Elowah Falls/McCord Creek Trails
To avoid the crowds while taking in spectacularly varied gorge landscapes, try Elowah Falls/Upper McCord Creek Trails.
From Portland, take I-84 past Multnomah Falls east to Exit 35, Ainsworth State Park. As you come off the access road you’ll have a choice of left turns. Take Frontage Road, with signs for Dodson. This road may also be accessed from the Historic Highway after driving 5 miles east of Multnomah Falls.
Drive about 2 miles to the small parking lot of John Yeon State Park, named for one of the major advocates of the Columbia River Highway. In the western corner of the lot is the trailhead. Follow it 0.5 miles up the hill. When you reach a junction of two trails, turn right for Upper McCord Creek and left for Elowah Falls.
The Upper McCord Creek trail leads to a mossy glade framing a creek at the top of a waterfall just under 1 mile from the junction. En route, the trail narrows to a ledge carved out of a cliff. From behind a railing, gaze hundreds of feet down at the Columbia in the foreground of 12,306-foot Mount Adams.
Across the chasm, layered basalt strata indicate successive lava flows. This is a good place to look for ospreys riding the thermals before they dive down to the Columbia for a fish. The trail continues to a view of dual cascades descending the rock face.
Retrace your steps to where the trail forks and descend 0.5 miles from the junction to Elowah Falls. This 289-foot feathery cascade is set in a steep rock amphitheater amid hues of green that conjure the verdant lushness of Hawaii.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel