The Elowah Falls Hike is a 1.4 mile out and back route through the woods that brings you to a beautiful waterfall that lacks the crowds of other waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. The trail climbs gently until the Upper McCord Creek Falls
breaks off, and then the trail descends into a gorge where Elowah Falls plunges over 210 feet from the cliffs above. There is a footbridge that crosses McCord Creek before the trail continues on. There is enough room for everyone to spread out and get great views of the falls from below. On the way back, you can take the Upper McCord Creek Falls Trail
which offers good views of the waterfall from above and the smaller Upper McCord Creek Falls
, which the creek plunges over before the final drop over Elowah Falls. Though not very far from I-84, the sounds of the passing cars are washed out by the rushing water as it plunges over the falls, especially when the falls are flowing. Bring a jacket as there can be quite a bit of mist generated by the falls. You probably won't be the only one at the falls, but there are opportunities to enjoy the solitude between other groups showing up. Return to your car via the same path that you followed to the falls.
The falls produce a healthy dose of mist, so make sure you wear appropriate footwear and have a jacket if you want to stay dry, even on a dry and sunny day. There is a tree that is growing in the middle of the trail in the switch back area, which can be easily overcome, but does cross the trail.
To access the trail from eastbound I-84, take exit 35 and follow the frontage road until it almost re-enters the highway. There is a parking area on the right side of the road just before it rejoins the interstate. If traveling westbound 1-84, take exit 37 and take a left at the stop sign roughly 1/4 of a mile from the exit. Go under the interstate, turn left again and follow the frontage road roughly to the same parking area as mentioned above.
Leaving the parking lot along I-84, the trail departs from the right side of the parking lot if the Columbia River is at your back. There is an informational sign about John B. Yeon, who the State Park is named after. The trail climbs briefly uphill before arriving at a water tower that sits along the trail. Cutting back to the left, the trail continues to climb gently through the forest, running parallel to the highway before it cuts deeper into the woods. The trail is never too far from the highway, so you'll probably hear traffic throughout your hike. The trail is relatively wide, but rock strewn, as it climbs through the forest. Ferns and moss are found on both sides of the trail due to the moisture in the area. At roughly .35 miles, the trail comes to a split. Climbing back to the right, a trail climbs to Upper McCord Creek Falls
, which feed Elowah Falls. If you have time, and don't have a fear of heights, take the time on the way back to explore this trail which climbs to the top of the Falls. Continuing straight ahead, the trail to Elowah Falls continues ascending for a short distance, and then begins it descent into the gorge where the falls are located. The trail switches back a couple of times and the creek and falls come into view for the first time. The trail can be wet, even on a clear day due to the moisture from the falls and area, so make sure you wear appropriate footwear. You'll pass a small feeder stream that comes in from the right side of the trail before arriving at the waterfall. There are some rocks you can scamper out on in order to get a better view and a bridge that allows you to cross the stream with ease. Enjoy the view as the water plunges from the rock cliffs above. Moss, lichen, and ferns are found all over the rocks, making the area come alive with greens and yellows. Cross the bridge and climb a short distance up the trail on the other side of the creek for a different view of the falls, although it may be obscured in the spring and summer if the trees have their leaves on them. From this point, the trail returns to your car via the path you came.
As mentioned earlier, you can extend the route to include Upper McCord Creek Falls Trail
, where you'll get good views of the Columbia River Gorge and be able to look down on Elowah Falls from above. Even if you have a short amount of time, this hike offers you a great view of a waterfall without the crowds that can be found at the other waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge.
Lots of ferns, mosses, and lichen can be seen growing along the trail thanks to the moist environment.