If you’re interested in visiting one of Oregon’s best gorge hikes but unfortunately the most popular hike I would recommend the Eagle Creek trail. However, it has now become the most overcrowded and over used hike in the entire gorge. Tourists and recent transplants have overtaken the entire stretch of the gorge but Eagle Creek has really seen the most traffic. It’s really not surprising since there isn’t anywhere else in the lower 48 states like it but you can no longer hike the trail in solitude. If you find yourself driving along I-84, whiling looking for a good trail, you might want to take in consideration the parking problems that come with the popularity of your favorite hiking spot. The parking lots can be full very early in the morning and if you’re driving through during the afternoon it becomes more like a parking lot at a Walmart in Oklahoma. If you’re planning a trip, I would go very early in the morning and go during off season. There are a lot more hidden and less used trails in Oregon that I would rather go to during peak season. However, that said, The Eagle Creek trail offers some of the best waterfalls in the gorge. Punchbowl Falls is the most popular but Metlako Falls holds it’s own. If you want to get a really good view or take photos, you actually have to climb over the railing and brace yourself against a tree. However, you will want to be really careful since you will be standing just centimeters from a 100 foot cliff and you will certainly die if you fall. You can still get a good view of the falls from a safe distance but you get a much better view while in harms way. I took this photo of Metlako Falls while hanging on the cliff and it’s always worth the extra effort. You will want to use a tripod so you will want to be extra careful and you also want to ensure that you are braced against the tree since you can find yourself forgetting that you are merely centimeters from sure death. The best time to take photos of the gorge is during late Spring and early Summer. This is when the vegetation is lit up like a roman candle. You haven’t seen green until you have visited during this peak season. Seriously, the Oregon gorge green will make any other green look like brown. I took this shot while using my Canon Rebel T1I and attached my Sigma 17-70-mm lens. I also used my bubble level and remote switch. I also use a Manfrotto tripod but it’s not the lightest tripod. However, when you’re concerned about movement, it’s good to use a heavier tripod to ensure that you don’t have the slightest of movement. This is especially true since I set the shutter speed at 10 seconds and there was a breeze flowing up from below.
The 2014-2015 winter may be a total waste in the Pacific Northwest as well as the Western Rockies but at least we can still hope for a descent spring in the Pacific Northwest. I am totally convinced that this winter will go down as the worst snow pack ever recorded from every Western State, including Alaska and even Western Canada. Looking at the current snow totals, from around the western part of North America, I can confidently predict that we will break all recorded totals in history. This is bad news for ski resorts, the economy, water tables, fire season and countless others. However, since the Pacific Northwest is still getting plenty of rain I can only hope that we will still enjoy a good spring. We may not have the thunderous waterfalls rolling down from the snow covered mountains but we may be blessed with lots of rain totals where snow would otherwise dominant the landscape. We may even be able to venture out along the western slopes of the Cascade mountains earlier than normal and bask in the glory of extreme beauty of the colorful vegetation and warmer temperatures. Unfortunately it’s to the dismay of the bankrupt ski resorts and broken economies that rely on the heavy snow totals. I know that we have recouped a lot of snow totals in late February and March but it seems that this pineapple express is pretty ruthless this time and it isn’t looking good for a comeback. I’m not going to put away my snow shoes and remove my snow tires just yet but I am already getting ready for some sweet waterfall shots earlier than expected.
The weather in the Pacific Northwest has finally changed. This means that the weather is getting colder, wetter, stormier and very unpredictable. We can finally start to anticipate the changing colors of the leaves and the stormy clouds to appear. This will ultimately bring a lot of water to the waterfalls and snow to the higher elevations. Now is the perfect time to break out your camera and head to the Columbia River Gorge if you would like to take advantage of all the above. The waterfalls are amazing just as the rain arrives and the struggling foliage will come alive with the leaves falling from their high perch. You can also expect to witness some of the most amazing cloud formations as they move through the gorge like a freight train. I would recommend that you bring all of your rain gear as well as your best lens as well as your tripod, bubble level and remote switch. You may also want to choose the best trail since you will find yourself spending hours taking photos along the waterfalls. Sometimes I will just make a long road trip by starting out in Portland and driving to Hood River and stopping along the way. On my return trip, I will either back track or drive across the bridge of the gods, in Washington State and take some photos from the north side of the river. Either way, you can expect to get some pretty epic photos if you go on a day that is perfect for panoramic shots.
