Saturday, September 29, 2012

Post hike: Eagle Creek Alternate Route

One of our goals when we set out to hike the PCT was to stay on the official trail, no flips, no skips, no alternate routes. That meant we hiked the official trail to Cascade Locks, Oregon, not the more popular Eagle Creek alternate route.

An estimated 98% of PCT hikers take the Eagle Creek alternate route, not the official PCT, and with good reason. The alternate route is far more scenic, and has easier access to water.

After a night at trail angel Shrek's house (aka "Shrek's Swamp"), we headed for Eagle Creek.  The trail parallels Eagle Creek as it climbs the sometimes narrow, forested canyon. We climbed past tall, moss covered trees, along mossy rocks and ground. At times the canyon narrowed and our trail became a ledge along the steep rock wall, with vertical rock rising above and a sheer drop off to the water below.

We passed Punchbowl Falls, looking down as the water poured from its rocky spout into a waiting bowl-shaped pool. Then we climbed up to High Bridge, which crosses the narrow canyon hundreds of feet above the water. Continuing up the canyon, we soon reached Tunnel Falls.

Tunnel Falls. The water plummeted hundreds of feet down a vertical wall of dark rock. Our trail passed behind the waterfall via a damp, mossy tunnel through the rock. We felt cool drips of water as they dropped from the rock walls of the tunnel and sprayed from the waterfall on the other side.

Shrek (a Cascade Locks trail angel we visited on our way back through town) had warned us that Eagle Creek is a popular hike, but nothing prepared us for what we experienced on the way back down the canyon. Earlier that morning as we climbed up the canyon the trail had been deserted. Now we felt like salmon, struggling against the flow as countless backpackers, trail runners, and day hikers climbed up to the falls.

Reaching the now-crowded parking lot, we decided to visit the fish hatchery, where huge salmon were struggling upstream to spawn in their last moments of life. Some of the fish looked like they might measure 30 inches! Although the creek looked like a buffet table for a hungry bear, no animals were feeding when we visited.

We left Cascade Locks happy to have experienced both trails: the official PCT on our PCT thru-hike and the beautiful Eagle Creek alternate route as a day hike on our return trip.


  1. Hey! We are very excited that you have a blog. My son (The Barracuda) and I (Sparrow) crossed over into Canada on September 13th of this year. He was 8 and named The Barracuda. We missed you all about 7 times on the trail. You guys did California about 2 weeks faster than we did, but we are Washingtonians and the desert kicked my butt! The Barracuda did much better, but then he wasn't carrying quite the water load I was. We tackled Washington and Oregon in record time. As far as we can tell, we passed you all in Sierra City. You arrived the day just before us and met up with your grandfather or so the lady at the store told us. We left the next morning after sleeping at the church.

    The Barracuda was wanting to meet up with Monkey the whole way! It is hard being so young and experiencing so much. Hopefully re-entry was easier on you all than it was on us. The Barracuda wanted to know if Monkey would like a penpal.

    Drop us an email sometime at EndofOrdinary AT blogspot dot com

    1. I'm a duphus. EndofOrdinary AT hotmail dot com

    2. The trail community is very small, so of course we heard about you from other hikers who passed you along the way. As I'm sure you know, you passed us when you skipped ahead from Northern California to Washington by train. We were sorry to have missed you.

      Walking such significant sections of the California and Washington PCT is no easy feat for adult legs, let alone 8 year old ones, and you should be very proud of The Barracuda's accomplishments. Whether he decides to complete the PCT someday, tackle other long trails, or climb mountains, we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

  2. Do you know if the Eagle Creek Alternate route add miles or takes away miles from the PCT? Looking at doing the section between hwy. 35 and the Columbia with my kids and want to take the short route. Thanks for any help.