From Portland Hikers Field Guide
- Hikes to this location
- Hikes including this location
- Latitude: 45.62155
- Longitude: -121.89454
- Maps: Portland Hikers Maps Google Earth
- Elevation: 484 feet (viewpoint)
- Elevation: 340 feet (base)
- Height: 35 feet
Punchbowl Falls ranks with Mount Hood, Multnomah Falls and Crater Lake as enduring icons of Oregon and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. It is a frequent subject of postcards and calendars, but this by no means diminishes its allure, and the understated beauty of its surroundings.
As evidenced by its name, the years have carved a deep, bowl-shaped pool at the base of the falls, creating a cathedralesque, circular basin. In fact, the geologists have borrowed the name "Punchbowl" as a new designation for other waterfalls with the same basic flow (like nearby Metlako Falls).
On summer weekends this is a popular place, to say the least! In addition to being a choice destination for hikers, it is a favorite swimming hole for locals. It's not uncommon to see children splashing around, cooling off in the chilly water. However, if you can come early on a summer weekday, or in the off-season, this can be a place of enchanting solitude - as you sit relaxing at the water's edge surrounded by tall, dripping, gorge walls and old growth forest.
There are two ways to enjoy the falls. From Eagle Creek-Lower Punchbowl Junction, you can follow the Lower Punchbowl Falls Trail (#441A) down to the water's edge some 75 feet downstream of the falls, as detailed in the Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls Hike. On the other hand, if you're just passing by, the Eagle Creek Trail passes a viewpoint from above. The spur trail option does involve some moderate elevation drop, which you'll have to make up on the way back! (Keep this in mind if you are hiking with children.) In the past, a downed tree has marred an otherwise perfect photo opportunity from this site. The tree fell and lodged itself in that location some 10 years ago. Over the years people have attempted to move it - but the deep water in the pool make it an impossible task. Maybe people couldn't move it, but the big floods of December 2008-January 2009, Eagle Creek moved the log, and there is a perfectly good view of Punchbowl Falls again!
If you do chose the overlook, don't be tempted to step over to the other side of the cable-line fencing, even though the ground may appear well-worn. Every year there is a story of a person injuring themselves in a fall from this location. Dogs have also perished when let off-leash on this trail. There is a trace of a trail to the top of the falls itself, but this path is dangerous and not recommended.
In the wetter, higher volume months, this falls has grown in popularity as a target for kayakers. Don't be surprised to see them lining up for their turn to 'run the falls' and submerge momentarily in the pool below!
Just around the corner from Punchbowl Falls, the Eagle Creek Trail crosses Tish Creek on a modern steel truss bridge. Tish Creek cascades directly below the bridge into the Eagle Creek Canyon.
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Guidebooks that cover this destination
- Hiking Oregon's Geology, by Ellen Morris Bishop
- Day Hike! Columbia Gorge, by Seabury Blair, Jr.
- 60 Hikes within 60 miles of Portland, by Paul Gerald
- Afoot and Afield Portland/Vancouver, by Douglas Lorain
- 35 Hiking Trails, Columbia River Gorge, by Don & Roberta Lowe
- Columbia River Gorge, 42 Scenic Hikes, by Don & Roberta Lowe
- Hiking the Columbia River Gorge - 1st and 2nd Editions, by Russ Schneider
- 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon - 3rd Edition, by William L Sullivan