Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages Loop
About 10.5 mi
Arrived to trailhead by 12pm
About 5 hrs including rest time and side trail adventures
Our party included: myself, Kevin, Brian, and his dog Daisy

View pictures here:
PDX Hiker Facebook Fan Page –

I have done many hikes in the Horsetail/Oneota/ Franklin Ridge area, but never knew of this trail until after reading an online forum about it. The Rock of Ages trailhead is just prior to turning the corner to seeing the upper falls (some call it Ponytail Falls).

The trailhead is not marked clearly making it interesting for locating (the trail not maintained either).  After reading up on many blogs, forums, and hiking sites we were able to find it right away. Now knowing where it is – it’s crazy that I never even noticed it after the numerous times I have strolled pass.

Once you locate the trail enjoy the strenuous climb up the side of the ridge. The trail does have relatively flat portions to enjoy a quick rest to regain your breath and let the burn stop for a moment. Portions of the trail are literally vertical 5th class climbing. The 5th class scrambles are actually much easier than the steep hiking. I enjoyed showing off my famous mantle move to all the spectators. Some of the vertical climbing portions made things a tiny bit difficult with the dog; however, we prevailed and ‘got her done.’

Upon reaching a fork in the trail – left takes you down a steep trail heading North and right goes south up to the ridge for a spectacular view point. After all the steep climbing we had absolutely no desire to hike down just to come right back up; however, little did we know that one of the most amazing views would be overlooked due to this pain-stricten decision.

After reading on portlandhikers.org I come to realize that hiking down this side path would have offered one of the most beautiful views of the gorge including a rock arch with views of the spectacular views of St Peters Dome. (Brian and I ended up venturing back the following weekend to famous rock arch. Great views of the gorge! There were some awesome looking icicles along the Oregon Cliffs!)

The trail continues to climb – the upper section seemed more difficult because not only were the legs burning, but the ground was muddy from the week’s snow/rain. Despite the painful climb, there were always great views from being on the ridge.

The trail finally opens up out of the dense forest to a sweet basalt rock ridge. If there are white caps on the river I highly suggest not doing this hike! For most the trail you are on the ridge getting blasted by wind every direction. Also, there are a few exposed points that could be even sketchier with heavy winds.

From the rocky ridge it wasn’t too much further to the Horsetail Creek trail junction. We ended up going left (Southeastward) where we hit about 4 inches of snow. I was able to capture a cool picture of being at 3200 ft with snow surrounding us then beyond the snow the gorge showing its fall colors. After hiking for 20 minutes in the increasingly deep snow we decided to turn around and head West on the Horsetail Creek trail.

The Horsetail Creek Trail basically parallels the Columbia River and is a quintessential trail connecting the Colum

bia River Gorge trail network.

We hiked the trail looping around to Triple Falls, Onenota Gorge, and Ponytail Falls. I had never been on this section of trail before so it was all new to me. We had to ford three creeks – one was much larger than the others. It was somewhat difficult because of the snow and swift moving current. The key was to stay low to the ground, ensure footing was secure, and to map out your sequence before hand. The dog crossed above the white water – a little swift, but she made it ok.

Once we hit Triple Falls it was starting to get pretty dark out. Shortly thereafter we busted out the headlamps; however, Brian was weary of that because Daisy loves to follow and play with lights. Brian didn’t want us to look over the edge in fear that his dog- intoxicated by fatigued- would follow the light over the edge.

Just past Pony Tail Falls we passed a birdwatcher who was way stoked because he saw two bald eagles soaring through the skies nearby.

Back at the parking lot I changed out wet shoes/socks, quenched my hunger with a Winco sub sandwich, replenished my electrolytes with some Gatorade, and bumped out to some 80s classics.

All in a days work…

View pictures here:
PDX Hiker Facebook Fan Page –

For more info on the trail check out these sites –

http://nwhiker.com/CGNSAHike17.html – since “rock of ages” is not a maintained trail it is not officially listed here, but can be viewed on the map

http://www.portlandhikersfieldguide.org/wiki/Rock_of_Ages_Loop_Hike – Map, description, pictures

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