CASCADE LOCKS (AP) — How could I have overlooked this one?
After 40 years of hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, it wasn't until last Sunday that I discovered what may be the most beautiful hike in the gorge.
If you can call the route up Munra Point a hike.
It's more of a hand-hold rock scramble, but the route is doable by anyone who doesn't have a fear of heights and is nimble afoot.
Munra Point tops out at 1,740 feet in elevation overlooking Bonneville Dam. The crown of the point is a moss-covered basalt ridge, very narrow and exposed. Slip one way and you'll slide 300 feet. Slip the other way and it's 500 feet. So it's best not to slip at all.
And, also, for heaven's sake, watch out for the poison oak that is beginning to grow profusely on the lower part of the route.
To hike Munra Point, drive to the Bonneville Dam exit No. 40 on Interstate 84. Park at the bottom of the exit, or find a spot within the dam complex, the Tooth Rock trailhead or the small parking lot for Wahclella Falls.
From the Wahclella Falls trailhead, don't go toward the falls, rather hike across the historic highway bridge over Tanner Creek, then head into the woods on the well-marked Gorge Trail 400. Walk west 1.3 miles and watch for an unsigned path leading south into the forest. A long pink surveyors ribbon foretold of it last Sunday, about 100 feet before the path created by users left the Gorge Trail.
Follow the path uphill to the southeast. There will be a couple of other paths and lots of braids in the trail, but just keep going up to the southeast on the obvious corridor created by users.
The climb after leaving the Gorge Trail is 1,600 feet in 0.9 of a mile, which makes it very steep. This is a rock scramble, not a manicured trail hike.
The full length is 2.2 miles one way, or about 2 to 2.5 hours walking time up. Don't do the hike in bad weather because the columnar basalt embedded in the path will be slippery.
And don't wait too long, or all the gorgeous yellow glacier lilies will be past peak bloom.
The hike is written up in two books that I know about: Barbara Bond's "75 Scrambles in Oregon" and Douglas Lorain's "Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver."
I encountered about three dozen people along the way last Sunday. More than I expected, but a lot less than the Angels Rest hike farther west in the gorge where 150 cars must have been parked.
Note: The Wahclella Falls trailhead and trail accesses will be closed for three days for scheduled repair and maintenance the week of April 27. For updated information, monitor this website: http://1.usa.gov/1Hxs3hT
The original story can be found on The Oregonian's website: http://bit.ly/1O8HWzh
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com