Tamanawas and Mount Hood

After a day in the Gorge at Ruckel and Gorton Creeks, I spent the following day traveling around Mount Hood. My first destination was Tamanawas Falls which has been on my list for a year or two. Located on the east side of Mount Hood, the falls are an impressive 90 feet tall and plunge over a volcanic rock outcrop. The falls are also situated in a way that allows you to get behind them so that opens up some other compositional opportunities.

The unsettled weather from the previous day continued into the next and I found myself in rain while the sun shined in Hood River. The trailhead for Tamanawas Falls is located right along Highway 35 south of Hood River along the banks of the Hood River. Several miles outside of town, you are treated to your first full view of Mount Hood. Upon my first view, I found that the mountain was acting as a dam for the nasty weather located on the west side. The eastern flanks were basking in sunshine while the divide was being overwhelmed by creeping clouds.

Mount Hood and the East Fork Hood River near Parkdale, Oregon
Spring storm clouds trying to travel over the top of Mount Hood
The sunshine continued all the way to the trailhead. It was clear that the weather wasn’t going to be optimal for waterfall photography. The hike is a pleasant 2+ miles through forest alongside Cold Springs Creek. The forest is unique in that it’s a bit more airy than a west-side forest but it still contains the high diversity of plants that you do find on the west. The cold spring was still thwarting plant leaf out but I still managed to see trillium, fairy slipper, Oregon anemone, and lots of few flowered solomon’s seal.

This hike was a really a great discovery. The creek alongside the trail has a number of interesting scenes that warrant further exploration. The falls are large enough to throw a significant amount of spray so taking a photo of the falls can be a challenge. I admit that I must have been a pretty humorous site huddled behind an umbrella on a sunny day waiting for a quick break in the spray to take my photos.

Tamanawas Falls and Cold Spring Creek
Tamanawas Falls and Cold Spring Creek
After some initial photos from further away, I hiked down to the edge of the creek for some closer shots. The spray was more intense so getting any shots required more gymnastics. I had a couple brief moments of balanced light as an occasional cloud would block the sun. My next stop was up behind the waterfall. I had to travel directly through the main brunt of spray but it was nice & dry once I got closer to the falls.

Tamanawas Falls from the side
Tamanawas Falls from the side
The area behind the falls is a large amphitheater thanks to a seemingly endless supply of calving columnar volcanic rock. It’s very cool to see- until you look up and see all the cracks in the rock high above you. I admit- I got spooked out about spending a lot of time underneath the overhanging rock. I took my shots and quickly moved back out into the safety of the open skies. After reaching the trailhead, I packed my gear and headed for a placed called Brooks Meadow.

Clued into this location by a Oregon blogger, I wanted to visit to check out this 35 acre meadow located at roughly 4,000 feet and a little bit further east of Mount Hood. Sadly, what wasn’t mentioned in the blog post about the meadow is that it is located within the City of Dalles watershed and access is prohibited. Bummer. Looked like a neat spot! All was not completely lost because I spied a location on my drive up that looked to have a nice, commanding view of Mount Hood and the East Fork Hood River valley.

Spring storm clouds over Mount Hood
Spring storm clouds over Mount Hood
Spring storm clouds over Mount Hood. Black & white conversion using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2
The clouds continued to thicken over the west slopes of Mount Hood and were continuing to provide dramatic conditions. I spent a fair amount of watching and taking photos before I had to leave. My last stop of the day was on the west side of Mount Hood and deep into the center of the bad weather- Lost Creek. Located within the Sandy River drainage, I was attracted to Lost Creek due to some photos of the waterfall that is present about 2 miles up the trail which continues on to Burnt Lake.

If Tamanawas Falls was a highlight then Lost Creek was a lowlight and disappointment. The creek was within earshot but just a little too far away and too much effort to be able to quickly pop off the trail and look for photo ops. Now throw in the fact that very little of anything has leafed out to this point and you get a fairly boring, lonely hike in the forest. Once I got to the falls, the second disappointment set in. The viewpoint of the falls is horrible- you’re standing right above them and there’s no safe way to access a better vantage point.

Had I known any of this, I probably would have skipped this one. Live and learn! The one thing that was pretty amazing about this trail was the unbelievable abundance of trillium. It almost reminded me of some of the displays of avalanche lilies you see at Mount Rainier. I think I will return to explore the Sandy River valley a little more since the forests do seem interesting.

One Response to Tamanawas and Mount Hood
  1. Sarah Fischler

    Hi Steve – this is a very nice selection of photos. The close-up views of Mount Hood are really great and I like the photos of the falls a lot, as well. Sounds like a fun trip!