The Columbia River Gorge is dotted with hikes, waterfalls and stunning views. But if you’re tired of easy strolls and crowded paths, you might want to investigate the Ruckle Ridge Loop Hike. It’s one of the more challenging and difficult day hikes in the area, so be sure to strap on your good hiking boots, and steel you nerve.
The trail starts at the parking lot near the Eagle Creek Camp Host station parking lot, and then meanders past Campsite 5 of the Eagle Creek Campground. From here, follow the sign for Buck Point Trail, then take a right at the first fork. Head past Buck Point, take in the view of the Columbia River, and then continue upward into the trees.
From here expect rapid elevation gains, and rough terrain. The area is thick with mossy rocks and basalt columns, not to mention snarls of tree roots on the trail. And about two miles from Buck Point is a feature dubbed “The Catwalk” - a rocky knife ridge that cuts through the trees with widths that diminish down to one foot. Be sure to traverse this carefully, and assume that the rocks are slippery.
It’s downhill from there, aside from one last uphill slog, and then levels to a walk across the Benson Plateau at 3,700 feet. Pick a downed tree to cross the Ruckle Creek on, and you’ll be on the return route of Ruckle Creek Trail. The fields here have wildflowers in abundance, with three beautiful viewpoints of the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens. You might also spot the covered remnants of Native American rock pits.
To leave the trail from here, follow the trail downhill, until you hit the paved Historic Columbia River Highway Trail. Walk west (left) until you find the Eagle Creek Camp Host station parking lot.
Directions from Portland: Travel east on Interstate 84 to exit #41. Take a right at the end of the off ramp and follow the signs to Eagle Creek Campground. Parking fees at the camp lot are $5 per vehicle.