There are several treks in the Scenic Columbia Gorge, the country’s first scenic byway. I looked up how many hikes there are in the Columbia Gorge on Google but couldn’t find an answer. We attempt a new gorge walk almost every time we visit this region. Many waterfall hikes and walks with spectacular views of the Columbia Gorge are available. My kids enjoyed some of the treks we went on, but others were difficult. I didn’t include any hikes that they found difficult. These are the 10 Best Hikes for Kids in the Columbia River Gorge that I’ve identified so far, and practically all of them have waterfalls and stunning vistas.
What is it to hike at the Red River Gorge?
The Red River Gorge Geological Area and Clifty Wilderness, both part of the Cumberland Ranger District of the much larger Daniel Boone National Forest; and the Natural Bridge State Resort Park, which is part of the Kentucky State Parks system, are the three officially designated areas in the vicinity of Red River Gorge. Because rules and laws differ from one place to the next, it’s important to know where you’re going. Dogs are not permitted on the trails at Natural Bridge State Resort Park since it is also a designated Kentucky State Nature Preserve, but they are allowed in Red River Gorge.
This is a summary of the attractions in the Red River Gorge region. I’ve included a selection of hikes ranging in difficulty from very simple to demanding. Even the most daring walks described here would probably only be a moderate challenge for an experienced hiker. If you are new to hiking, however, I recommend beginning with the easy or moderate walks before attempting the Auxier Ridge, Auxier Branch, Double Arch loop or the Gray’s Arch, Rough Trail, Pinch ‘Em Tight loop. These more challenging excursions cover longer distances and have a few navigational obstacles, as well as high hills to climb and descent on rocky, bumpy, and slippery routes. Be aware of your capabilities and limitations, and be ready!
We’ll begin in the east and work our way back in order to track the spring bloom, which should begin in mid-March most years. For the most up-to-date information, visit Oregon Hikers Trip Reports Forum.
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1. Tom McCall Preserve
Start at Rowena Crest Viewpoint, approximately 6 miles east of Mosier on the Historic Columbia River Highway. 2-mile distance. About 200 feet gained in elevation. Ticks and poison oak, as well as one location which you should avoid owing to cliffs.
There are two treks available here. One is a two-mile walk through the wildflowers with spectacular vistas of the Columbia River and even a couple of ponds where you can listen for frogs and check for birds. This should be a magnificent floral display from now through April, with very little work. To the right of the first pond are the cliffs.
The other trek is a three-mile loop to McCall Point, which offers a fantastic vista of Hood and Adams. However, the path climbs roughly 1,000 feet. The initial portion should be easy for youngsters, but after the switchbacks begin, you may want to turn around.
2. Catherine Creek
Start at Catherine Creek Trailhead on Old Highway 8 in Washington, approximately 8 miles east of the Hood River Bridge. Up to 2.5 miles in length. Gain in elevation: Possibly 700 feet. Ticks and poison oak, as well as large weekend crowds, are all things to keep in mind.
There are three treks here, all of which are nice rambles through flower-filled meadows with meadowlarks serenading you. Head left from the trailhead, facing up and away from the river, for a 2.5-mile circle that passes through a couple of tiny streams and ends with a vista of Rowland Lake. You arrive to a vista with a beautiful old snag of a tree after a mile from the vehicle when it begins up the
Hike #2 is a 2-mile circle that takes you through additional meadows and along the stream, finally ending at the top of a spectacular granite arch. You’ll also come upon the ruins of a former corral. Option #3 is a paved, 1.2-mile all-access route located below the trailhead, which is ideal for strollers and small children.
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3. The Labyrinth
The Labyrinth has a lot of intriguing locations to explore! You can start at the junction of WA 14 and Old Highway 8 about 5 miles east of the Hood River Bridge. 2-mile distance. Gain in elevation: Probably 570 feet. Ticks and poison oak are two things to keep in mind.
The Labyrinth, located just west of Catherine Creek, is a spectacular region with rock formations, pocket meadows, waterfalls, a cave, wildflowers, and rivers – ideal for exploration. And now that there are genuine marked paths, being lost is not only possible, but strongly advised. Look for paths leading upward as you go along the former westbound roadway. Or simply go for a walk. It was a fantastic experience!
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4. Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls
This path is now blocked due to landslides as of January 2021. For the most up-to-date information, contact the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. There are also some cliff-top areas that may be frightening to little children.
Start: Just after Bonneville Dam, at Interstate 84 Exit 41. 4 miles in length. Gain in altitude: 300′ Special Points to Consider: A difficult, rocky terrain with several steep cliffs and ropes to hang onto. You’ll also need a Northwest Forest Pass.
Because of the ledges, I hate to put this on a list of kid-friendly hikes, although they aren’t in the first mile. And there are wires to grab onto on the ledge on the way to Punchbowl Falls, which is well worth viewing. Even though it was burned in 2017, this is still a paradise of canyons, forests, waterfalls, and easy trails.