Beautiful photo of Oneonta Falls and bridge in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. This particular trail will take you to four spectacular waterfalls and provide you some of the most awesome views of the Columbia River as well as views of the thick forest and lava cut gorge. One of the best hiking destinations is above Triple Falls and if you continue past the falls, you can expect to hike alongside the creek that feeds the waterfalls. There are thousands of photo opportunities and if you’re up to a really long and strenuous hike, you can continue for another 7.7 mile to reach Multnomah Falls. On this particular hike, to Triple Falls, I was sadly turned away due to the fact that there was a mud slide that took out a portion of the trail just a few hundred feet from the waterfall. The forest service was working on the trail but it was a mud soaked mess and I wasn’t interested in slogging through three feet of mud. The trail was still open and passable but it was pretty muddy and you can expect to endure a very muddy mess for at least another month before it dries out. I decided to turn back and head towards Oneonta Falls to see if I could get some descent shots. The switchback that continues past the bridge was also damaged, so you can expect to get pretty muddy as well. However, if you park on the other side of Horsetail Falls parking lot, you can come in from the west and avoid the muddy part of the trail. Because the snow in the mountains are melting and with all of the rain that we have received lately, you can expect the waterfalls to be at their peak. The water is thundering through the gorge and you will find yourself immersed in fresh water chaos. The vegetation is at it’s peak and the rivers, streams and creeks are swollen to their brim. Now is the absolute best time to visit the gorge, if you want to see the gorge at its best as well as having the best opportunities to get some great shots. To get this shot, I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. I set the camera mode to shutter priority and set it at 2.5 seconds in order to get the flowing motion of the waterfall. The water was moving so fast that I never set the shutter priority past four seconds all day. The waterfalls were literally moving at light speed and anything over four seconds washed out the water. I set the ISO at 100, white balance at -1.3 and the aperture was at F-4. The skies were completely overcast and it was sprinkling all day. However, since the water was moving so fast, it caused the pictures to become too bright, so I had to reduce the white balance to offset the highlights. If you have a descent telephoto lens you can get some great opportunities to get some shots of the raptors flying around the gorge. While hiking near the main trail I saw two juvenile bald eagles jump from their perch and start hovering just above where I was standing. I also saw several bald eagles and osprey flying near the Columbia River gorge. The gorge is a raptor gold mine due to all of the fish in the river. If you have the patience, you can expect to get some great photos of them.
Hood River, Oregon has some of the best wind for kite surfing and windsurfing! With warm and dry wind tunneling through the Columbia river gorge, you can pretty much expect some great conditions. Hood River, Oregon pretty much has the best of both worlds. It isn’t as dry and hot as The Dalles, which is just a few miles in the east but enjoys much better sun drenched days than Portland in the west. It literally sits right at the cusp of the cool west and the dry east. Mt. Hood is just to the south of the city and Mt. Adams is just to the north. Hood River was rated as one of the best river city’s in America and one of the most outdoor oriented cities. There are several rivers that flow near the city as well as epic mt. biking and hiking trails. You are only a few miles from some of the best waterfalls in the state and only a short drive from year round skiing. Agriculture and vineyards make up the biggest part of their economy but manufacturing of kite surfing and windsurfing gear are also a dynamic part of the economy. There are also several breweries that make up the economy. The population might be small but most of the homes are owned by families that live as far away as the east coast. There aren’t a lot of places that have what Hood River has during the summer months and a quick trip will show you why. Nothing better than spending the day catching some of the best kite surfing conditions on the planet and then relaxing at a brewery taking in the views of the gorge. There are also a lot of points of interests just a short drive from Hood River. If you’re planning a trip, I would plan on spending at least a week during the summer time and plan on getting a pretty good work out. Don’t forget your kayak, bike, hiking gear, skis/snowboard, windsurfing/kite board and rock climbing gear. It’s pretty much required that you love the outdoors and really want to get a work out but if not, there are dozens of wineries and fruit stands that you can gorge on. If your into bird watching, you may also want to bring a good pair of binoculars or a telephoto lens since you are sure to see dozens of osprey, hawks, eagle, falcons and turkey vultures. The agriculture and vineyards attract every rapture you can imagine and you’re guaranteed to see them soaring above the Columbia river as well. I’v spotted several osprey catching fish in the river and then see an eagle steal it right out of their talons or coercing them to drop it from the sky. There are also several rapture nests lining along the river in the gorge.
The trail that leads to triple falls is one of the most scenic and spectacular trails in the Gorge. The trail leads you past four beautiful and very photogenic waterfalls, unbelievable views of the gorge and the Columbia River, old growth forest and parallels the creek that feeds the waterfalls. The best time to visit is between May and early July. This is the best time to catch the creeks at their highest level and the foliage is usually in full bloom. The wildflowers are also spectacular and some of the most widespread in the Pacific Northwest. However, since the weather can be unpredictable, sometimes the foliage can stay dormant well into June depending on the temperatures during spring. The photo that I posted is the most popular viewing area of the waterfall and you can really see just how awesome this part of the gorge really is. The creek climbs several miles past Triple Falls and the trail parallels the creek and offers millions of photo opportunities. I may sound bias but this part of the Pacific Northwest makes any other parts of the world look like a desert. To get this shot I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. The viewing area is a very uneven and steep cliff so setting up your tripod can be tricky and only one person at a time can take this photo since it’s so narrow. I set the camera mode at shutter priority and set the shutter speed at 4 seconds. The aperture was at F-18, the ISO was at 100 and I adjusted the white balance to -0.7. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic view as possible, without having any vignetting. The day was mostly overcast and the sun was directly behind the waterfall. It was about 12:22pm but since the clouds were moving so fast I just waited for the best opportunity. If you plan on visiting and expect to get a photo of triple falls, without having dozens of people sitting along the waterfall, you may want to come during a weekday and a very overcast or rainy day since hikers like to sit just above the waterfall and take pictures. I was pretty fortunate to only have to wait for two hikers to eventually move away from the area before I could get to work. the elevation gain to triple falls is only about 600 feet but you could continue all the way to larch mountain if you’re up to the 6.5 mile hike. This is one hike that you will truly be glad you took and you can expect some of the most fantastic views of your life.
Unless you plan on wading out in a foot of frigid water to get this type of shot, I wouldn’t plan on making the trek until the water level starts to drop. The water level is so high that the rocky beach is almost completely underwater. I have never seen the water level in the gorge this high since I started hiking the gorge over 20 years ago. As you can see from this photo, Punchbowl Falls is beyond swelled. In order for me to get this shot I had to take off my socks and shoes and wade out in about a foot of water before I could get a clear shot. The water is moving pretty fast so you need to steady your tripod as firmly as possible and hope that it doesn’t move. In case I did lose my footing and found myself swimming in the frigid creek I made sure to leave my photography bag, with all of my other lenses, at the safety of the creeks edge. The creek was so cold that after about 30 minutes I completely lost feeling in both of my legs from the knees down. The pebbles and rocks that you are forced to stand on are pretty jagged and hard but once my feet became numb I lost all feeling and was forced to rely on my tripod to steady myself as I scrambled back to the edge. Next time I will bring my Teva’s so I don’t have this problem again. Though the vegetation is starting to spring there are still several plants that still haven’t bloomed as well as several of the old growth trees that have only just begun to show their buds. This created a challenge since I wanted to take advantage of the swelling creeks and waterfalls but not include any of the shots with the bare vegetation. The harsh winter and cool and rainy spring has really made it tough on the gorge this year. The wildflowers are even somewhat confused. Several of the flowers are growing along the high cliffs but most of the wildflowers that grow along the creeks are barely out. I chose this shot in order to show just how much water was thundering over the falls as well as ensure there were no bare branches. I was using my Canon T1i along with my Sigma 17-70mm lens. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake. This was especially difficult since the tripod was in the middle of the fast moving creek. I attached my ND8, warming filter and CIR-PL so I could have the camera in Shutter Priority mode. The focal length was at 21mm and I had the shutter open for 5 seconds. The aperture was at F-13 and I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -0.7. I spent about 45 minutes in the creek so I had plenty of time to adjust the focal length and the shutter speed and white balance but I was forced to basically just adjust and shoot as quickly as possible. The morning and afternoon was overcast so the sky was perfectly covered and it never even tried to rain. The trees should start blooming within the next week so I hope that my next trip here will offer more color but still plenty of water.
