Challenging your lungs in a tug-a-war with your legs, the Indian Point Loop Trail leads up into the high cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge for spectacular views worth the battle.
From Indian Point – an outcropping of rocks along a rocky ridge – enjoy 180-degree views of the Columbia River as well as the Washington bank and the tree-lined slopes of the neighboring cliffs. I unfortunately did this hike on a cloudy day, but even in the fog the site was pretty spectacular and every once in a while the dense white cloud layer would swirl away for peak-a-boo views of the river below.
Too see these sweeping panoramas though, be prepared to climb! The first four miles of this hike is all up hill. Gaining 2800 feet, this hike isn’t for those looking for a fast up and down half-day hike – unless you are the Speedy Gonzales of hikers.
NOTE: This trail series has many different routes into the wilderness. Make sure bring specific instructions and a map with you. Also set a turn around time in case you get lost.
Starting at the Herman Creek Trailhead, this 7.6 mile round-trip trail meanders back into the dense woods of the Gorge before it starts its upward grind toward the viewpoint ridge. Continue along this trail until you reach the first of many trail-split signs. This one has two routes. Take the upper trail to the left to stay on the Herman Creek Trail (the lower takes you out the PCT trail). At 1.6 miles you will reach the second trail split at Herman Camp. For the most gradual trail to Indian Point follow the Gordon Creek Trail to the left at this intersection (the loop will eventually drop you back to this point at the end of the day). Continue hiking this route up, up, and up some more.
At mile 3.8 you will reach the third intersection. One trail leads up further (called the Ridge Cut-Off trail) and the other continues ahead and around a bend. To reach Indian Point continue ahead for another 100 feet or so and look for a small trail falling off the side of the main path on your left. Unmarked, this trail is very easy to miss (we missed it and hiked an extra 4-miles!) However, there are a few trail markers pinned to the trees at this point, so keep your eyes peeled for those. Scramble down this short, steep trail to reach Indian Point and take in the views.
Out at India Point be cautious for loose rocks while exploring the area. No need to be a hotshot either and venture out too far!
To return on the loop trail, head back up to the main trail and back to the right to the last intersection. Here take the high route, the Ridge Cut-off trail. This will connect you to the Nick Eaton Trail in about .5 mile. At the T-intersection with the Nick Eaton Trail, follow it down to your right. It’s about another 2 miles to the bottom following several steep switchbacks – so no need to rush. This trail will then drop you back on the Herman Creek Trail just south of Herman Camp. Take the path to the right and you’ll be on the your route home!
There are many additional routes to try to extend your hike out on this trail system, but if you are wanting to do more than this loop trail make sure you have a trail map and plenty of food and water. Here is a descent online trail map of the Nike Eaton Trail and connecting loops.
Getting there: From Portland, take I-84 for 40 miles east to exit 44 for Cascade Locks. The exit will take you on the north side of the interstate through town, continue eat on this road until it pass back under the freeway. Continue straight onto frontage road on the south side of the freeway for about two more miles. The Herman Creek Campground will be on your right. If the gate is closed park at the bottom and walk up the paved road or continue up to the trail head and park. Restrooms are available at the parking lot.