This is an incredible two-for-one hike deal. With three measly miles of hiking, you can go on two short hikes and see not one, but two waterfalls. But wait… there’s more. One of the waterfalls is a double waterfall, which means you just tripled your waterfall fun (if my math is correct). Who doesn’t love waterfalls? They’re the adorable puppy photos of the hiking world: nobody can resist them.
Both the Elowah Falls and Upper McCord Creek Falls hikes are shorties. If you were to complete them separately, Elowah would run .8 miles round-trip and Upper McCord clocks in at 1.2 miles (or 1.1 according to the sign below). This is an easy way to get out of town and breathe some fresh air for a couple of hours, with a bonus view of the Columbia River Gorge.
We loaded Gretta in the car and enjoyed a rare dry March morning on these hikes last weekend.
The hikes begin at the John B. Yeon State Park Trailhead, above.
You’ll come across this sign very early on the path, though it isn’t very helpful because it doesn’t actually point to either of these hikes. Veer left at this point.
You’ll gradually climb the slope, then at the .4 mile mark, the trail forks again. When we visited, the signpost was lying on the ground, but it wasn’t actually helpful either. What you need to know: turn right for the Upper McCord Creek Falls (which I recommend doing first) or turn left for Elowah Falls.
The path to Upper McCord Creek Falls switchbacks up a few times, which affords plenty of time to appreciate the brilliantly mossed rocks.
As you can see, there’s a cliff-y section that’s very well protected with a railing. This is when you’ll get the bonus view of the gorge and across to Washington state.
Double falls! Double falls! McCord Creek Falls is really pretty, if not spectacularly high.
When you turn around from McCord Creek Falls, you can actually glimpse the gorge.
To reach Elowah Falls, you backtrack from McCord Creek Falls to the fork at the .4 mile point and take the other trail. The path gradually, and then fairly steeply, leads down to the bottom of Elowah Falls, which provides a stunning view of waterfall, rock formations, and moss.
Elowah Falls and Upper McCord Creek Falls Hike Info (mostly from portlandhikers.org)
Distance: 3 miles total
Type of trail: Out-and-back
Time spent: An hour and 45 minutes, leisurely
Difficulty: Easy to medium (only medium because it isn’t flat and the terrain is a bit rocky at points)
No parking pass required.
Distance from Portland: about 45 minutes.
To get there from Portland, head east on I-84. Take Exit 35 and turn left at the stop sign at the end of the exit. Take the first right onto the frontage road and continue east for just over 2 miles. Turn into the John B. Yeon State Park parking lot on your right, just before the road rejoins the highway.
The trail begins on the right side of the parking lot. Soon after you begin the hike, you’ll come to the first fork (see photo above) and turn left. You’ll climb uphill, and when you reach the .4 mile mark, you’ll come to a second fork (see above). Turn right to continue another .4 miles to Upper McCord Creek Falls. You’ll traverse a section that has rocky cliffs going up on your right side and down on your left side, luckily protected by a railing. When you reach the falls, you’re at the end of that section (though the trail continues for longer hikes), so turn back and return the way you came.
When you reach the last fork, take the other trail that you haven’t yet been on to reach Elowah Falls, another .7 miles from the fork. You’ll hike down on fairly rocky footing, so be careful. This trail also continues on past the falls and across a footbridge, but this is your turn-around point for today’s hikes. Return the way you came.
Michael and Gretta, for scale. And for cuteness.