Park as close as you can to Horsetail Falls, which is right next to the old Scenic Highway, or head out I-84 to Exit 35 (Ainsworth) and go west about two miles on the old highway. From the falls head up Trail # 438, climbing gradually through lush western Oregon forest. Watch along the trail for a wide variety of wildflowers. Note the jumbled rocky slopes which make excellent habitat for pikas; you will probably never see one, but you may hear their squeak-toy calls. Fairly soon you will come upon Ponytail Falls, which plummets over a basalt cliff and over the trail, as well. The cavern behind the falls is a delightfully cool haven on a warm spring day.
After crossing the footbridge, turn left on Trail 424 and begin climbing toward Triple Falls. The trail is rocky in places, but never obscure or precarious. This part of the trail is tucked into a fold of the gorge wall, far from the freeway and its noise. You will hear Triple Falls before you come upon the three streams of water pouring into the pool far below. This is the perfect spot for a long picnic and photo session.
From here, you may return the way you came for more photos of the falls, or continue on 424 and eventually drop down to the old highway. The latter route provides additional views over the gorge, but you will have to walk a bit on the Scenic Highway to get back to your car.
While this hike is short enough for a stop along the way to somewhere else, it is a worthwhile destination on its own. Few trails offer so many waterfalls and views over so manageable a distance. Take a couple of hours to experience the gorge. Bring your camera.
|Historic railing along the Scenic Highway
|Top of Triple Falls
|Historic tunnel near Horsetail Falls
|The following are a few examples of the many species of wildflowers blooming in the Columbia Gorge this time of year. We start with Solomon's Seal.
|Wild Ginger. Look for wide, heart-shaped leaves close to the ground. Gently lift them to see these small but elegant purple flowers.