Tunnel Falls LbNA # 15887
|Placed Date||Jun 17 2005|
|Location||Cascade Locks, OR|
|Found By||bryce and family|
|Last Update||Jul 6 2008|
Tunnel Falls is named for the tunnel that workers blasted out of the basalt cliff behind the falls, while building the trail. The trail to Tunnel Falls starts at Eagle Creek in The Gorge, and is 12+ miles round trip. The trail has somewhere around 1000 feet elevation gain over the entire 6 miles to the falls. Be sure to bring water, sunscreen, and food. You'll want to take a break before you head back.
The Northwest Forest Pass is required at the Eagle Creek trailhead. The far end of this hike enters the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness area. Groups are limited to 12 heartbeats, including dogs and horses. You'll need to fill out a free pass at the point of entry.
Best times to do this hike are weekdays or early mornings, before parking is difficult and the crowds appear on the trail.
I will also use this opportunity to point out a little bit of the geology of Eagle Creek.
About 1/4 mile from the trail head, be watching for a petrified tree on your left. Please don't take any of it, just note the interesting properties and colors of the remains of the tree.
Along the hike you may notice the cliffs on the opposite side of canyon. They appear divided into layers: the top layers appear to bulge -- this is called entabulature. The bottom sections appear to be vertical columns of rock - this is called columnar jointing. This is typical of the basalt lava flows that occurred throughout The Gorge thousands of years ago.
You've made it to Tunnel Falls. Take pictures, enjoy the mist and drips on a hot day, and head out past the falls for a 1/4-1/2 mile or so until you come upon a big falls below you on your right. (I don't think it is named). On your left is a tall, pointed snag of dead tree nursing small vine maples and cedars. A part of the roots is about shoulder-height, 2 feet long and parallel to the ground. It holds up rocks and moss that hide Fly Fishing.
Please be sure to re-cover well. Even at 6 miles in, this is still a popular area.
Just a couple more minutes down the trail and you can pick your way through the rocks and water to have lunch along the creek, just above Un-named Falls.
Once you've rested, turn around and hike back the way you came, unless you are going to continue on to Wathum Lake (about 12 miles in).
After you've turned around and passed Tunnel Falls on your way back, watch for a rocky area of the trail. (Huh? you're thinking. There are rocky areas all over the place!) This rocky area is different. Trail construction workers blasted a portion of this trail out of the basalt - the properties the columnar jointed rock caused it to split into 1.5 - 2 feet round convex and concave planes through this section of the trail. At the end of this area, there are 2 seats you can rest on but since you aren't far from Tunnel Falls you are probably well-rested still. About 19 steps from the seats is a tree on your right, holding up a rock. In the crevice, covered by fist-sized vesicular (holes caused by little bubbles of gas escaping the cooling lava) basalt rocks, is Silhouette.
Please be sure to cover well.