Just coming off 2 weeks with a bug so I need an easy hike. I will be posting this in NW Hiking Adventures Group too and will adjust RSVP's to get 12.
- Distance: 6.4 miles (round trip)
- Elevation gain: 840 feet
- Difficulty: Easy to moderate
- Pace: Moderate 2-2.5mph
- Return time about 2PM?
- Weather forecast: Partly Cloudy 51, 10% chance of rain????
- Pass: NW Forest Pass
The Eagle Creek to High Bridge Hike is a popular day-hike option. At a little over 6 1/2 miles round trip, and with a mere 840 feet of elevation gain, this option gives you a great balance of effort vs. reward, and will hopefully whet your appetite for return visits that take you far further down the gorge.
Before you've gone a mile, you'll find yourself high above the creek, which has now opened up to a glorious valley. Many months the fog hangs low in the canyon, blocking your view of the snow-encrusted cliff-sides towering around you. In places the trail is narrow and the drop-off is quite steep. Cable lines were built into the walls in sections to provide some stability.
As the trail steadily gains elevation, it begins to divert away from the creek. You'll notice the quiet as you ascend away from the rushing water and deeper into the lush old-growth forests of douglas fir, cedar and hemlock. Dewy ferns, moss-covered rocks, and sometimes poison oak blanket the forest floor. You will be surprised at the beauty and quiet of these sections, which at times are like scenes from a fairy tale.
Along the rest of the hike, you'll cross various side-creeks -- some by rock steps, many by footbridges. Be sure to look upstream as you pass by -- especially in the wetter months -- as you will be treated to waterfalls and more lush greenery.
After you've walked about a mile and a half, watch for an obvious spur trail off to your right. The path drops down to an overlook with a view of the magnificent 100-foot Metlako Falls, the tallest falls on Eagle Creek proper. Metlako seemingly shoots straight out of a cliffside into a large pool below.
Walk back up the spur trail to the main drag and continue Southward, winding high away from the gorge with the creek well out of view. In just over a half-mile, you'll be at an obvious junction and resting spot near Punchbowl Falls. Many will take the optional spur trail down to the creek bed which is to your right. This is a recommended diversion for newcomers! Otherwise, you can still see Punchbowl Falls from a viewpoint about a quarter mile uptrail.
Continuing onward, you'll again swinging away from the gorge for a spell, crossing more footbridges on your way past toward High Bridge. You'll reemerge from the forest very high above the creek bed. At this point watch for the necktie-shaped Loowit Falls on the opposite side. It drops from side creek seemingly from nowhere into a uniquely-shaped pool below before spilling over into Eagle Creek.
Turn the next corner and you approach the homestretch. The trail leading up to High Bridge -- although wide, well groomed and oft-traveled -- is rocky and can be slippery in places. The path is carved into the cliffside 120 feet up! A cable-line is affixed in the rock to your left, providing some security, but on a busy day you will encounter two way traffic through this short, but vertigo-inducing stretch! Pass with care. As a courtesy to other hikers hold your dogs close to you through this stretch.
You should see High Bridge amid the trees ahead of you to the right.
The name high bridge is well-earned! It dramatically spans a very narrow channel 120 feet high. It's hard not to gawk as you cross to the other side.
This is your turn-around spot.