Portland, OR: Rock of Ages

Trek through a lush wonderland en route to four spectacular waterfalls, countless swimming holes, and postcard-worthy views of the Columbia River Gorge on this 8.8-mile loop.
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Trek through a lush wonderland en route to four spectacular waterfalls, countless swimming holes, and postcard-worthy views of the Columbia River Gorge on this 8.8-mile loop.

This Columbia Gorge classic wastes no time warming up: You'll catch awe-inspiring views of the majestic Horsetail Falls before leaving the parking lot. From the trailhead, the route heads west along the Gorge Trail before turning left onto Rock of Ages Trail and continuing the nearly 3,000-foot climb to the hike’s apex. Along this stretch, numerous side trails lead to vistas of the Columbia River Gorge.
After half a mile, turn left to take a quick detour to the picturesque Rock of Ages Arch. Less than 500 feet later, escape from the dense rainforest and hit a rocky outcrop on the spiny Devil’s Backbone ridgeline, catching breathtaking panoramas of the Columbia River and its steep, wooded hillsides.
After 2.4 miles, crest the hike’s high point at 3,000 feet and descend on Horsetail Creek Trail. Hike past several stream crossings before reaching postcard views of Triple Falls near mile 7 and the equally dazzling Oneonta Falls half a mile later. Catch your fourth and final waterfall sighting just 0.5 mile from the trailhead at Ponytail Falls. Finish the trip by returning to Waypoint 3 and turning left toward the trailhead.
-Mapped by Trung Q. Le

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 14.2

Waypoints

ROA001

Location: 45.5902575, -122.068212

From the parking area along historic US 30, take in spectacular views of the 171-foot Horsetail Falls before heading east on the Horsetail Falls Trail (#438).

ROA002

Location: 45.5902875, -122.065562

Hang a right at the Y-junction to switchback up the Gorge Trail (#400).

ROA003

Location: 45.5892965, -122.0686412

Turn left at the Y-junction onto Rock of Ages Trail (sometimes called Mystery Trail). The trail can be hard to find; look for the sign that reads: "Trail Not Maintained." The ascent from here is strenuous; the steep trail is composed of loose rock, roots, and soil.

ROA004

Location: 45.5886208, -122.0680296

Bear left at the Y-junction to stay on the Rock of Ages Trail. The right-hand fork leads to a glimpse of Ponytail Falls. Note: Better views of the falls await, as you'll pass Ponytail again on the way home.

ROA005

Location: 45.588373, -122.0662057

Bear left at the Y-junction on a 300-foot side trail to reach top-notch views of the Rock of Ages Arch. To continue on, head back to the intersection and turn left on the Rock of Ages Trail.

ROA006

Location: 45.5881402, -122.0653582

Bear right at the Y-junction to stay on the Rock of Ages Trail, which continues to climb through dense forest to the Devil's Backbone ridgeline.

ROA007

Location: 45.5879, -122.0643389

Upon reaching the lesser-traveled Devil's Backbone ridgeline, be prepared to encounter windblown trees blocking the rough trail.

ROA008

Location: 45.5877949, -122.0637488

Head straight at the 3-way junction to stay on Rock of Ages Trail.

ROA009

Location: 45.5810821, -122.0316696

Crest the trail's high point (3,000 feet) and turn right at the Y-junction onto Horsetail Creek Trail (#425). From here, the trail descends for the next several miles.

ROA010

Location: 45.576569, -122.0351136

Cross the East Fork of Horsetail Creek. The stream's cool water makes this section a refreshing rest point on hot days.

ROA011

Location: 45.5732721, -122.0366478

Cross the Middle Fork of Horsetail Creek by wading or rock-hopping.

ROA012

Location: 45.571004, -122.0374632

Cross the Horsetail Creek for the last time.

ROA013

Location: 45.5684804, -122.0502627

At the Y-junction, bear right onto Oneonta Trail. Descend approximately 20 switchbacks on this well-maintained stretch of trail.

ROA014

Location: 45.5713945, -122.0559168

Bear right at the Y-junction to continue on Oneonta Trail. To the left is a short scramble leading to a viewpoint of Oneonta Gorge and Larch Mountain.

ROA015

Location: 45.5663548, -122.0613027

Cross Oneonta Creek by either rock-hopping or crossing on a fallen tree about 30 feet upstream.

ROA016

Location: 45.5665952, -122.0614743

Bear right at the Y-junction to bypass the Fanela Ridge and stay on Oneonta Trail.

ROA017

Location: 45.5677894, -122.0620966

Cross Oneonta Creek on a narrow footbridge.

ROA018

Location: 45.5781385, -122.0724392

Capture spectacular views of Triple Falls by crossing Oneonta Creek on Triple Falls Bridge.

ROA019

Location: 45.5791372, -122.0727289

Continue straight at the 3-way junction to stay on Oneonta Trail. Optional: Take a quick detour to the right for a fantastic view of Triple Falls. The magnificent Oneonta Falls is just further down the trail.

ROA020

Location: 45.5859929, -122.0727932

Bear right at the Y-intersection onto Gorge Trail. At this point, the trail becomes more crowded.

ROA021

Location: 45.5852045, -122.0731902

Cross Oneonta Creek on a footbridge. On hot days, you'll see other hikers enjoying the creek's cool, refreshing water further downstream.

ROA022

Location: 45.5894316, -122.0733726

Bypass a side trail leading to vistas of the Columbia River Gorge by bearing right on the Gorge Trail. In about 500 feet you'll reach the stunning Ponytail Falls. To return to the trailhead, hike to Waypoint 3 and bear left.

Oneonta Creek

Location: 45.5675341, -122.0617962

Horsetail Falls

Location: 45.590265, -122.0680726

Rock of Ages Trail Junction

Location: 45.5902875, -122.0654547

Top of Ponytail Falls

Location: 45.5886508, -122.0692527

Ponytail Falls

Location: 45.5889015, -122.0692749

Devil's Backbone Ridgeline Ascent

Location: 45.5885832, -122.0670104

Rock of Ages Arch

Location: 45.5876747, -122.0669353

Devil's Backbone Outcrop Vantage Point

Location: 45.5866776, -122.0632935

Devil's Backbone Ridgeline

Location: 45.5851519, -122.0504236

East Fork of Horsetail Creek

Location: 45.576569, -122.0350063

West Fork of Horsetail Creek

Location: 45.571004, -122.0373559

Dense Vegetation

Location: 45.5660394, -122.0603371

Footbridge: Oneonta Creek

Location: 45.5676618, -122.0617855

Triple Falls

Location: 45.5791523, -122.0725572