Columbia River Gorge Loop Backpacking

Hood River, Oregon

Columbia River Gorge Loop (Backpacking) Professional Review and Guide

"Close proximity to Portland and a wealth of easily accessible attractions ensure that dayhikers will always dominate the trails of the Columbia River Gorge. For those willing to invest more time in exploring the gorge’s wonders, however, a backpacking trip is ideal.

This loop provides an excellent sampling of all the gorge has to offer. There are deep forests, waterfalls, splashing creeks, high viewpoints, and cliffs. It includes busy trails beside major highways as well as rarely traveled paths in the remote backcountry. There is no better way to get to know and appreciate this special place."

Columbia River Gorge Loop (Backpacking) Reviews

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Although, this route was, ultimately, amazing, we ran into a couple dangerous situations due to lack of water and daylight. ALWAYS TRY TO DETERMINE CURRENT STATE OF WATER SOURCES BEFORE PLOTTING YOUR ROUTE. We decided to press on after Herman Camp to get more miles behind us the first day (planned to complete in just over 2 days. After stumbling across two other hikers trying to filter water from a near-stagnant puddle of water, we learned that there really wouldn't be any water between Deadwood Camp and Rainy Lake. We had to press on the rest of the route to Rainy, which included a BRUTAL climb to Ridge Camp and beyond (again--the Trail Guide references a water source along a path to the east of Ridge Camp, but it was BONE DRY). All in, we did about 20 miles the first day, but with some unexpected detours, extreme heat, waning water supply, we pulled into Rainy Lake in virtually pitch black of night. I would suggest bringing along a detailed map of the area and a compass to correlate with the directions in the trail guide, as directions can sometimes be a bit unclear. Do your research, know your water sources, pack appropriately, and this should be an amazing journey into the wilderness!
Some of the description was slightly confusing. After winding through woods across from the Cascade Locks freeway exit you meet a dirt road but you don't turn left but rather go straight and follow the North Pacific Crest Trail. The Gorge Loop itself is beautiful and worth while. The viewpoints are spectacular. If you stay at Rainy Lake take a left at the junction and there is a nice campsite that isn't as windy as the one right next to the lake. All in all worth while, and it was sunny the whole time (end of august)
I walked this route exactly as the author suggested except I completed the loop in 2 days. The elevation gains are mostly gradual and I had no trouble with 20 miles per day (I travel ultra-light with 7-10 pound pack). The author described the route perfectly. The Gorton Creek trail is grown over requiring you to push through thick vegetation in spots. I saw no other hikers and cleared the cobwebs from the start of Groton Creek trail until Wahtum Lake. I spent the night at Rainy Lake. There were tremendous winds there all night. The lakes are not as I was hoping. They are forest lakes, not alpine. This route is really a wonderful loop. I may hike it again some time, or possibly use the PCT instead of the Gorton Creek trail, for variety. Eagle Creek trail has some of the most inspiring scenery in Oregon. Another hiker told me he saw a bear at the junction of Herman Creek and Nick Eaton trails. Since I hike solo, I made noise in that area and so didn't see it.
This is an excellent trail, with one notable exception (more on that later). We did this trail in 3 days (trailhead->deadwood camp->wahtum lake->out), instead of the suggested 4-5 days. Definitely do-able in 3 days, but all the elevation gain is done on the first 2 days. Be ready to feel burned out. Didn't see a single person first 2 days, which was nice. Highlight of the trip was Indian Point (sidetrip). The author seems to enjoy taking the path less traveled, which, often times, means taking the more difficult path. Most of the time, we didn't mind. But, the Nick Eaton trail that he suggests out of Herman Camp is pure torture (2400 ft elevation gain in about 1 mile). My god! We did it at the end of the first day. His itinerary calls for it at the beginning of the second day. Either way, just take the alternate path to Indian Point. You'll thank me later. We did not see anything exceptional on the Eaton trail and you will be busy catching your breath than have any time to appreciate the views. Most of the sidetrips are well worth it, especially since you won't be carrying your pack. I like how the auther saves the best for last (all the waterfalls, bridges, creeks, etc.). Also, it's downhill, so you can really take everything in at a leisurely pace. All in all, this was a very good trail. Lots to see. Uncrowded trails, except the Eagle Creek trail part at the end of the trip.

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Trail Information

Hood River
Nearby City
6,900 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
4-5 days
Usually open mid-May to November; best late May to June / mid to late October
Mount Hood Information Center
Local Contacts
USFS - Trails of the Columbia Gorge
Local Maps