Bonneville Things to Do

  • Main Trailhead at Eagle Creek
    Main Trailhead at Eagle Creek
    by glabah
  • Narrow Road south to Main Eagle Creek Trailhead
    Narrow Road south to Main Eagle Creek...
    by glabah
  • Main Eagle Creek Trailhead
    Main Eagle Creek Trailhead
    by glabah

Best Rated Things to Do in Bonneville

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Eagle Creek Trail: The Basics

    by glabah Updated Jun 13, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Main Trailhead at Eagle Creek
    4 more images

    What many regard as the most popular trail in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is the Eagle Creek Trail. This trail runs south from the Eagle Creek Fish Hatchery for a number of miles, and eventually interconnects with several other trails.

    Punchbowl Falls (also known as Devil's Punchbowl Falls) is one of the popular destinations on the trail, and it is

    This location may also be used as a trailhead to several other trails, including the Columbia Gorge Historic Highway Trail, a trail further up the hill that runs eastward as far as Waukeena Falls, and a trail that goes upward to a small viewpoint at the top of a small rock cleft.

    The trailhead has restrooms in several locations, one of which is directly south of the Eagle Creek Fish Hatchery.

    There is a recreational area host that is usually camped by this first restroom facility in a motorhome.

    There are small parking lots located along the road that heads south of the main parking lot, but most of these are usually occupied as it is a very popular trail.

    There is a $5 fee for parking here. The payment method is a simple self-register booth where you pick up an envilope, fill out a small form, put the payment envilope in the receptacle and put the receipt in the vehicle you arrived in. You should also tear off the receipt that you are supposed to keep with you as a proof of payment. If you arrive by some method other than driving, you should keep the entire payment receipt in your pocket.

    There is a campground up the hill from the main parking area. Follow signs on narrow road going up the hill on the west side of the parking area.

    Warnings and Hazards: The Eagle Creek Trail is a really nice trail, but it should be noted that this is not a trail for everyone. The trail goes along the side of some very steep cliffs, where falling from them into the creek below means pretty much instant death. See photo 5. Add to photo 5 that most of the time the rocks in the photo will be wet (in August they probably won't be but most of the rest of the year they will) so that they are slippery. In many locations water will be over the trail, and a small amount of fording will be necessary. The trail itself isn't extremely steep unlike many in the Columbia River Gorge, but some of the branches (such as a few of the falls viewpoints) there are quite steep segments.

    Just on Saturday, June 9, over a few hours there were several severe injuries on this trail, caused by people not paying attention, and / or not practicing good trail etiquette and trying to force their way past people on the very narrow sections of the trail.

    For safety reasons I highly suggest avoiding weekends, due to the likelyhood of meeting careless fellow hikers on this trail on weekdays.

    To get to the main Eagle Creek trailhead from the main parking area, it is necessary to walk south along the narrow road leading to the very small southern parking area. However, this is a one lane road and people drive much too fast on it for the number of people that are walking on it. Also, as it is only one lane wide, if you drive on it keep in mind you may wind up having to allow oncoming traffic to pass.

    Due to the steep cliffs on either side of the trail, keep in mind that in many locations there are not good spots to hide in the event you realize you need a bathroom break. So, be sure to go before you need to go on the trail, and take the best opportunities that are given to you when they arise.

    In response to your overcoming these hazards and pitfalls, you will be treated to some wonderful and unspoiled vistas of the Columbia River Gorge environment. There are dozens of waterfalls along the trail, and some wonderful vistas.

    Many of these really deserve to be mentioned in their own right and therefore they will be covered in a separate tip.

    How to Get Here: Only accessible from eastbound Interstate 84. Follow signs for Eagle Creek Recreation Area. Exit just after Tunnel. Return to I-84 going west go east to Cascade Locks. If going west on I-84, go west to Bonneville, and return to easbound part of I-84, then follow above instructions about exiting the Interstate immediately after the tunnel.

    About the Photos:

    Photo 1: Main Trailhead and Parking Area. Restroom structure is somewhat hidden in the background in the trees. Self-service pay station is to the left side of the photo. The Eagle Creek Fish Hatery (Cascade Fish Hatchery) is to the right side of the photo, and off the edge of the photo.

    Photo 2: The road south to the Trailhead. This is the narrow road on which you will need to walk, and on which people drive much too fast for the possibility of oncoming traffic and hikers on the road.

