps.

With springs of water showering down, the trail follows the rugged cliff banks of Eagle Creek past several beautiful waterfalls. Perfect for all ages and abilities (unless you’re afraid of heights), this trail remains relatively flat as it weaves along the cascading river.

Lower Punch Bowl Falls

The first few miles of the trail lead hikers past Metlako Falls, Punchbowl Falls and Loowit Falls to High Bridge. Crossing the deep cut Gorge, the bridge serves up views of the sheer, carving power of water.

Punch Bowl Falls

With leaves of crimson and yellow lining the path through the lush rainforest, six miles into the hike, the trail reaches Tunnel Falls. About midway up the span of the waterfall, a passageway is carved behind the tumbling water. Created in 1910, the tunnel transports hikers along the amphitheater of cliffs for more spectacular view of this amazing water.

Tunnel Falls

Tunnel Falls

To complete the hike to Tunnel Falls (with time for photography stops) give yourself at least 2.5-3 hours each way. If you do go in the fall or winter, be prepared with a good rain coat and backpack cover because even if it is not raining from the sky, the cliffs spray down plenty of water to get you equally as wet.

Driving directions:

Follow I-84 for 45 minutes east from Portland to exit #41. At the bottom of the ramp turn right on Eagle Creek Lane. Go about 1/2 mile to the end of the road to park at the trail head.

Summiting the South Sister

Climbing the last stretch, a mile straight up through red-brown silt and gravel, I kept my eyes on the peak ahead. The blue sky over the rounded bulge summit at 10,358 feet beckoning me like a turquoise pendant. Reaching the top of this mountain however, awarded me with a hiking high better than any jewels could offer.

Hitting the trail, I completed the first hike of my “10 hikes in 10 years” plan by summiting the South Sister in central Oregon. The third largest mountain in Oregon and the highest of the three sisters, the South Sister is one of few climbs of its size in the state that doesn’t require technical equipment. A 12-mile round trip trail leads from the base of the valley at Devils Lake up the mountain plains then finally along a rocky ridge to the mountain’s summit. Continue reading

Hiking the Seclusive Siuslaw National Forest: Kentucky Falls

After two failed attempts to find Kentucky Falls, I finally made it to this beautiful forested hike deep in the Siuslaw National Forest. Featuring three tumbling waterfalls, the Kentucky Falls trail is a fantastic 4-mile half-day hike that follows a bubbling creek through the shade of lush trees. An out and back trail that starts with a steady downhill climb, the hikes showcases some of Oregon’s best cascading water. (One more Bucket List hike checked off!) Continue reading

A Not-So-Flat Hike to Flat Top

With sprawling views of the municipality of Anchorage, its muddy shores and the eastward mountains, the hike up Flat Top is well worth the crowded climb.

Flat Top from the start of the hike.

One of the most popular hikes in Alaska because of its close proximity to Anchorage, this 3-mile hike climbs 1250 feet to a flat lookout that gives the perch its name. A moderate trail with portions of gravel, wood stairs, switchbacks and a rocky climb to the final lookout, the Flat Top hike is an easy half-day trial for all ages. Carved by ancient glaciers, the top surface offers a great refuge for photographers on a clear day to savor in the sweet views of this mountainous state – just be prepared for lots of wind!

If you are not up for the hike – or don’t have the time- you can also get wonderful views of Anchorage, Flat Top and the valley from the lower parking lot. However, be warned that parking is limited for this trail head and the more sun, the more tourists and locals on the trail.

Trail up Flat Top

The lower portion of the trail

Gravel portion of the trail

Gravel portion of the trail

Looking out over Anchorage

Windy, Flat Top hike

I made it to the top – even with the wind!

Just beyond the clouds is the bay.

View east from the top of Flat Top

Hiking along the Umpqua River

To celebrate National Trails Day and to enjoy the outdoors, I joined up with a bunch of women from my church in Eugene for a day of hiking along the Umpqua River in southern Oregon. Following a portion of the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway, we stopped for three short hikes to beautiful cascading waterfalls on the north Umpqua. Each building in size and awe-power, the waterfalls filled the day with relaxing river sounds and a chance to get away and enjoy the fellowship of other women in the wild! Continue reading

Climbing into the Canopy in the McKenzie River Valley

Surrounded by a rainbow of green and the scent of fresh spring forest, I hung out with my feet dangling and wide grin on my face. Nothing could ruin my spirits – especially at 100 feet off the ground! Gazing over the tree tops in the HA Andrews’ Experimental Forest while attached to an old growth, I breathed in the light and clean McKenzie River Valley air and took in the moment of my first successful tree climb.

I had the joy this past week of taking a tree top adventure with Pacific Tree Climbing Institute. Based out of Blue River, Pacific Tree Climbing Institute is a registered Oregon outfitter that takes visitors on an amazing experience to explore the lush and alive forests of the Pacific Northwest. Using ropes and harnesses, the duo who owns the company, assist, train and teach guests of all ages and abilities how to climb into the forest canopy.

Using my legs to boosted myself upward and then gliding my hands up the rope, I slowly but surely moved my way up the tree. The further up in the tree we progressed, the more the beautiful little details of nature popped out: the bark with its rough surface and color like rich, dark chocolate and sweet smell, the hanging gray-green beard-like moss, and the rush of the nearby the river. In the tree top, the forest fully came alive in an animated orchestra of textures, smells and sights.

Only for a brief moment at the beginning was I afraid – where the heart quickly skipped a beat – but amazingly the higher I went the more confident and exciting the trek became. The first one to the top and the last down, I was a kid again as I hung about the limbs in that evergreen park.

Beyond just leading quick day climbs, Pacific Tree Climbing Institute also offers overnight trips in the tree canopy and educational programs. Find out more about Pacific Tree Climbing Institute and book an adventure that you won’t ever, ever forget!

Check out more photos from my climb:

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