Cape Horn: The Pacific NW Hike That Will Leave You Smitten
“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.” – Linda Hogan
Cape Horn, a dramatic series of cliffs that overlook the Washington side of the Columbia River, is one of the most scenic hikes that you will find in the Columbia Gorge. It’s also one of the closest hikes to travel to in the Gorge from either Portland or Vancouver. And during the week, you are likely to have the trails to yourself.
The full loop is 7 miles, or it’s easy to hike the trail section by section, depending upon where you park. Note that from Feb. 1-Jul. 15, the lower section of the Cape Horn trail has a seasonal closure for nesting peregrine falcons. Note that failure to respect the closure can result in a $5000 fine.
While the main destinations for the trail are the stunning views of the Columbia Gorge on the upper trail and Cape Horn Falls on the lower trail, I love that every part of the trail has some magic to be found. Intricate spider webs, looming trees, and blooming flowers are just some of the things that will captivate you on the trail.
The trails are easy to follow, but not well-marked, so I recommend getting a map of the trail before you go.
You can see views of Multnomah Falls, Beacon Rock, Angel’s Rest, and Hamilton Mountain from this trail. The views are really quite stunning. I especially loved Cigar Rock viewpoint with its Cigar-shaped rocks.
The falls weren’t exactly flowing in late July when I hiked this section of the trail.
I highly recommend either doing the trail in segments or parking a car at each trailhead. Otherwise, you have to walk a section of the highway to do the loop, and it’s not very safe. My friend and I wound up hitchhiking when we did the trail, as we felt that was safer than walking the highway.
There is a gravel pullout at milepost 24.6 that’s closest to the lower trail, or you can park in the Park & Ride area at Salmon Falls Road.
The Cape Horn Trail in Washington has definitely left me smitten, and I hope it does the same for you.
Drive I-205 north and take Exit 27 for Vancouver, Camas and Highway 14.
Stay left for Camas and drive 0.9 miles before merging with Highway 14.
Continue 19.8 miles, passing through Camas and Washougal, and, after decending from Cape Horn Viewpoint, turn left onto Salmon Falls Road for the Park & Ride.