Hiking the Oneonta Trail to Horsetail Falls, Ponytail Falls, and Triple Falls, with a side trip up the Oneonta Gorge, August, 2010

Click on the small pictures to see larger ones.

I wanted to make today an easy one, after yesterday's ten-miler, so I chose to explore some popular tourist attractions in the Columbia Gorge. Just past Multnomah Falls lies a great trail loop on the Oneonta Trail that takes in Horsetail Falls, Ponytail Falls, and Triple Falls, with a stroll through the Oneonta Gorge on the way back to the car. It was a 4.5-mile day and was a sunny 78 degrees. Perfect for a stroll in the woods!

The looping trail - 4.5 miles
Elevation Profile

The loop starts at the popular Horsetail Falls and goes up-up-up from there. The falls are right by the highway and folks like to wade in the pool at the bottom of them. The water falls hard, though, so folks steer clear of the back of the pool. Ponytail Falls, up above Horsetail Falls, are really worth the hike because there's a cavern behind them and the trail goes back under them. It's refreshing to stand behind the water for a bit. It's not a terribly tall waterfall, as far as Oregon falls go, but the pool below is accessible and generally less crowded.

and away we go!

Ponytail Falls

logjam downstream

neat bridge!
kinda scary

steep trail, watch your
step here

Triple Falls

bridge over non-troubled waters

top of Triple Falls

To really lose the crowds, though, keep hiking around the ridge and up the valley wall to Triple Falls, where the Oneonta Creek divides itself into three dramatic falls. These are also accessible and the space above the falls is a terrific place to have lunch!

The hike back down to the Oneonta Trailhead is easy (and downhill!) and the Horsetail Falls parking area is just half a mile up the Columbia River Highway, so it's an easy walk. Along the way, I stopped and explored the Oneonta Gorge, which is really neat. It's a narrow opening where the creek has carved a 'V' on its way down the mountain. I didn't have my wading shoes with me, so I didn't go past the first log jam (which was cool!) but apparently, if you don't mind getting your feet wet, you can go up-river quite a ways. I'll have to get back there sometime and explore some more!

neat place to stop
and explore

massive logjam in
Oneonta Gorge

rebuilt tunnel

Horsetail Falls

The only problem with Oneonta Gorge is that it operates as a kind of daycare for wild children. Seriously, it gets loud back in there with tons of shrieking kids and apparently no adults who care. In fact, I think that if you have someone that you want to stab to death, you might be well-advised to take them back into Oneonta Gorge and do it there; their screams for help will not be heard over the din of the children running helter-skelter all over the place. Between that and the noise at Horsetail Falls (which I call "Romper Falls"), it wasn't really a good scene for me. I'll go back when school is in session...

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