Spring is officially here and it will only be a few more weeks until the gorge will be ready for some serious photography hunting. I only say that because the gorge usually doesn’t become completely prepared for a photography hike until all of the foliage has come out of its dormancy and begins to clog the landscape with a sea of green. Early May or even as late as mid June is the best time to take advantage of the intense green landscape but it really depends on the weather. If we are lucky enough to get a more mild spring, then the gorge is more likely to see it’s foliage come out early. However, if we get a colder and wetter spring, then the foliage won’t come out until late May or mid June. However, you can always expect to still have a great waterfall and creek in your shot no matter what the weather is like. The water levels will still be high and you can expect some pretty thunderous waterfalls cascading through the basalt cliffs as they carve their way through the lower elevations. The photo that I posted is of Elowah Falls and it’s pretty easy to get to. It’s also a very popular waterfall since it’s only a short hike and it’s pretty awesome to look at. You can expect to get a little wet while crossing over the bridge and you can even take a swim in the fresh water pool that is directly under the waterfall. Since the trail can get pretty busy you may want to visit during the weekday, if you want to get some shots of the waterfall without having dozens of people in the foreground. You will also want to plan on drying your lens fairly often since the water spray is pretty intense and if you don’t you will end up with a bunch of photos with nothing but water droplets on your shots. I would also recommend that you bring along your tripod, bubble level and a remote switch. You would also be doing yourself a favor if you attach some ND filters. I normally set the shutter speed between 3 and 5 seconds and since the light can get pretty high, you don’t want to end up with any overexposure. A tripod will also allow you to ensure that they don’t come out blurry and uneven. Using a tripod along very uneven and a tricky landscape is a lot of work but you don’t really have a choice. Try doing this with a dog with you as well and this will really test your patients. Not only does the trail that leads to Elowah falls offer great shots of the waterfall but there are great opportunities to photograph the old growth forest, wildflowers, wildlife, creeks, moss, lichen and dozens of other photo opportunities.
[/caption] Elowah Falls is located in the Columbia River Gorge and it’s only a short drive from downtown Portland, Oregon. However, you may want to visit during the week in order to avoid the crowds during the weekends since it’s hard to get a photo without having dozens of hikers standing on the bridge or anywhere else near the falls. Another problem is that you want to pick a day that’s overcast as well as a day that the spray from the waterfall isn’t drenching the trail. So this pretty much allows only a small window of opportunity and I would recommend going during late spring or early summer since you also want the vegetation to be nice and lush. To get this shot I was using my Canon T1i and attached my Sigma 17-70mm lens. I also attached my ND4, warming and UV filter. I set the camera mode at shutter priority and set the shutter speed at 4 seconds. Because I set the ISO at 100, reduced the white balance to -0.7 and was using the ND4 filter, the aperture changed to F-20. I kept the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic shot as I could since there weren’t any hikers or other photographers along the bridge or trail. I was standing on a rock in order to get the best shot so I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. Elowah Falls is a very popular and well photographed waterfall but you have plenty of opportunities to think outside the box and look for unique shots. However, since the sun is always directly behind the top of the falls, you want to make sure and visit when it’s overcast or you will end up with your shots being over exposed.
[/caption] The month of June is probably the best month to capture the Columbia River Gorge in all of it’s splendor. June offers the best weather along with the best month to witness the neon green foliage along side the thunderous waterfalls pounding the basalt rocks below. And since Spring can be pretty wet and cold, most of the wildflowers are most abundant during the month of June, which also allows some pretty fantastic photos. This particular photo opportunity really caught my eye due to the amazing cloud formation that had developed over the gorge. To get the shot I set up my tripod and used my remote switch to avoid any camera shake. I also attached my CIR-PL and warming filter due to the brightness from the sun.