Punch Bowl Falls Hike in the Columbia River Gorge

My last day in Oregon my daughter and I spent an afternoon hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. We stopped off at Multnomah Falls and then did an easy four mile round-trip hike to Punchbowl Falls. Usually I would choose a longer, more challenging hike, but I was still sore from Sunday’s half marathon in Eugene and needed something tame.

After two days of rain and temperatures cold enough to keep me curled up on the sofa under a down blanket, the day of our hike was dry and somewhat sunny. I was amazed you could leave your house in Portland, hit the freeway, and be on a secluded forest trail within thirty minutes.

The freeway runs right along the Columbia River–the same river that took Lewis and Clark to their final destination, the Pacific Ocean. Even though we were on a major highway the scenery was lush and green, and there were numerous waterfalls cascading off the sides of the gorge. I think we must have seen close to twenty waterfalls the entire day.

We made a quick stop at Multnomah Falls. Lovely.

Multnomah Falls

At the base of the falls


After that, it was a very short drive to the Punchbowl Falls trail head. I was surprised that you have to pay to park, but I suppose the trail can get crowded on the weekends being so close to a major city like Portland. On a Wednesday afternoon, we only saw three other people on the trail.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen so many different shades of green in one space. I loved the moss growing on the trees.

Moss covered trees on the trail

I have a potted fern on my front porch. It’s always shriveled and dried up. It doesn’t like living in Texas. Now I know why.  They grow wild here in Oregon.


The trail parallels Eagle Creek the entire way.

Eagle Creek

We saw several of these guys on the path. The forest was so moist and mossy, it must be paradise for a slug.

Huge slug–Yuck!

I’m always amazed at how tall the trees are in Oregon. I can only imagine how tall the old growth forest was before the settlers arrived.

Beautiful trees

I was glad I wore my raincoat when the trail took us through a small waterfall.

Spring runoff

Behind the waterfall

There were many varieties of wildflowers, including the delicate Columbine, which tends to grow on the sides of wet cliffs and along the banks of shady rivers, lakes, and streams.

Columbine and my lovely daughter

Wildflowers on the trail

A small spur off the side of the trail leads to Metlako Falls. Apparently it’s been a very rainy spring, even for Oregon, and the waterfalls are extra spectacular this year.

Metlako Falls

After an easy two mile hike, which included some scrambling over a small stream, we reached Punchbowl Falls. I’m sure it’s named as such due to the round basin the waterfall spills into. I know people must jump off the cliffs into the pool because there was a sign warning us not to.

Punchbowl Falls

After the hike, we drove on part of the old highway along the Columbia River to find Bridal Veil Falls. For some strange reason we found the bridge named after the waterfall, but not the waterfall itself.

My specialty is missing what’s right in front of my face, and apparently I’ve passed the trait on to my daughter.

We decided to console ourselves with post hike beers at McMenamin’s Edgefield. It was a great way to celebrate a fantastic hike and my last day in Oregon with my truly wonderful daughter. Though I hate that she lives so far away, she’s chosen a great place for me to visit!


  1. melissabluefineart

    I sure enjoyed getting to “go along with you” on the trail. It is wonderful that just outside of a major city such nature is available. Your pictures (and daughter!) are lovely!

  2. gturnage

    Wonderful! Your pics are so beautiful and sharp that I felt I was there too.
    I smell an article or better yet, a publisher asking for more, more for a book! Your article beats our current read for Book Club….’Miles To Go’.
    PS Your daughter and you look like sisters.
    Hope to meet you all when we hit the lottery. 😀

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Ha! Don’t hold your breath about that publisher. Maybe one day I’ll realize that dream of walking the Appalachian Trail and write a book about it. Oh, wait, I think someone already did that . . .

  3. joannevalentinesimson

    Gorgeous photos! (pun intended) I used to do Sierra Club service trips and hiked in Mt. Rainier National Park. But I’m afraid my lungs have given out on me and I can’t do that anymore. Still, it’s wonderful to revisit those natural adventures with others, and your photos are truly evocative of wilderness.

  4. alewifecove

    I am a lover of the Gorge. Muultnomah Falls are always beautiful. My favorite is Bridal Veil Falls,closer to the city. An easy hike to the most peaceful site.
    There is a Sitka spruce west of Portland on the way to the coast that is old growth and it is massive.

  5. Dominique Schmid

    Mom, you sure did pass on that special trait of missing what’s right in front of your face! I’ve been like that my whole life… we’ll just have to save Bridal Veil for next year, right?!

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