Trail Town & Waterfalls - Western Gorge Sights and Hikes

 Dry Creek Falls photographed by Yeng Tang

Dry Creek Falls photographed by Yeng Tang

Breathe in waterfall mist. Explore trails, river, fishing, and ales. Camp. Do s'more.

Cascade Locks is home to Bridge of the Gods, Pacific Crest Trail, tribal fisheries, world-class sailing, Thunder Island Brewing, and scenery that will blow your mind. It's tough to find a better gateway to nature - for people just learning campcraft and expert backcountry travelers.

Wherever and however you find nature, please recreate with respect and use Leave No Trace principles.

Getting to Cascade Locks

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From the Portland metro area, catch the Columbia Gorge Express at Gateway Transit Center seven days a week. The below times may have changed, so please double check timetables here before heading out. The Columbia Gorge Express Fall service runs October 8-December 2.

On your way to Cascade Locks tune into the Hear in the Gorge podcast, which tells compelling and under-recognized stories of the cultural history and life in the Columbia River Gorge region. The Woody Guthrie episode is about the songwriter's month-long Columbia River experience. Several miles after departing the Multnomah Falls stop, be on the look out for Bonneville Dam. This National Historic Landmark features prominently in Guthrie's work on the Columbia and is easily visible from the bus.

Getting to Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is a must-see destination, especially if you haven't seen it before. 620' tall in two drops with a gorgeous bridge between, Multnomah Falls is Oregon's Mona Lisa...although it's a heck of a lot bigger than the Mona Lisa.
  *The hike to the top of the falls is closed due to damage from the 2017 Eagle Creek fire. If you want to hike to a waterfall, we recommend going to Cascade Locks instead and hiking to Dry Creek Falls.

The Columbia Gorge Express departs from Gateway Transit Center to Multnomah Falls. Check here for schedules. The Fall schedule runs from October 8-December 2 with the Rooster Rock shuttle to Multnomah Falls operating October 12-28.

Map

 Click image to download map

Click image to download map

Hiking

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  • Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail - *Opened September 28, 2018 after a year closed from impacts of the 2017 Eagle Creek fire. From the Columbia Gorge Express stop, this paved trail will take you 7.5 miles along a forested, car-free route to John B Yeon Trailhead. Hike it or bike it. Columbia Gorge Express has capacity for three bikes. To access the trail from the bus stop, head toward the Bridge of the Gods. The trail entrance is under the bridge adjacent to the I-84 on-ramp to Portland (stay to the right to enter the trail). There are no services along the trail or at the Yeon Trailhead, and the Historic Columbia River Highway is still closed west of the Yeon Trailhead. Plan ahead for how long you intend to be out and when you need to turn back to Cascade Locks. Follow the link for additional details.

  • Dry Creek Falls - From the Columbia Gorge Express stop, this easy, family-friendly hike brings you 2.8 miles one way to picturesque Dry Creek Falls cascading over columnar basalt. Follow the link for additional hike details.

  • Gillette Lake - From the Columbia Gorge Express stop, this moderate hike takes you 4.2 miles one way to Gillette Lake through forested heights, around pods and lakes, and over the small hills of a 500-year old landslide. Fish for golden trout in Gillette Lake. Follow the link for additional hike details.

  • Easy CLIMB Trail - An easy to moderate 2.7-mile loop of undulating, multi-use single-track trail on the east end of town. If you want to mountain bike it, bring your bike on the Columbia Gorge Express (the bus has capacity for three bikes).

  • Thunder Island - A small island in Cascade Locks Marine Park accessible by a footbridge that was carved out of the mainland in 1890 to build the Cascade Locks and Canal. The island boasts views of the mountain peaks across the river, forested Gorge cliffs, and the famous Bridge of the Gods just down river. Walk about, picnic, watch barges, fishermen, and sail boats.

Stay for a bit

You've made the trip to this destination trail town - treat yourself to the river, trails, activities, and rustic experiences. Stay in town or totally surround yourself with trees. Since you arrived without a car, a Recreation Pass is not needed for day hiking or backpacking overnights.

Day 1

Arrive in Cascade Locks in the afternoon or evening. Get situated in camp or lodging. Sample ales, take on epic soft serve, or both. Sleep well.

Day 2

Hike and float your boat - be take pictures, nap, fish. Camp (or lodge) & sleep.

Day 3

Wild card. Hike more. Hang out on Thunder Island. Follow Sasquatch tracks. Cruise the Columbia on the Sternwheeler. Bus back to Portland.

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In town, camping is available at the Marine Park Campground (509-637-6911) and at the KOA Kampground (541-374-8668). Both campgrounds have showers free to campers. We recommend calling ahead to reserve a campsite.

Backcountry camping is also available for no fee. Stock up on provisions in Cascade Locks and camp at Gillette Lake or Table Mountain.

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Four motels and inns provide indoor accommodations:

  • Best Western Plus Columbia River Inn (541-374-8777)

  • Bridge of the Gods Motel (541-374-8628)

  • Cascade Motel (541-374-8750)

  • Columbia Gorge Motel (541-374-0015)

Tours

  • Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler - meal cruises and sightseeing excursions are available on this three-decker paddle wheel riverboat May to October.

  • Always Catchin Fishing Charters - a fully licensed and insured Cascade Locks-based Guide Service providing walleye, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon fishing trips on the Columbia year round.

Click for more information:

 Photo: Michael Peterson

Photo: Michael Peterson