    Photo 3: This is the actual main trailhead for the main Eagle Creek Trail. To the left is a self-service pay station, but keep in mind that you will need to walk back to your car if you use this one. If you use the main parking area it is best to use the self-service pay station at the main parking area not this one.

    Photo 4: Typical Eagle Creek trail Scene: The trail running on the base of a cliff along the edge of Eagle Creek.

    Photo 5: Another typical Eagle Creek Trail Scene: Here the trail runs along the edge of a cliff, approximately 150 feet above the creek and bottom of the cliff. The rocks are wet from water dripping from above, making them slippery. The view is nice, but make sure you do not fall off the cliff in these locations of the trail. If there is someone behind you in a big rush to get through, it is much safer to let them kill themselves in these sections of the trail and let them pass you, rather than run the risk of them passing you on this narrow ledge and killing both of you.

    For More Photos and Information See:

    The Travelogue of Photos of The first 2 Miles of the Eagle Creek Trail

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Bonneville Dam: Turbine Room, other Dam Parts

    by glabah Updated Aug 7, 2010

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Please note that to access any place on the Bonneville Dam, you must pass through the dam security gate. Dam security measures change on a regular basis depending on the threat level, and therefore certain dam facilities may not be open to the public due to changes in security on particular days.

    While the visitor's center at Bonneville Dam gives much information (and quite a bit of it rather self-serving for the Bonneville Power Administration, in my not so very humble opinion) the information doesn't give you an up-close look at the dam.

    As it is necessary to drive across the dam structure in order to get to the dam visitor's center, you've also seen some of the lower sections of the dam structure if you have come as far as the visitor's center. However, it is also possible to view and visit other dam sections.

    While there isn't too much to see, it is possible, for example, for you to view the top of the dam generators, which sit above the turbines. You can't actually see anything in motion, but it does give you an impression of the dam scale. If you are lucky, maybe one of the generators close to the viewing platform will have been taken apart, allowing you to see the true insides of the dam machinery.

    While self-guided tours are available, it is also possible to arrange group tours of the facilities here. In my much younger days I was able to get down inside one of the dam turbines and otherwise get into dam facilities that are not open to the public. However, those years are long gone, I think.

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Columbia Gorge Highway Trail: Eagle Creek eastward

    by glabah Written Jun 27, 2010

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Eagle Creek to I-84 Tunnel section in Forest
    3 more images

    This is a placeholder to allow the construction and linkage of other tips. More information will eventually be put here.

    The Columbia Gorge Highway was a historic landmark even when it was started in 1913. The idea was to make a paved road that was enjoyable to travel using that new recreational form of transport: the automobile. Much of the road was destroyed when Interstate 84 was built, but several sections linger on. Some of them make up pieces of a trail that it is hoped will one day complete a pedestrian and biking route through the Columbia Gorge, and showcase the scenery as it was originally intended to.

    Several trailheads for this trail exist in Bonneville. The one described here shares parking with the extremely popular Eagle Creek hiking trail, and therefore during most high tourist days (which in recent years means almost any weekend, or even summer weekdays) it is going to be hard to find a place to park here.

    Also note that the Eagle Creek trailhead parking is actually owned and operated by the US Forest Service. If you have an Oregon State Parks pass of any sort, it is not valid in this parking area. You have to pay a separate fee to use this one.

    To continue the trip eastward from here on the Columbia Gorge Highway trail, you need to go to the north side of the Cascade Fish Hatchery, where you will find a concrete barrier separating highway traffic from the trail. The closeness of the freeway traffic makes this one of the most unpleasant sections of the trail, and thankfully it does not last too long before hikers have the option of continuing on a section of the trail that winds somewhat steeply through the hills. Bikers have the option of a more level and somewhat louder route.

    In either case, however, the trail does eventually get further away from the interstate, and runs through fairly thick forest. The highway and its horrific noise is never far away, however.

    Several trails branch off of this one, including the steeply sloping Ruckel Creek Trail.

    Eventually, the trail arrives at a tunnel under Interstate 84, and from here on out the trail goes into the city of Cascade Locks. Please see my Cascade Locks to Interstate 84 section of the trail tip, which is located in Cascade Locks.

    The Hood River to Mosier section of the trail is a much more pleasant section as it is quite a bit further from the highway. The best place to get started on that one is my Hood River trail section tip.

    Related to:
    • Cycling
    • Hiking and Walking

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Columbia Gorge Highway Trail: Tooth Rock Section

    by glabah Updated Jun 29, 2010

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Columbia Gorge view from Tooth Rock trail section
    4 more images

    This is a placeholder to allow the construction and linkage of other tips. More information will eventually be put here.

