Distance: 2.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 450 feet
Trail Use: Hiking
Hike Type: Loop
Pass Required: Northwest Forest Pass
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter (may have ice/snow in early spring, winter, late fall)
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Family Friendly: Yes
Notes: One of the easier hikes in the Gorge.
There are not many easy hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. That is what makes the Gorge such a special place. Hundreds of challenging hikes with large elevation gain and breathtaking views of the Gorge and its waterfalls. But for those that may not be able to physically do some of the higher elevation hikes, it can be frustrating.
Horsetail Falls Loop is one of those hikes that is far less demanding on the body. At only 450 feet of elevation gain and less then 3 miles of distance, this is a hike that is great for those who need something less challenging or those with kids. And don’t worry, you are still exposed to breathtaking waterfalls and views of the Columbia River Gorge.
You want to start this hike at the Horsetail Falls Trailhead. There is a parking lot with limited spaces there but street parking is also available. Like most things in the Gorge, early bird gets a parking spot.
Start the hike at the viewing platform for Horsetail Falls. Horsetail Falls is a 176 foot waterfall. The viewing platform gives you a great angle for some photographs or to just admire the falls. After you are done viewing Horsetail Falls, look to your left and the trail head will be starting there.
The majority of the elevation gain is in the beginning. But the trail is short and before you know it, you will be done climbing. It will be much easier of a hike then even the paved Multnomah Falls hike. After about 3/4 of a mile worth of hiking, you will arrive at Ponytail Falls. Ponytail Falls is a very cool 88 foot waterfall. What makes it such a big attraction in the fact that you can hike behind the falls.
Moving past Ponytail Falls you have a mild hike on your way towards Oneonta Creek. make sure to take the small trail loop before you get to the Creek. Doing so will reward you with some of the best views of the Columbia River Gorge.
After the spectacular views, you will have a short decline that leads you to a bridge crossing the Oneonta Creek. As you cross the bridge, look to you left and admire Middle Oneonta Falls. Middle Oneonta Falls is only 24 feet, but it is still a peaceful falls that is worth taking the relaxing time to admire.
Almost immediately after crossing Oneonta Creek, you will encounter a “T” in the trail. If you are looking for a l0nger hike, take a left and follow that trail to Triple Falls. We will cover this hike in a future post. So to complete the Horsetail Falls loop, you will want to take a Right and follow the path as it descends back down the US30 road.
From there you will be walking on the side of US30 for part of the time and on a small trail that goes through the Oneonta Tunnel for the rest. This will eventually lead you back to the Horsetail Falls trailhead. You have now completed the loop.