Oneonta Creek Pano

Gratitude on the Triple Falls Trail, Oregon

Oneonta Creek Pano

Oneonta Creek

The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind. ~ Albert Einstein

A self-indulgent whim hit me and I hit purchase on a flight to Portland, Oregon. Thoughts of cooler temps and a visit to Columbia Sportswear’s headquarters filled my head. I’d seen photos of hikes in the Columbia River Gorge area and it looked surreal.

On my first day in town, I headed straight to Multnomah Falls, a classic scene, but full of tourists. Multnomah is the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States, plummeting 620 feet down a rocky face. If you’re in the area, it’s a must see destination, just brace yourself for the crowds if you visit on a weekend.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

Later, at Columbia Sportswear’s headquarters, I asked for a few trail suggestions. Choosing from a list of ideas, I opted to hike to Triple Falls the following day.

The landscape along the Columbia River Gorge was a sharp contrast to what I had become used to hiking the Wasatch Range in Utah. The trail was comprised of red clay embedded with rocks, some obviously volcanic. Lining the slopes rising above the trail were lush ferns, moss covered rocks and a thick canopy of trees. Light dappled the underbrush, enhancing the multiple shades of green. From shadow to occasional sun, I kept removing and replacing my sunglasses.

Columbia River Gorge

The Gorge is a spectacular river canyon 85 miles long and up to 4,000 feet deep. Carved by volcanic eruptions and Ice Age floods over millions of years, the Gorge is the only sea-level route through the Cascade Mountains. The cataclysmic floods also transformed flowing river tributaries into hanging waterfalls creating the largest concentration of waterfalls in North America. ~ Friends of the Columbia River Gorge

Inhaling deeply, I could feel the humidity in the air, and smell the forest. The odor, a mix of damp soil, trees and another musky sent I never could place. The later would come and go as I hiked making me wonder if it was a specific plant.

I had a few things on my mind as I hiked. It occurred to me that the trip was likely ill advised on many levels, one being that, while I was enjoying my solo hike through the tapestry of moss and trees, I should have saved money and stayed home. However, as a member of the #OmniTen crew, I also really wanted to meet the Columbia Sportswear gang in person. After putting a few miles of dirt under my feet, I chilled out and decided to let the critical thoughts go and enjoy my hike. By the end of the hike, I was thrilled I had made the journey.

My new home in Salt Lake City sits at 4,327 feet, and many of my hikes take place at 8,000-10,000 feet. Meanwhile, Triple Falls sits at 600 feet. The denser air at the lower elevation had me feeling fine. Let’s rephrase that, I felt like I’d downed five Red Bulls. I even ran sections of the hike while other hikers were huffing and puffing. For once, I wasn’t the one gasping for breath as I often do at home.

The overlook for Triple Falls is situated across a ravine making it hard to take a photo that captures its size with any perspective. I hung out with several groups and we did our best to snap good photos to little avail. Not really digging the crowds, I decided to continue hiking up river.

Triple Falls

Triple Falls – Note the people on the bridge just upstream of the falls to get a perspective of the size.

Shortly after crossing the bridge located just upstream of the falls, crowds thinned and the landscape became fairytale-like. I kept expecting to see nymphs or fairies flitting about between trees and moss covered stones.

Triple Falls Trail Oregon

The color on this section of trail stopped me mid-step.

Winding uphill to the left of the river, I was giddy over the beauty around each turn. Detouring a short distance to the riverbank, a mix of trees lichen, moss, and shrubs, each painted with strokes of filtered sunlight, blended into a complex natural backdrop for the river. I plopped down on a large boulder. At that moment, I felt joy and gratitude. All of the doubts I’d had about making the trip drifted away like a morning fog. I felt thankful for my health, to be able to make the hike; my work, which provided the means to travel; and my resilient spirit, for the beautiful life I’m living. Mostly the latter.

Spending time in the wilderness has helped me stay connected and hopeful. Maybe it’s the consistency. I always know that nature keeps moving forward, season after season, no matter what. In that, I find inspiration to do the same. Spring follows winter….

Mossy stones on Oneonta Creek

One of the most peaceful spots I’ve found along a trail in a long time.

Gratitude on Oneonta Creek, Oregon

Spending a moment in gratitude.

Wiping away happy tears, I resumed my hike up to a another bridge over Oneonta Creek where I turned around and had a great trail-run back to Triple Falls where heavier traffic slowed me down until I reached the trailhead.

Third Oneonta Creek Bridge

My turn around point.

If you go:

  1. Trailhead: Oneonta Trailhead, roughly 45 minutes drive from Portland.
  2. Distance: 3.2 miles round-trip to Triple Falls, 5.4 miles round-trip to the bridge.
  3. Pack: The 10 Essentials

Comments 10

  1. Beautiful waterfalls and a lush forest makes for a great hike. I love it how the crowds thin out the deeper you get into the woods. You never have to walk far to escape the hordes.

    1. That’s so true. Does it make me a bad person that I’m glad some people are too lazy to crowd the trails? The waterfalls were really pretty. I stopped at Horsetail Falls on my way out also.


  2. Good Morning Erika,
    Great to see you exploring the Pacific NW! As always, distancing oneself away from tourists that are around the main attractions to really get a good feel for what the area is really like, makes it seem like a different world. I solo hiked the Rock of Ages Loops few years back that brought me out past Triple Falls/Horsetail Falls. Pictures and terms such as beautiful and amazing would be an understatement to describe this area. You described your trip and hike to the Columbia River Gorge perfectly!
    Thanks for another great post!
    Thaddeus D.

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