    The Columbia Gorge Highway was a historic landmark even when it was started in 1913. The idea was to make a paved road that was enjoyable to travel using that new recreational form of transport: the automobile. Much of the road was destroyed when Interstate 84 was built, but several sections linger on. Some of them make up pieces of a trail that it is hoped will one day complete a pedestrian and biking route through the Columbia Gorge, and showcase the scenery as it was originally intended to. My best tip that describes the history of the highway and the trail is in my Hood River trail section tip.

    Several trailheads for this trail exist in Bonneville. This particular tip concentrates on the section between Eagle Creek and the Tooth Rock Trailhead.

    This approximately 1 mile section of the trail is quite short, but it has by far the best views of the section of the trail that is open between the Bonneville Dam and Cascade Locks. As originally built, the highway made a long, sweeping curve around the face of this rock that juts out above the Columbia River. Improvements for larger vehicles resulted in the highway being rebuilt through the Tooth Rock Tunnel, which was later bypassed by the westbound section of Interstate 84 when that was built. Thus, the Tooth Rock section of the trail is probably one of the few sections of the trail that uses a nearly original as-built section of the old highway, as it was bypassed fairly early on rather than slowly improved as much of the rest of the old highway was to allow for larger vehicles.

    The bad news is that in one direction the view is now dominated by the Bonneville Dam and in the other the westbound lanes of Interstate 84. I have been creative in my use of camera angles in order to hide these (after all, it is still a fairly scenic location) but the fact is that it isn't anywhere near as scenic as when the highway was first built. The Hood River trail section has no hydroelectric dam dominating the view and it is quite a bit further from the freeway noise.

    The original builders of the old highway wanted this to be a scenic wonder, and several observation decks were built into the side of the highway guard rail. Walkers and bikers on this section of the trail can now be treated to the same views.

    West of tooth rock, between the Tooth Rock parking area and Tooth Rock itself, the trail passes through fairly lush forest. However, Interstate 84 is never too far away, and the noise is quite present.

    Getting Here:

    As the Eagle Creek trailhead is very difficult to find parking, I highly suggest using the Tooth Rock trailhead. To get to this trailhead, exit Interstate 84 at exit 40. On the south side of Interstate 84, you will find a road that curves uphill to the left past the highway entrance ramp. This road leads to the Tooth Rock Trailhead. You will need to pay an Oregon State Parks day use fee or have an annual pass. From this point on, the trail is fairly obvious as it uses the old highway.

    The Eagle Creek trailhead is only accessible from the eastbound section of Interstate 84. You will have to get off at exit 41, cross the stone bridge, and turn right at the Cascade Fish Hatchery. Good luck finding parking if it is a peak tourist day. To get to the trail, you need to go back the way you just came, cross the stone bridge that now makes up the exit ramp from the freeway, and climb the staircase that is on the south side of the exit ramp. The staircase has narrow ramp sections to ease climbing the stairs with your bike. This small piece of the trail leads up hill to the section of the old highway that was destroyed in order to create Interstate 84, and thus to the short remaining section of the old highway that goes around Tooth Rock.

    Also note that the Eagle Creek trailhead parking is actually owned and operated by the US Forest Service. If you have an Oregon State Parks pass of any sort, it is not valid in this parking area. You have to pay a separate fee to use this one.

    The Tooth Rock Trailhead, on the other hand, is part of the state parks, and requires a state parks permit (day use feel or annual pass) and does not accept the US Forest Service pass.

    Continuation, and other Sections of the Trail:

    Tooth Rock going west is extremely difficult right now due to an ongoing highway 84 construction project. However, it does continue west, when it is open.

    To continue the trip eastward from here on the Columbia Gorge Highway trail, you need to go to the north side of the Cascade Fish Hatchery, where you will find a concrete barrier separating highway traffic from the trail. See my Eagle Creek Going East section for more information.

    Eventually, the trail arrives at a tunnel under Interstate 84, and from here on out the trail goes into the city of Cascade Locks. Please see my Cascade Locks to Interstate 84 section of the trail tip, which is located in Cascade Locks.

    The Hood River to Mosier section of the trail is a much more pleasant section as it is quite a bit further from the highway. The best place to get started on that one is my Hood River trail section tip.