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5. Wachlella Falls
Start: From Interstate 84, take Exit 40 for Bonneville Dam. 2-mile distance. Gain in elevation: 200′ Special Notes: You will need a Northwest Forest Pass.
For youngsters, this may be the finest of the bunch: simple access, a short climb with no dangers, and gorgeous waterfalls. What’s not to like about that? Most of the time, you’ll be walking besides the stream, and when you get to an unmarked crossroads, you may go either way, but I suggest taking the right. It stays close to the stream and avoids a minor hill. Here’s a great payout for not putting in a lot of work.
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6. Beacon Rock State Park
Begin your journey at Beacon Rock State Park. The distance between the two points is 2.2 miles. 700 feet gained in elevation. Special Notes: To park, you’ll need a Washington Discover Pass.
Pool of the Winds: The first mile of a nice training climb up Hamilton Mountain is here. There are a few steep portions here, but they are short, and the waterfall is well worth the effort. There’s a side route to gaze at the falls at 0.9 mile, then a trail lowers down to cross Hardy Creek 100 yards later before ascending up to Hamilton. But don’t forget to continue up from the junction to visit Rodney Falls, also known as Pool of the Winds, where water cascades from a small nook in the rock face.
Beacon Rock: Because it’s virtually just scaffolding on the edge of a cliff, this one can make youngsters apprehensive. If they’re eager for an adventure and aren’t frightened of heights, though, it’ll be a memorable experience. There are also railings on the way. It’s 1.8 miles up with switchbacks and a wonderful view at the summit.
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7. Elowah Falls
Start: Exit 35 off Interstate 84, 2.1 miles east on the frontage road to John B. Yeon Trailhead. The distance between the two points is 1.4 miles. Gain in elevation: 280′ Special Notes: There is a clifftop trail with railings. There’s not much to this one except that it’s a short trek to an incredible waterfall that few people seem to be aware of. Families with little children, on the other hand, are the ones who do. For all the individuals who know about hiking in the Gorge, this little track seems to be completely unknown.
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8. Ponytail Falls
Because to the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, this path is still blocked as of January 2021. For the most up-to-date information, see the National Forest website.
Start at Horsetail Falls on the Historic Columbia River Highway, approximately east of Multnomah Falls. Distance: 0.8 miles, with the possibility of increasing to 2.6 miles. Gain in elevation: 280′ If you go the extra mile, you’ll have walked half a mile on the highway shoulder.
This climb is considerably better for kids than its overcrowded neighbors, Multnomah Falls and Wahkeena Falls, in my opinion. Sure, you should do them, but on this much more private trek, you’ll get to see two fantastic waterfalls and even stroll behind one! That’s all in the 0.4-mile one-way trip up above Horsetail to Ponytail Falls. You’ll see a weeping wall, reach the top of Oneonta Gorge, and then descend back down to the highway, where you’ll walk to the right back to your vehicle if you extend –
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9. Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge
This one is closed for development as of January 2021. For the most up-to-date information, go here. Begin at the Horsetail Falls parking lot along WA Highway 14, just east of Multnomah Falls on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Distance: 0.8 miles, with the possibility of increasing to 2.6 miles. Gain in elevation: 280′ If you go the extra mile, you’ll have walked half a mile on the highway shoulder.
Steigerwald Lake NWR, which established just four years ago, is mostly recognized as a birding haven. There’s a 1.2-mile path that runs through it, as well as one additional side trail, two lakes, and an ancient levee road on the opposite side. As a result, it’s nothing more than a leg-stretcher, with signs prohibiting running, motorcycles, horses, and pets, even on leash. Overall, it’s a nice little leg stretching and a great spot to see our flying friends. And our crawling companions, for that matter.
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10. Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area
Begin at the Troutdale parking lot along Interstate 84. Distance: As far as you want to go. Gain in altitude: none. Special Notes: Dogs, dogs, and more dogs! Oregon State Parks provided this information. Peaceful Places in Portland is included in my book.
This is canine heaven has 1,400 acres of forests, forest, streams, and (in the winter and spring) ponds and mud puddles are crisscrossed by roads and pathways. There are also dogs off-leash all over the place. In fact, I felt strange and out of place since I didn’t have a dog with me. I won’t advise you which path to take since they’re all great and very much the same, however it’s worth making the trip out to the Sandy itself. Once you’ve arrived, look around for trees that have been gnawed on by beavers. Just know that between November and May, you won’t be able to get there with dry feet (or at all).
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This collection of maps, which contains most of the gorge region trails as well as a large amount of information not displayed on other maps, is highly recommended if you intend to do any hiking in the Red River Gorge area. This collection of maps may be purchased online via outrage GIS Mapping or from local retailers. We bought our kit (an older model) for roughly $15 at the Gladie Learning Center some years ago and have found it to be really helpful for all of our Red River Gorge trips. Then you can receive all the support you need to explore the hikes along with your kids. You can gather some unforgettable experiences at these hikes.