hike: Triple Falls
The Triple Falls area was severely burned in the 2017 Eagle Creek Wildfire. This hike begins at Horsetail Falls and features a walk behind Ponytail Falls before continuing to Triple Falls.
distance: 4.5 miles
elevation gain: 950 ft
drive time from Portland: 45 minutes
parking pass: none, although limited entry permits are required from 9am-6pm from May to September
The hike to Triple Falls has long been a favorite of mine, with waterfalls and lush green scenery. However, after the 2017 wildfire, it no longer resembles what it once did. The narrow canyon is now much more open with views of the steep terrain and standing burned trees.
The trail needed significant rebuilding in a couple of sections (thanks to trail maintenance crews for fixing the trail), and in the summer gets overgrown due to more sun exposure. In spite of this, it’s still a pretty trail and we saw more wildflowers and birds than before.
I must admit that of all of the trails in the Columbia River Gorge that were impacted, this one makes me sad. I used to love the section after Triple Falls… it was one of the lushest, greenest fairytale lands around and will be a very long time, if ever, before it returns to that.
Starting at the Horsetail Falls trailhead, the waterfall looks much the same as before.
Views of the Columbia River from the trail. Beacon Rock and Hamilton Mountain are seen on the other side of the river.
Ponytail Falls (aka Upper Horsetail Falls) is always fun to walk behind.
After Ponytail Falls, part of the trail was rerouted up closer to the cliff walls with new rock work and steps.
More views of the Columbia River
The trail heads back in and evidence of the fire damage is difficult to escape. Every hillside is covered in stands of burned trees. In the photo below is a peek of Oneonta Falls.
I was happy to see the grotto is still here, with water dripping down the mossy surface.
Somehow, the bridge just above Oneonta Falls survived the fire.
The next section of trail switchbacks up to a ridge and follows it for about a mile before reaching Triple Falls.
Trail work is evident in this section.
Pearly Everlasting wildflowers line the trail through this section.
Triple Falls viewpoint
New bridge (2021) over Oneonta Creek, just past Triple Falls.
This section of Oneonta Creek used to be a favorite place of mine… it was incredibly lush and green, with moss and lichens covering every tree and rock in the area.
One last view of the Columbia River and Beacon Rock before heading back to the trailhead.