Waterfall Magic in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon and Washington

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14231A, Lodge


  • Discover and explore the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area
  • Experience dramatic waterfalls at high flow
  • Visit Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Bonneville Dam Visitors Center


  • Transportation from the Portland International Airport
  • Room and meals at Columbia-Willamette YMCA Camp Collins in Gresham, Oregon
  • One dinner will be at a well-known local restaurant


DatesJun 8–13, 2014
StaffGail Tooker

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Hike on multiple trails in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area, with its cascading waterfalls, towering basalt cliffs, and groves of old-growth Douglas fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar. Steep canyon walls lend to creation of waterfall magic—the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area has the highest concentration of waterfalls in North America. They come in all sizes and shapes. On the Oregon side, we will sample some of the most famous waterfall hikes. The Washington side provides hikes with tremendous views of the Columbia River and surrounding mountains.

The Columbia River has been a transportation route for many peoples as it divides the two states, Washington and Oregon, on its journey to the Pacific Ocean. Geologically, the Gorge was created by volcanic eruptions, which laid down the basalt rock; floods carved out the U-shaped valley and landslides blocked the river channel, forming the great cascades.


The exact schedule of events will be dependent on the weather and the needs of the group.

The outing will begin with dinner on Sunday, June 8 (5:30 p.m.) at the YMCA Camp Collins in Gresham, Oregon. The outing will officially end after breakfast (8:00 a.m.) at the YMCA camp on Friday, June 13.

The outing will feature a choice of several outstanding hikes:

  • A spectacular loop trip, beginning at Multnomah Falls, the centerpiece of all the Gorge waterfalls with a 620-foot drop. Our return hike will take us past amazing Wahkeena Falls. (Total distance: 5.4 miles)
  • A climb to the top of Beacon Rock (1.8 miles round trip) to enjoy a panoramic view of the entire Gorge. See the same view that Lewis and Clark saw when they came through.
  • The fabulous Eagle Creek Trail on the Oregon side, which has more waterfalls along it than any other Gorge trail. Depending on the energy level of the group, we may hike all the way to Tunnel Falls for 12 miles round trip.
  • The Dog Mountain Loop (7 miles), with 2,400 feet of elevation gain. You will be able to see Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Hood from the summit of Dog Mountain. 
  • The five-mile Oneonta-Horsetail Falls loop, including Triple Falls. We'll even be able to walk behind one of these falls.
  • Shorter hikes to Elowah and Wahclella Falls and to the Pool of the Winds could also be added, time, weather and energy permitting.



Getting There

The closest airport to fly into is Portland. Transportation from this airport to the YMCA camp will be provided by the trip leaders for participants who arrive by 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 8. The official starting time of the outing is 5:30 p.m. on June 8.

For those trip participants who will be driving, detailed directions will be provided in a pre-trip bulletin. 

Accommodations and Food

Sleeping accommodations and most meals will be provided by the Columbia-Willamette YMCA Camp Collins, located on the banks of the Sandy River, just east of Gresham, Oregon, a short drive from the Portland International Airport. We will be staying in the Health House at the Camp, which contains five private bedrooms (maximum sleeping capacity of 16 people) and two and a half bathrooms. Married couples will be given a room to themselves; singles may be placed in rooms of three to four people, depending on the total number of trip participants. This facility also contains a full kitchen and a common living area. In order to keep costs low, the camp does not supply bed linens, blankets, pillows, towels or wash cloths. We will also be responsible for keeping our living areas clean. For more information about Camp Collins and the Health House, you can visit: http://ymcacw.org/locations/ymca-camp-collins and http://ymcacw.org/conference-and-retreat-lodging

We plan to have one dinner at our favorite restaurant in Stevenson, Washington which is also included in the trip price.

Trip Difficulty

The focus is on beautiful, moderate to strenuous day hikes. You will only need to carry a daypack with your lunch and essentials. Hike lengths can range up to 12 miles, with up to 2,400 feet of elevation gain. Any hike is optional, but a program of conditioning will assure you'll be able to do all the hikes. Recommendations for this will be detailed in a future bulletin.

As this outing occurs in one of the rainiest places in the contiguous U.S. you should come prepared to hike in the rain. Some of the trails have steep drop-offs, but ample width for comfort; if you have difficulty with heights, this trip may not be for you.

Equipment and Clothing

A detailed equipment list will be sent to all approved participants, but basically you will need to provide good raingear, waterproofed and well-broken-in hiking boots, layers of clothing for changing conditions, and hiking poles for rough, steep trails. Participants are also responsible for bringing their own bed linens or sleeping bag, pillow, towels and wash cloth.



  • U.S. Forest Service Trails of the Columbia River Gorge


  • Schneider, Russ, Hiking the Columbia River Gorge.



Sierra Club is actively involved in both conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and salaried staff, and encourages grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy, and participation in the goals of the club.

We will discuss the challenges that the Columbia River Gorge area has faced through the years. It has been a major transportation route for peoples and cargoes on their way to the Pacific Ocean. Logging, mining, shipping, and roads have all affected the environment. In 1986, dedicated citizens and politicians enabled the area to receive the designation of the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area. Still the area faces challenges with a growing population, proposals for development such as the Columbia Gorge casino, wind turbines, and recent concerns about increased numbers of trains transporting coal.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from the Mount Hood National Forest.



Dr. Gail Tooker is a semi-retired professor of Science and Environmental Education at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland. She has been active in Sierra Club trips since 2003 and has served as assistant leader or leader for outings in Maine, Vermont, Oregon, Texas and upstate New York. Dr. Tooker received her advanced degrees from the University of Maine at Orono and lived in that state for nearly 20 years before moving to upstate New York in 1996 to work for SUNY. In her spare time, she likes to travel, both abroad and in the U.S., cross-country ski, go hiking and back packing, work in her gardens, and walk her dog.


Julie Koivula has been a Sierra Club member for more than 25 years. She retired from teaching and coaching at the high school level. She also taught swimming and is a first aid/CPR instructor for the American Red Cross. She has her wilderness first aid certificate, and she loves to hike, bike, canoe, kayak, ski and play many other sports. She now leads and assists on a variety of Sierra Club outings, including backpacking, canoeing, service, biking, and archaeological survey trips. Julie is the Co-Chair for the Midwest Outings Subcommittee.

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