    Related to:
    • Photography
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Cycling

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Boneville Dam: Visitor's Center (basics)

    by glabah Updated Aug 7, 2010

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Visitor's Center for Bonneville Dam, Oregon side
    4 more images

    Please note that to access any place on the Bonneville Dam, you must pass through the dam security gate. Dam security measures change on a regular basis depending on the threat level, and therefore certain dam facilities may not be open to the public due to changes in security on particular days.

    Constructed as part of the 1930's effort to rebuild the USA from the Great Depression, this hydroelectric project provides electricity to the Bonneville Power Administration grid, which can send power to quite a number of other states outside Oregon and Washington. The dam also submerged the rapids of the Columbia River at Cascade Locks which caused the locks to be built in the first place.

    The visitor's center is a separate building from the main powerhouse of the dam. Inside it, you will find a considerable amount of information on hydroelectric power, the history of the dam and electricity, and the salmon and other migrating fish and eels that use the river, and how the dam has attempted to accomodate them.

    There are two levels to the visitor's center, and the bottom level features the glass sides of the fish ladder that allow people to see the fish migrating, and the fish counter at work counting the fish.

    Outside the visitor's center, there is also a huge turbine wheel from one of the original powerhouse turbines.

    It is also possible to view the fish ladder and the fish going through the fish ladder - from both the top and from the lower level of the visitor's center.

    Guided tours are available on a select schedule depending on the season, and interpretive programs for large tour groups are also available.

    There is also a visitor's center on the Washington Side, but it isn't quite as extensive as the Oregon side.

    Fish counts are very seasonal, and for trip planning purposes you will want to check up on what is migrating and when it tends to come through the area.

    Photo 1: entrance to the visitor's center.

    Photo 2: fish on display as part of visitor's center.

    Photo 3: Fish Counter working at the narrow part of the fish ladder counting the fish. To the right are the results of the fish count.

    Photo 4: People watch the fish migrate up the fish ladder during August, 2009.

    Photo 5: Turbine from the original Bonneville Dam powerhouse

    Related to:
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Bonneville Dam Fish Ladder (visitor's center)

    by glabah Updated Aug 7, 2010

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    visitors watch the fish in the fish ladder
    4 more images

    Please note that to access any place on the Bonneville Dam, you must pass through the dam security gate. Dam security measures change on a regular basis depending on the threat level, and therefore certain dam facilities may not be open to the public due to changes in security on particular days.

    One of the fish ladders for the Bonneville Dam runs along the northwest side of the visitor's center building. To watch the fish from the outside, it is necessary to walk to the outisde wall of the visitor's center that is on the opposite side of the parking lot. You will be able to follow the paved walkways and signs and find it just fine.

    Many of the fish migrate through here by migrating through the fish ladder under the obstacles. A few of them will jump over the obstacles in the fish ladder, and they will be visible from the top.

    September is the peak month for Chinook and Coho salmon, while Sockeye peak in June. Steelhead peak in August, and June and July are the peak months for Pacific Lamprey eel.

    Photo 1: visitors watch the fish in the fish ladder in very late August, 2009 from inside the bottom level of the visitors center

    Photo 2: these fish on display let visitors know what they are seeing, help them identify the fish going past, and give them an up close look at the fish.

    Photo 3: a top view of the serpentine path of the fish ladder

    Photo 4: the outdoor viewing area for the top of the fish ladder. Sometimes fish jump over the barriers you can see in the water, but many times they go under these barriers.

    Photo 5: the fish counts for various fish taken at Bonneville Dam.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Family Travel
    • Aquarium

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Columbia Gorge Highway Trail: Tooth Rock Westward

    by glabah Written Jun 28, 2010

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area
    1 more image

    Currently, the section of the old Columbia Gorge Highway Trail going west from Tooth Rock is either exceptionally difficult or closed, due to an ongoing highway construction project.

    When this section of the trail opens for use again there will be more useful information put here.

    Currently open sections of the trail in Bonneville include:

    Tooth Rock to Eagle Creek This short section has some wonderful views of the Columbia Gorge

    Eagle Creek to the Tunnel Under Interstate 84

    Currently open sections of the trail in other areas include:

    Cascade Locks to the Tunnel Under Interstate 84 (located in Cascade Locks)

    Hood River to the Twin Tunnels (located in Hood River)

    Mosier to the Twin Tunnels (located in Mosier)

    Related to:
    • Cycling
    • Hiking and Walking

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Bonneville

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

116 travelers online now

Comments

Bonneville Things to Do

Reviews and photos of Bonneville things to do posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Bonneville sightseeing.

View all Bonneville hotels