Just an hour from Portland, Oregon, lies a wonderland of rugged cliffs, old-growth forests, and as many waterfalls as there are bends in the trail. Sample the best of it on this challenging 18-mile.
On day one, follow the Mt. Defiance Trail from Starvation Creek State Park, nine miles west of Hood River (leave a shuttle car at the Herman Creek trailhead, two miles east of Cascade Locks). Keep your camera handy—you'll pass three falls within a mile of the trailhead, plus dense patches of lupine. In another half mile, the route passes Cabin Creek Falls and Hole-in-the-Wall Falls—the latter a tiered, whitewater ribbon flowing down mossy, 100-foot cliffs. Then climb a forested ridge overlooking Wonder Creek to the rock-strewn summit of 4,960-foot Mt. Defiance. Expect serious steeps and switchbacks as you gain 4,500 feet of elevation in roughly four miles.
From Defiance's summit, you'll see a multitude of peaks. Mt. Hood, 20 miles away, dominates the southern view. From the summit, it's 2.5 miles to tent sites at North Lake. Pitch your tent facing southwest for up-close views of Green Point Mountain.
Day two combines a descent of Nick Eaton Ridge, with great views of the Gorge, and a traverse above Herman Creek. Expect minimal foot traffic and an abundance of old-growth cedar and fir as you navigate the final ten miles, passing lush side canyons, chanterelle mushrooms, and cascading creeks, to the Herman Creek Trailhead.
-Mapped by Joe Kurmaskie
TO TRAILHEAD: Start: I-84 E to exit 55 (follow signs for Starvation Creek Trailhead). Go 0.2 mile to parking. End: I-84 E to exit 44 (toward Cascade Locks). Merge onto US 30 E/WA-na-PA St. In 1.5 miles, continue on SE Frontage Rd. In 1.3 miles, bear left onto NE Forest Ln. Go 0.4 mile to Herman Creek Campground (parking on right).
Distance: 17.63 mi
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Points of Interest
Location: 45.687950, -121.690102
From cul-de-sac lot, hop on the paved multiuse trail that parallels the highway.
Location: 45.687832, -121.694298
Bear right @ Y-junction. In 200 yards, trail passes Cabin Creek Falls.
Location: 45.687500, -121.697700
Hole-in-the-Wall Falls: This cascade was created by highway workers in 1938 to prevent nearby Warren Creek Falls from flooding the highway. Look closely: The water plummets 100 feet from a blasted hole in the cliff.
Location: 45.686733, -121.702728
Turn left for falls.
Location: 45.685501, -121.704002
Continue straight @ 3-way, hiking west. Ahead, pass Lancaster Falls, a skinny 25-foot cascade.
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