Cape Horn

AreaColumbia Gorge (west - WA)
(Gifford Pinchot National Forest)
Best time to visitMay through mid-June
Blooming NowUnknown
Elevation120-1300 feet
Trail Info3.0 miles, 800 feet gain to excellent Gorge viewpoints
6.8 miles, 1630 feet elevation gain for complete loop
 Oregon Hikers Field Guide information
DogsAllowed, but must be kept on leash AT ALL TIMES.

Description

This relatively new trail includes wonderful Columbia River Gorge vistas and LOTS of spring woodland wildflowers. In your author's opinion, this is the best place in the area to see Poison Larkspur (Delphinium trolliifolium), which blooms profusely bewteen late April and early May. Kudos to the Columbia Land Trust, who purchased the land and secured the necessary rights-of-way for the trail.

Start your hike at the trailhead across from the Park and Ride lot, on the west side of Salmon Falls Road. Take the right fork for the "Upper Trail". The flowers start immediately: False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum), Hooker's Fairy Bells (Disporum hookeri), Candyflower (Claytonia sibirica), Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora), Pacific Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum tenuipes), Piggy-Back Plant (Tolmiea menziesii), Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa), and Large-Leaved Avens (Geum macrophyllum).

Cross a small stream and start climbing gradually on a series of generally well-graded switchbacks. The Delphinium starts here, and continues for most of your hike. You will also see more of all of the previously-listed flowers, including Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), Fairy Lanterns (Disporum smithii), False Lily-of-the-Valley (Maianthemum dilatatum), Inside-Out Flower (Vancouveria hexandra), Trailing Blackberry (Rubus ursinus), and Red Columbine (Aquilegia formosa).

After a few switchbacks, you will walk through one of several impressive "Delphinium forests". As you climb beyond that point, watch for Starry Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum stellatum), Yellow Violet (Viola glabella), Red Baneberry (Actaea rubra), and Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana).

In approximately one mile, you will reach a trail junction marked "viewpoint" and "horses". Go left for a 250 foot detour to the Pioneer Point viewpoint. This is partially obstructed but still worth seeing on a clear day. The east-facing view includes Hamilton Mountain, Beacon Rock, Multnomah Falls, and Mist Falls. You can either retrace your steps to the trail junction, or continue up a rooty "trail" to rejoin the main trail.

On the main trail you will continue to see profuse amounts of everything. Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) also blooms along this section of trail. Descend gradually to an old road and follow it for approximately 200 feet before angling left uphill again. The trail climbs gradually and emerges from the forest to cross Strunk Road. Follow the trail which parallels the road in a grassy field, then turn right at the gate onto the gravel road. After approximately 1/3 mile, go left at the trail sign and proceed to the Nancy Russell Viewpoint. This is a wonderful place to stop, rest, and enjoy the view, before retracing your steps.

Alternatively, if you are doing a car shuttle, backtrack 100 feet from the viewpoint and turn left at the trail sign (well before returning the previously-mentioned gravel road). The trail descends relatively gradually for 0.8 mile down to Highway 14. Along the way, you will pass Phoca Viewpoint, named thusly for its view of Phoca Rock in the Columbia River. Near this spot you will see patches of Toughleaf Iris (Iris tenax).

Continue your descent to the highway, passing through another Delphinium forest. Small-Flowered Tiger Lily (Lilium columbianum) blooms along this stretch, as well as everything previously-listed. However, watch out for Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) which lie in wait for unsuspecting hikers who like to swing their arms a bit too forcefully!

You will eventually descend to a tunnel that passes beneath the highway. Continue another 0.2 mile to a trail junction, and turn right for the upper trailhead along Highway 14. You will pass through another wonderful Delphinium forest en route to your car.

Directions

From Vancouver, take Washington State Route 14 east. Between mileposts 26 and 27 (approximately 7 miles east of Washougal), watch for the intersection of Salmon Falls Road on the left (north) side of the highway. Turn left, then immediately turn right and park in the Park and Ride lot. There is a pit toilet here. The trail begins on the west side of Salmon Falls Road, directly across from the Park and Ride lot.

If you can bring two cars to do a car shuttle, the "upper" parking area is on Highway 14 approximately 5 miles east of Washougal, before you reach the Cape Horn roadside viewpoint. Look for a large parking pullout on the right/south side of the highway (N 45 34.380 W 12211.9760).

MARCH 2016 UPDATE: Please consider carpooling or using Skamania County's West End Transit, which will have shuttles to the Cape Horn Trailhead during wildflower season.

Trip Reports

DateSubmitted by
Reports from previous years
04/24/2016Greg Lief
04/10/2016Greg Lief
03/31/2016Greg Lief
05/25/2015Jeff Barker
05/03/2015Greg Lief
05/19/2013Greg Lief
06/15/2012Victor von Salza
06/02/2012Greg Lief
05/14/2012Greg Lief
06/10/2011Cheryl Hill
06/03/2010Victor von Salza
05/14/2010Victor von Salza
05/09/2010Victor von Salza
05/27/2009Jim Daly
05/24/2009Greg Lief
03/27/2009Victor von Salza
06/24/2008Victor von Salza
05/18/2008Greg Lief
04/26/2007Don Jacobson

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