March 10, 2007.
8 miles | 1400′ ft. elevation gain (according to hikingupward.com) | 3:45 hours
The Cape Horn loop had been on my to-do list for awhile, so when my friends decided to hike here I gladly went along for the ride.
We parked at the bus stop where a couple of other sketchy cars were located and hoped for the best. Another hiker had just reported being broken into on the other side of the Gorge, and my car was hit a few months ago, so I am still nervous about parking here. We hoped for the best as we found the trailhead on this cool, humid, March morning.
The loop is a delightful melange of carefully graded trails, interesting bridges, talus traverses, rocky steeps, roadwalks, and fields. There are plenty of breathtaking views of the Gorge and a walk under a waterfall to boot. Most of the elevation gain is in the first couple of miles so the majority of the walk is relatively mild. And we only came across three other hikers as we completed the loop. I love the Washington side of the Gorge. On the way out we ran into a solo hiker who had spent years exploring the area and he had lots of information to share.
The loop begins with some uphill climbing through a pretty forest. The trail switchbacks several times before it leaves us at the top of something and rewards us with some views. Then, the grade mellows, herd paths cross the main trail and we end up in a flat field near a gravel road. Following the road for a bit leads us back to the trail, which drops back into forest. After some more ups and downs, viewpoints, and flower-gawking, we reach SR-14 again. The trail continues on the other side.
We dart across the road and descend muddy trails and cool, rocky switchbacks to a sweet view of the river and the train tracks. A spur path leads right to the edge of some gnarly cliffs and we teetered out as far as our wits would take us.
The next section of trail covers some of the most fun terrain. The path becomes rockier and scramblier, the dark forest is shattered by wide open rockslides, and waterfalls pour into the feeder streams that cross the trail. We have a great time negotiating this section and walking beneath the falling water.
Finally we reach Cape Horn Road and begin the final stretch back to the trailhead. We walk steadily on this casual uphill, past lovely, rolling fields and delicate, mossy trees. The rain falls gently as we conclude the hike. Fabulous.
Highlights included the sights and sounds of newly awakening spring birds, a light spray from a towering waterfall, a sea lion sighting, trillium in bloom and unusual basalt formations. Of course, the company was lots of fun as well. As we briskly walked along the Gorge, we filled the air with laughter and silliness. There’s nothing quite like hiking with good friends.