Trek #23: Upper McCord Creek Falls

Upper McCord Creek Falls is a beautiful little split waterfall, which I know is likely to stun in winter and early spring after months of the rainy season have pushed up water levels. This turned out to be a perfectly lovely hike with a few unexpected surprises thrown in.

Nestled in the Columbia River Gorge, the trailhead to Upper McCord Creek Falls begins partway into the entrance into John. B. Yeon State Park, starting out following the Elowah Falls trailhead. The trail is a 2.2 mile out and back, the turn-around point being the viewpoint of the waterfall. The trail is very well-signed with arrows, which helps as there are six other trails that offshoot from the John B. Yeon State Park.

Most of the trail is tucked away deep in the woods, which makes this trek ideal for very hot or rainy days. Following the signs, right from the start, you’ll be making your way up a mountain. This hike has a steady but not strenuous incline. About halfway through, you’ll follow a series of switchbacks ending at the side of a basalt cliff that you get to traverse around. It’s very narrow here with a steep drop-off, but take comfort: there is a metal railing here to keep you safe. I also came upon the best unexpected surprise of the hike: stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge. Neither my guide book nor websites I consulted prior to my hike mentioned the views, so I wasn’t expecting anything beyond lovely waterfall views. But once on the side of the basalt cliff, I was treated to this:


Shortly after rounding the cliff, you will hear the sounds of McCord Creek Falls, and soon it will come into view:

Upper McCord Creek Falls in Summer.

It’s a split waterfall, though as you can see the left side isn’t as lush and full as the right side. Most photos I’ve seen were taken during the rainy season, with both sides very filled out and high in volume. It was still gorgeous to see in person, though admittedly photos don’t fully do this lovely waterfall justice. After you take as many photos as your heart delights, head back down the way you came to the trailhead. The trail looks as though it continues on, but don’t be fooled by the false trail. It ends in the water at the top of the falls.

I would rate this trail as easy, as the elevation gain is only 400 feet and the trail is very well maintained. The only warning I would heed is that there are very steep drop-offs at certain points, so if you have small children or wandering dogs, I would advise against bringing them, or keeping them very close.

For directions on how to get there via I-84 coming from either Portland or the east, this page provides easy directions.

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Treks Down: 23, Treks to Go: 29

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