Cape Horn Loop

Date: May 24, 2009
Distance: 7.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1100 ft
Time: 3.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Weather: Perfect hiking weather, mid 70s with a breeze.
Maps: This is the standard map. It is available at the trail head, but it's probably a good idea to print it and bring it with you in case they've run out.
My Route:
We followed the prescribed route on the trail map. We had no real problems following the map's directions, with just a few questionable moments solved by a friend who'd been there before.

The map says "When you come out of the woods to the dead-end of a paved road turn left then take a right onto the gravel road." It turns out there are two gravel roads. The correct one is the first one, the second is a driveway. The map also says "Once in the woods, watch for a narrow hiking trail off to your left and take it." We never noticed it. The gravel road becomes overgrown and foot traffic makes it seem to blend in and become the trail. Also, shortly after crossing Highway 14 there is a T- junction, where you need to turn right. The left looks a bit overgrown, so this is an insinuative enough choice. Further down the trail is a 4-way intersection. A left turn leads to a beautiful view point where we stopped for lunch, keeping strait stays on route, not sure where the right turn goes.

Portland Hikers has a detailed route description.
What a great day! This was an excellent way to really kick into hiking season. The parking area was nearly full when we arrived around noon, but the trail was not crowded at all.

It was difficult enough in the first mile that I was getting worried about making it, but I was too busy admiring the abundant larkspur growing taller than me that I didn't notice my own wheezing.


Throughout the trail we found little spur trails that lead to beautiful views of the gorge.

We decided that this rock formation must be Cape Horn's horn, although its official name is Cigar Rock.

Cape Horn falls is a great walk-behind waterfall toward the end of the hike. It would make for a nice cool-down on a hotter day.

Cape Horn Loop Trail covers a variety of terrain, mostly dirt paths, some very rocky areas, one section where you walk directly in an inch-deep stream and over a mile walking up Cape Horn Rd. The route is partially shaded and partially exposed, passing through forests and meadows.

This is a moderate trail, although the beginning is an ass-kicker! This is a perfect trail for fit hiker who wants to avoid the crowds often found at the more well-known trails. The only downside to this trail is the walk on the paved road at the end.

If you're looking for an easier hike, a nice variation would be just the lower half of this loop. Park at the trail head and cross SR-14 to Cape Horn road. Walk down the road (1.3 miles) until you see a big sign indicating the trail. This is a private road and the owners prefer no vehicles on it, so you can't park or drive to this trail head. You could do a short hike to the waterfall or take it as far as you like. The only down side of this option is that you'd have to do the boring on-the-road walk twice.
Trail Head:

View PDX Day Hiker in a larger map
This is the Skamania County Park & Ride, so you could even take the bus. There are bathrooms, but no water at the trail head.
What I said about these trails before: Cape Horn Trail
Other resources for this and other nearby hikes:
Friends of the Columbia River Gorge
Portland Hikers
Washington Trails Association

Have you been on this or a nearby trail? Please share your experience.

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