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Rock of Ages Arch/Devil's Backbone and/or Triple Falls

Rock of Ages Arch/Devil's Backbone and/or Triple Falls
Date: Saturday, January 25, 2014
TIME: 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM
DIFFICULTY RATING: Very strenuous, some exposure, similar to Heart Break Ridge on Table Mtn.
TOTAL MILES: 6.5 miles miles RT
ESTIMATED HIKING TIME: 5-6 hours, depending on what we do and the number of hikers we have.          ELEVATION GAIN: Approximately 1,950 vertical feet

ROUTE DESCRIPTION: This is a primitive, but well-worn trail along a steep, non-maintained path. Parts of the hike are scrambles with some exposure and hikers should be cautioned in less than optimum weather conditions. At about a 1000ft/mile the first stretch of this hike rivals any in the Gorge in terms of difficulty.

Start up Horsetail Falls Trail #438, which gains about 300 feet in five switchbacks. Soon the trail levels out with some great viewpoints then veers south (left) sharply as it wraps around a corner and heads into the gorge at the top of Horsetail Falls. Just after this bend, and before hitting Ponytail Falls, watch for a large tree on your left that looks to have been hurdled by a thousand root-clinging children. This is the Rock of Ages Trail Junction and the start of the primitive Rock of Ages trail. About 50 feet uptrail watch for a cryptic "Trail Not Maintained" sign.

Since the Rock of Ages Trail is not maintained, prepare for blowdowns and loose rock on this very steep trail. Make no mistake, this puppy is steep. You'll be climbing hand over foot in places. Within the first 1/10 mile you'll see an overgrown side-path to the right. The side path is a worthwhile diversion, descending steeply for 50 yards or so to the top of Ponytail Falls. It's a bit of extra work, but since you're here, it's worth a visit.

Continue forward and straight uphill another 0.3 of a mile and watch for a side trail to your left that drops elevation sharply. Take this must-see, 0.2 mile side trek to the Rock of Ages Arch. This is a glorious viewpoint giving you a lesser-seen perspective of Rock of Ages, Saint Peter's Dome and points east looking down the Columbia River. After taking turns snapping photos of each other under the natural rock arch, take the side trail back to the main trail and continue uphill.

The path continues to gain elevation steeply. You'll begin to notice you're traversing a well-defined ridgeline. Watch on your right as you get to about 0.9 miles and you'll see a large, jutting, rock formation. This is Devil's Backbone

. Take care as you climb this spine as it's mossy, and straight down on the far side. This offers some of the best views along the trail, giving you a great vantage point of the Horsetail Creek valley as it winds northerly and drops out of sight into the Gorge. On a clear day, Mount Saint Helens is visible. This serves as a nice resting spot after such a tough climb. We may turn around before crossing the Devil's Backbone.  Then we continue on to Triple Falls and return to the parking lot.


WEATHER FORECAST: Sunny, high near 47.


PERMITS: None $$$: Suggested donation for outing: $2.00 for Sierra Club members and $4 for non-members.

CARPOOLING: RT mileage is approximately 50 miles; we suggest a mileage donation of 10 cents/mile/rider. Exact change is welcome. Note: This is a carbon-neutral outing, $.25/person from outings donation is used to offset carbon produced during the trip. Carpool We will meet at 8:30 AM for an 8:45 departure at the Gateway Park and Ride, SE corner of the parking facility If you have questions about the hike or what to bring, call Mike Newsham at[masked], [masked] . This cell number will work for communication purposes on the day of the hike.

• Water (min 2 liters/person)
• Insulated sit pad
• Lunch and snacks.
• Water resistant hiking boots/shoes • A water-resistant hat and gloves. Rain jacket and pants (even if sunny, ha, ha)
• Two or three layers of clothing that can be adjusted or removed as necessary
• Headlamp or flashlight
• Whistle
• Map
• Compass
• Matches (stored in a water tight container in addition to matches or a butane lighter)
• First aid supplies (be sure to include an extra day of any medication you are taking or might need
• Pocket knife
• Fire starter (can be candles, chemical fire starter, backpack size fire logs)
• $$ for gas Optional:
• Sunscreen • Gloves or mittens, sun hat
• Trekking poles recommended
• Extra food

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  • Jean

    Great hike. I enjoyed the hike, the group and what a lovely day.

    January 27, 2014

  • Mike N.


    As I re-read the route description, it is evident that I did not clearly describe what we are doing Saturday. We will be taking the normal trail almost up to Ponytail Falls. Just before we get to the Falls, we are going to hike/scramble up to Rock of Ages Arch, a spectacular viewpoint. Likely, at this point we will descend back to the Gorge Trail, past Ponytail Falls and hike up to Triple Falls, where we will have lunch. We will then reverse our path back to the Horse Tail Falls Trail Head. The stated mileage and E.G. listed in the posting are correct.

    We will not be doing the long Rock of Ages Loop (10+ miles and 3,200+ feet of E.G.) that goes up the ridge of the same name and then loops back down to Triple Falls via Horsetail Creek Trail.

    January 23, 2014

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