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.

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Cooling off Along the Waters of the Columbia River Gorge

Headin east from Portland along highway 84, we raced the rising summer sun. Warming from the tip-top cliffs of the river valley down to the curving road that hugs the waters’ shore, the sun kissed the Columbia River Gorge as we set off on a day-long adventure.

Following the Historic Columbia River Highway (highway 30), from just east of Troutdale, we dotted our way slowly along the winding road in search of the scenic byway’s many waterfalls – and boy did we discover our fair share of tumbling water!

The drive started with a quick stop at the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint to take in the dramatic landscape from the mouth of this scenic byway. From here we could see the jagged cliffs of the Gorge, the shimmering blue river and our second stop, Crown Point Vista House, an octagonal shaped observatory built in 1916.

Columbia River Gorge

Escaping deeper along the highway, we rounded the corner to our first waterfall, Latourell Falls. Located within Guy W. Talbot State Park, this thin stream of water left both our mouths hanging open in awe. Plunging 224-feet from a wall of basalt, the white water impressively contrasted with the dark rock and neon green lichen that highlighted its face.

Latourell Falls

From here we continued along highway 30 to Shepperd’s Dell Falls. A series of trickling plateau, this grouping of falls took you down below the highway to catch some cool spray before hopping back in the car to take off to Bridal Veil Falls. Elegantly streaming like a wedding veil in two separate falls, this waterfall gushes with glory before it descends into the Columbia River.

Bridal Veil Falls

Next up, cascading also in two folds, Wahkeena Falls steps down 242-feet through a crack in two rock outcroppings surrounded by the forest’s lush greenery – making it quite the sight. Originally known as Gordon Falls, this waterfall was re-birthed Wahkeena – meaning “most-beautiful” in Yakima Indian – in 1915 with the completion of the highway.

Wahkeena Falls
Following the dirt trail from Wahkeena Falls for a half-mile, we finally made it to the granddaddy of waterfalls along the Columbia River Scenic Highway, Multnomah Falls. Oregon’s tallest waterfall, Multnomah cascades 620-feet in total and is fed by natural underground springs that originate at Larch Mountain. Spanning over the second fall, Benson Bridge offers visitors a unique viewpoint of the upper falls in all its glory.

Multnomah Falls
But the fun didn’t end there! Before taking the westward journey back to Portland, we cruised down the end of the scenic highway past Horsetail Falls and finally ended the day exploring the mouth of Oneonta Gorge (can’t wait to return and do this whole hike – looks epic!) as the sun started to fall in the sky.

Have you ever driven this scenic highway? What is your favorite waterfall along the route?

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

Dueling Skies at Sun Peaks Resort

If you are skier you know that weather can make or break your day on the mountain. But the same is also true: any weather is good weather as long as it adds to the powder accumulation. On my recent trip into interior British Columbia to take on Sun Peaks Resorts varied slopes, I experienced the power of weather as it dueled for my love on the mountain.

Driving up Highway 1 from Washington State, the roads were bare – hardly any snow even clung to the road ditches. Worry started to sink in. Back in the Oregon, I couldn’t even fathom that Canada wasn’t getting dumped on. That week in the Cascade Mountains, the local ski resorts received inches of snow. Some of that must be falling in Canada then too? Well with blank roads – that’s right not blanketed roads – we quickly sailed into Kamloops without a flurry falling.

“Did we take a wrong turn somewhere back there?” My mom asked in jest. “It looks like we are in Montana [in summer].” With brown, dry and windblown rolling hills stretching as far as the eyes could see, it was hard to image that we were in fact in Canada, but we refused to give up hope. Finally climbing a little in elevation, whitish brown patches started to spring up between the pine trees and then bend after bend it transformed the brown valley floor into a white carpet of crunchy slush. In the short 30 minute drive from Kamloops north to Sun Peaks Resort my excitement increased like the snow-pack. Two days of awesome downhill skiing glimmering in white piles.

Day 1: The Snow

One the first day of skiing we woke up to snow flurries lightly falling to ground and low clouds hugging the mountainous terrain. As the soft stuff padded the spring slopes, my skies sailed through the runs with delightful ease – making even my spastic turns feel picture perfect.

My family at Sun Peaks Resort

Starting the day off in the snow. Here I am with my parents at the base of the mountain.

Looking up the Sunburst Chairlift

Looking up the Sunburst Chairlift

With 3,678 acres of skiable terrain at Sun Peaks Resort, we skied down the runs in silent solitude. The peaceful slopes and cozy tree-filled runs made the socked-in day about me and the mountain, nothing else. It was a wonderful, rejuvenating experience – breaking away from technology, my iPhone and work – and focusing on nature and simple the ground and snow before me.

Empty slopes at Sun Peaks Resort

Empty slopes at Sun Peaks Resort

Day 2: The Sun

With blue skies bouncing from tree top to tree top, the mountain came alive on day two. Showcasing the terrain’s variety and Canada’s beautiful, vast wilderness, the sunshine warmed up the slopes for soft skiing but in a different way than the day before. The fresh powder melted but the runs still remained fun and fast to carve through – plus the views from the top were spectacular!

Skiing down one of the forested run on Morrisey Mountain.

View from the "Top of the World" - aka the highest chairlift point 2,080m (6,824')

With seven chairlifts, multiple trails and glades and a fantastic variety of runs (10% novice, 58% intermediate, 32% expert), Sun Peaks Resorts’ mountains makes it hard to even repeat a single run in two days.

My mom stopped on the ski run with the blue skies and white topped trees behind her.

Thanks to the kind folks at Outdoors Northwest Magazine for the awesome ski package! I won two nights’ accommodation to Nancy Greene’s Cahility Lodge in Sun Peaks Resort plus 2, two-day lift tickets for this end-of-winter vacation from a twitter contest. A ski in, ski out hotel right at the base of the lifts on British Columbia’s second largest ski mountain, the Cahility Lodge made the ski weekend feel simple, relaxed and 100% about the slopes – as any ski trip should be! Follow @OutdoorsNWMag on twitter for fantastic articles about the outdoor recreation, hiking, running, fun contests and more!

Discover the winter wonders and summer surprises at Sun Peaks Resort.

Read my wine blog post about the delicious Après Ski options at Sun Peaks Resort.

What is your favorite place to ski? Comment below!

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