June 2, 2017
By Brandon Fralic and Rachel Wood
NW Trails is Sponsored by
As seasonal blooms and waterfalls spring forth at winter’s end, many outdoor enthusiasts head for the Columbia River Gorge. This Columbia River stretch that bisects Washington and Oregon near Hood River on the Oregon side and Stevenson to the north in Washington, is best-known for high winds and is an area that made wind-surfing popular.
Along with the river swells, the area’s spring visitors surge as well. Take our suggestion, and leave the river rats behind and check out the Gorge’s great hiking. Additionally, we’ve paired our favorite hikes with some great tasting ales. The spring flowers along the trails are a bonus!
We suggest a drive along the less-congested Columbia River’s Washington side before crossing into Oregon.
There’s more to see than just waterfalls: fortress-like promontories and wildflower-strewn eastern plateaus await.
Plus, breweries are nearly as numerous as trails. Go for a hike, then refresh with a locally made beer.
From west to east, here are four hike and brewery pairings to enjoy this spring season in the Columbia River Gorge. Be sure to pick up a “Breweries in the Gorge” map and passport to collect stamps along the way! http://breweriesinthegorge.com
Cape Horn Trail and 54°40’ Brewing Company
Hike: Earn your views and brews by trekking to a high point 1,300 feet above the Columbia River. During spring, a portion of the trail is closed (Feb. 1 – July 15) to protect nesting Peregrine falcons. Fortunately, hikers can still get a good workout in year-round at Cape Horn.
From the trailhead at Skamania County Park and Ride, climb several steep, rocky switchbacks to Pioneer Point for falcon’s-eye views of the Mighty Columbia. Peer upriver to Beacon Rock and Multnomah Falls. You can bail out here for an easy 2.4-mile roundtrip hike with 800 feet of elevation gain, or continue to the Nancy Russell Overlook to add some mileage and take in the epic amphitheater panorama.
Brewery: Ten miles west of Cape Horn on the Evergreen Highway, 54°40’ Brewing Company awaits. Those who’ve never visited (or even heard of) Washougal, Washington will need no further excuse than this destination brewery.
Opened by veteran brewer Bolt Minister in 2015, family-friendly 54°40’ Brewing prides itself on making “Everyman’s Craft Beer.” More specifically, Bolt brews sessionable ales and lagers — perfect for a post-hike refreshment. From familiar IPA, wheat and pilsner offerings to German-style Kascadia Kolsch and experimental sours, there’s truly something for everyone at 54°40’. 54-40brewing.com
Beacon Rock Trail and Walking Man Brewing
Hike: Beacon Rock rises from the banks of the Columbia like a formidable fortress. Cut from the core of an ancient volcano, the rail-lined trail climbs 52 switchbacks to Beacon’s 848-foot summit — all in less than a mile one-way.
This hike is short, but the rewards are sweet. Take in sweeping river views as you zig-zag up the rock, peering out over Pierce and Ives islands and across the Columbia River to Oregon. Beacon’s moderate grade and short distance make it a popular family outing — children and kids at heart can’t help but be thrilled by the riveting climb. There’s no other hike quite like it in the Gorge.
Brewery: Walking Man runs a relaxed brewpub in Stevenson, Washington — less than 10 miles from Beacon Rock. Pull up a chair on the sunny patio during spring and summer, or head inside for shelter from the rain. Either way, a pint of Homo Erectus Imperial IPA should be on your to-do list. “Brewed in celebration of being erect for two million years,” this stand-up beer weighs in at 9 percent ABV and 90 IBU. Pair it with house-made pizza or a burger to reward your arduous ascent. walkingmanbeer.com
Dry Creek Falls and Thunder Island Brewing Co.
Hike: Escape the notoriously crowded Multnomah Falls by setting your GPS for Toll House Park in Cascade Locks. Unlike its exceedingly popular neighbors, Dry Creek Falls offers hikers a more peaceful waterfall experience.
From the park, follow trailhead signs for the Pacific Crest Trail (yes, the famous PCT) as it meanders through the outskirts of town to a second-growth forest beyond. Follow the trail through groves of vine and bigleaf maples, past a forest floor carpeted by sword, lady and maidenhair ferns. At 2.1 miles you’ll come to a junction with Dry Creek where you’ll head right to reach the Falls at 2.3 miles. Your reward awaits: Dry Creek Falls cascades down impossibly green, moss-covered basalt cliffs to create a lush landscape that’s anything but dry.
Brewery: You can’t beat the views from Thunder Island Brewing Co.’s beer garden. Perched on the banks of the Columbia River, watch the river flow past while sipping on a Dry Creek IPA or Saison Du Bonneville. Or, take a seat in the brewery’s adventure-inspired taproom decorated with vintage hiking and backpacking gear. During your visit to the brewery consider paying it forward with a little trail magic. Donate a pint to the brewery’s Trail Magic Pint program that has served more than 1,200 pints to thirsty PCT thru-hikers! thunderislandbrewing.com
Mosier Plateau and pFriem Family Brewers
Hike: Featuring two-tiered Mosier Creek Falls along the way, the roughly three-mile roundtrip trail to Mosier Plateau offers wildflowers aplenty during spring. After passing the Mosier Pioneer Cemetery, you’ll come to the 100-foot tall Mosier Falls. In the summer, the pool between the two tiers is a popular swimming hole — probably still a little chilly in the spring!
Ascend to the plateau through a mixture of switchbacks and staircases. Continue on to the Syncline Viewpoint loop for fields bursting with bachelor buttons, balsamroot and lupine. From the viewpoint, you’ll have expansive views to Coyote Wall across the mighty Columbia River.
Brewery: pFriem Family Brewers has rapidly earned a stellar reputation in Hood River’s craft beer scene. With more than a decade of experience working in Pacific Northwest breweries, Josh Pfriem started the Northwest-meets-Belgium inspired brewery in 2012. In its award-winning lineup there’s sure to be a beer to enchant every palate. Try one of the new spring releases — Oud Bruin or the Kettle Soured Passionfruit Pale — and grab something to eat from the Belgian-inspired taproom menu. pfriembeer.com
Brandon Fralic and Rachel Wood write about hiking trails and breweries in the Pacific Northwest. Their forthcoming guidebook, Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest, will be available in 2017. Follow along at: beersatthebottom.com.