- Level: Easy (Beginner Level: Challenging)
- Length: 3+ miles
- Elevation: 600 ft. gain
- Type: out and back
- Open: all year
- Permit: n/a
- Drive time from Portland: 45 min.
- Google map: “John B. Yeon State Park”
- Features: Columbia River Gorge, waterfalls, basalt amphitheater, McCord Creek, Nesmith Point, Yeon Park, Munra Point
Elowah Falls is a breezy 221-foot waterfall flowing into a wide open, lichen-covered amphitheater showcasing seven layers of basalt flows. The trail to Upper McCord Creek Falls, also called Twin Falls, contains staggering views of the Gorge leading to the robust 60-foot double fan. These are truly two of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Gorge and Upper McCord Creek Falls is downright underrated. A double fan gets me big time. A forewarning, in the hotter months, the left side dries up and looks kind of sad, but I’m certainly projecting. The trailhead is home to many trails, including Munra Point and Nesmith Point, two of the most challenging trails in the Gorge. I’ve attempted neither, but life is long. I’ll get to them.
I always start with Elowah Falls and then head up to Upper McCord Creek Falls, but you can choose your own adventure. You won’t get lost.
Some things to keep in mind, I am not sure exactly how long both these trails are combined. My beloved, trusty hiking book says it’s 3 miles, but everywhere online says 4. It feels closer to 3 than 4, but consider this a disclaimer. Think about adding another short Gorge hike to increase your mileage. Also, the height measurement of Elowah Falls is often estimated to be 289-feet, but various sources state that it’s based on the inclusion of Upper Mccord Creek Falls.
From the trailhead:
There are two trailheads from the parking lot, ignore the one on the left for the Columbia River Highway State Trail, taking the one on the right by the park signboards. Head uphill to the left (ignoring the immediate fork for Nesmith Point) for 0.4 mile to a trail junction. Here you can choose to keep going forward to Elowah Falls or turn right for Upper Mccord Creek. I would choose to continue on to Elowah Falls for another 0.4 mile. (Apparently, you can make a brief detour over the bridge to a viewpoint with another 100-foot falls. Otherwise, skip the bridge entirely.) After reaching the falls, return the way you came, this time taking the uphill fork and switchbacking up for 0.7 mile. Along the way you’ll traverse a railed-ledge cliff wall with dizzying views of the Gorge and the top of now-puny looking Elowah Falls. Just beyond the railed trail is Upper Mccord Creek Falls. Return the way you came, turning left at the fork back to your car.