Herman Creek to Three Spires

  • Level: Moderate
  • Length: 4.8 miles
  • Elevation: 1,020 ft. gain
  • Type: out and back
  • Open: all year

Further Details

  • Permit: Northwest Forest Pass or $5
  • Drive time from Portland: 53 min.
  • Google map: “herman creek campground” (“Herman Creek trail” takes you somewhere much further away, be cautious.)
  • Features: Columbia River Gorge, camping, Herman Creek, Pacific Crest Falls, Pacific Crest Trail, Three Spires, Three Pinnacles

The drive through the Gorge was all I needed it to be. This time of year, there are always new waterfalls coming off the ancient basalt rock. I arrived at Herman Creek and promptly peeled off some layers. It was fifty degrees, warm for this time of year. I sat for a few minutes fighting against the negative self-talk dread. A month is a long time for me to not hike. I’m not a naturally athletic person and I go soft when I don’t get out. I preemptively popped a couple of Ibuprofen for the Injury-That-Must-Not-Be-Named (SCIATICA!) and got-the-fuck over myself.

I chose this trail for a few reasons: 1) I needed something to get my blood pumping, but not overly difficult after not exercising in so long. 2) I wanted to see how accessible it was after the crazy inaccessible hike I did from the same trailhead last month to Indian Point. 3) I wanted a trail I knew well enough to comfortably try out the new trekking poles Brie got me for Christmas. It was a success on all counts. The climb from the trailhead is immediate and the most intense of the climbs, but super short. Less than a mile. I huffed and puffed, my lungs constricted from lack of exertion, but I felt so great just being out. Everything was otherworldly gorgeous. The varying greens, so fantastical in their multitude, untied knots in my too tight chest. The trail held me as I click-clacked my strange morse code. The trekking poles were awkward at first, but after I turned onto the Pacific Crest Trail and crossed Pacific Crest Falls, they quickly revealed themselves to be the best addition to my gear. There are so many times out on the trails where I just need something to hold onto as I climb up some crazy rock, or cross a creek, or keep my balance as I’m going down a steep hill and now I have that thing! Trekking Poles! I totally get it now.

HermanCreek012016trekkingpolesTwo firsts: using my new trekking poles and actually using the timer on my camera. Definitely not the first stupid selfie I’ve taken, though.

I reached Three Spires too soon for my liking. I thought about continuing for another hour or so on the PCT, but my mental to-do list reared up. I did what I came to do and on a day where the tiniest, baby-est, things had me moments from taking up further residence on the couch, it was enough.

From the trailhead:

The gate to the trailhead is occasionally closed on weekdays in winter, but the trailhead is only a few hundred yards beyond. The trail begins switchbacking for 0.6 mile, crossing a powerline access road, to a fork. Go right (the left fork takes you to Indian Point) onto the Herman Creek Bridge Trail and begin descending the small stretch to the bridge. Continue past the bridge for 0.8 mile and turn right onto the Pacific Crest Trail for 0.4 mile. Use caution when crossing Pacific Crest Falls, especially in winter when the water is higher (but still only a few inches deep). Trekking poles are a great idea. *wink* Continue just 0.2 mile up to Three Spires, also called Herman Creek Pinnacles. Turn around as you came, or for a longer adventure, continue on the PCT for a bit, though I can’t vouch for what lies beyond Three Spires.

7 thoughts on “Herman Creek to Three Spires

    1. Hey! I am really liking your blog, too. Thanks for getting in touch and yes, we live in such an incredible place. I’ve seen so much already and am stoked to know there is always so much more to see.


  1. Just found your blog, and been enjoying your writing style and honesty about the hiking experience! Grew up in Portland, but haven’t been there in years, so this makes me homesick for the moss and ferns and waterfalls.


  2. Used to take my class to Herman Creek when a Cascade Locks teacher. Just the lower section tho. Being unable to walk enough to hike, I appreciate…and will appreciate…your posts. Thanks for the generous sharing.


    1. Hi! Thank you for reading and for the nice words. I’m headed out there again tomorrow. It keeps calling to me even though there are so many other great places to go. Happy to see via your blog that despite having a hard time walking, you’re still getting out into beautiful nature. Cheers!


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