|OregonWildflowers Locations Ruckel Creek Trail|
|Area||Columbia Gorge (west - OR)|
|Best time to visit||Late April through mid-May|
|Trail Info||2.8 miles one-way, 2600 feet elevation gain|
|Hike information - Oregon Hikers Field Guide|
|Northwest Forest Pass required!|
The Ruckel Creek Trail offers tremendous views of the Columbia Gorge, including Table Mountain on the Washington side, Wauna Point to the west, and Indian Mountain, Tanner Butte, and the top portion of Mount Hood to the south. It also leads to some meadows that are blanketed with a spectacular display of wildflowers in late April through mid-May. However, this trail is not for the faint of foot... most of it is unrelentingly steep, especially a 15-switchback section which can be quite disheartening. I recommend hiking poles, which you find particularly helpful during the steep descent.
To start the hike, walk uphill along the paved road on the east side of the main Eagle Creek parking area. (Alternatively you can walk past the fish hatchery and follow the paved Historic Highway State Trail which parallels Interstate 84 for a few minutes, but that is much less aesthetically pleasing.) At the top of the hill, turn left onto Gorge Trail #400, which climbs gently through the forest. Wildflowers that you will see along this section (as well as the lower elevation section of the Ruckel Creek Trail proper) include: Western Meadowrue (Thalictrum occidentale), Fairy Lanterns (Prosartes smithii), Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora), Candyflower (Claytonia sibirica), Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum), Fairyslipper (Calypso bulbosa), Wood Violet (Viola glabella), and Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa).
After approximately 0.3 mile on the Gorge Trail, you will reach the paved Historic Highway State Trail, the western section of which runs from Bonneville Dam to the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks. Veer right and follow the paved trail 0.3 mile to Ruckel Creek, which you will cross on a beautiful bridge which was part of the original Columbia River Highway. There is a lovely waterfall just below the bridge, and you can get a good look by descending from the pavement on one of several use trails.
Immediately after crossing the creek, turn right onto Ruckel Creek Trail #405 and start climbing. Enjoy the creek for several brief moments, because you will quickly climb away from it for the rest of the hike.
In another 0.3 (steep) mile, you will cross under power lines and then rejoin the woods. Continue to climb through the forest, and approximately 0.4 mile after the power lines you will cross a rocky slope. The many indentations that you see in this section are ancient Native American "vision quest" pits. Although it is somewhat tedious to pick your way through the rocks, at least this portion of the trail gives you a brief respite from the unrelenting climb. Wildflowers that you will see on the rocks include red Harsh Paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), orange Rough Wallflower (Erysimum asperum), and yellow Spring Gold (Lomatium utriculatum).
After the rocky slope, you will re-enter the forest and start climbing the 15 switchbacks. Since you will probably not be moving too quickly, you should have plenty of time to enjoy the wildflowers along this section including: Small-flowered Prairie Star (Lithophragma parviflora), Fairyslipper (Calypso bulbosa), Mission Bells (Fritillaria affinis), Harsh Paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), and lupine.
At the 2.0 mile mark, you will reach a fantastic and unfenced viewpoint facing south. From here you can see Table Mountain and Wauna Lake on the Washington side of the river. Watch your step as you admire the view... it's a long way down.
Several more switchbacks above the viewpoint will finally bring you to the first of the wildflower meadows. The first is a small rocky meadow, shortly followed by a larger meadow. But don't stop there...push forward through the forest for another 0.25 mile to another even larger meadow. Wildflowers in these meadows include lupine, Harsh Paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), Upland Larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum), Chickweed Monkeyflower (Mimulus alsinoides), Common Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), Small-flowered Prairie Star (Lithophragma parviflora), Merten's Saxifrage (Saxifraga mertensiana) in the wet area, Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum), Bigroot (Marah oreganus), and hundreds of Few-Flowered Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum).
At the bottom of the exit ramp, turn right. Park in the lot next to the park host 100 yards from the exit ramp, or if that one is full, in the small parking area next to the picnic table another 100 yards along the paved road toward the Eagle Creek trailhead. Do not leave valuables in your car!
|Reports from previous years|
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Fairy Slipper along Ruckel Creek Trail
Wauna Point from Ruckel Creek Trail
Chocolate Lily along Ruckel Creek Trail
Table Mountain from Ruckel Creek Trail
Triple Fairy Slippers along Ruckel Creek Trail
Rough Wallflower along Ruckel Creek Trail
Shooting Star meadow along Ruckel Creek Trail
Wauna Point and Ruckel Ridge from Ruckel Creek Trail
Shooting Star meadow along Ruckel Creek Trail
Mount Hood and Indian Mountain from Ruckel Creek Trail
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'Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.' -- Ralph Waldo Emerson