hike: Herman Creek Pinnacles
The basalt monoliths on this hike aren’t the only interesting feature: a metal footbridge over lovely Herman Creek, wispy Pacific Crest Falls, and a mossy section of lava boulders add to the appeal.
distance: 4.6 miles (out and back)
elevation gain: 1,300 ft.
best season: spring, fall, winter
drive time from Portland: 1 hour
parking pass: NW Forest Pass
hike description: OregonHikers: Herman Creek Pinnacles hike
This hike begins in a mixed forest of Douglas fir and bigleaf maple trees covered heavily with lichens and moss. After crossing uphill to an open power line section, stay to the right on the path and continue on the trail through a bit more forest before encountering a stretch of moss covered boulders, some with cave-like openings at their base which look like they could be home to elves, trolls or other forest folk.
This area was impacted heavily by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, and it’s apparent as soon as you pass the powerline/road and reach a section with large boulders on both sides of the trail. This section used to be entirely covered with moss, and while a lot of it was burned off, it is starting to make a comeback.
At a signed trail junction, fork to the right on the Herman Creek Bridge Cutoff Trail. Heading downhill towards Herman Creek, which you can hear below you for quite a distance, the trail crosses a long metal footbridge, which offers great views of Herman Creek in both directions.
Many of the trees in forest have blackened trunks, and areas that used to be filled with a lush understory and mossy groundcover are now a bit more bare and rocky. But there’s still plenty of scenic beauty here. One of my favorite spots is the bridge over Herman Creek, which survived the fire unharmed. Since this is the only place the trail is near the river, I like to spend a few minutes here and soak in the views of the creek, with the water rushing past moss-covered boulders as it makes it way to the Columbia River.
About one mile from the creek, turn right on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a 2,650 mile trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. Continue through alternating forested and rocky talus slopes, with occasional openings to views of the Columbia River and the Washington side of the Gorge, to Pacific Crest Falls, a wispy waterfall that cascades down the hillside above and below the trail. In early spring, the water flow is at its peak, making the waterfall a nice feature of this hike.
Continue on the trail for about 250 yards to the pinnacles. A small rocky path leads to a nice open area at the base of the spires. Spend a bit of time exploring around the spires – there are several small paths leading up and around the bases of these fascinating structures.
Optional longer hike: in another 1.3 miles is Dry Creek Falls, a relatively unknown waterfall that is anything but dry. Return the same way.