Metlako Falls

Columbia River Gorge / Eagle Creek, Oregon, USA

About Metlako Falls


Hiking Distance: 3.5 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 1.5-2 hours

Date first visited: 2009-03-29
Date last visited: 2017-08-18

Waterfall Latitude: 45.62808
Waterfall Longitude: -121.89919

Metlako Falls was the first major waterfall we encountered on Eagle Creek.

Due to the steepness of the gorge, our view of the falls was from a rather distant lookout that hugged the nearly vertical-walled cliffs a little further downstream (see the photo at the top of this page).

Eagle_Creek_027_03292009 - Distant view of Metlako Falls from its lookout at the end of a spur off the Eagle Creek Trail
Distant view of Metlako Falls from its lookout at the end of a spur off the Eagle Creek Trail

Through the foliage, we also noticed a companion waterfall (very hard to see) just to its left, which we thought might have been called Sorenson Falls because it was said to be on Sorenson Creek.

I wasn’t sure if it would be possible, but it sure would’ve been quite cool to see both falls together.

Accessing the Metlako Falls Viewpoint

While this waterfall was attractive (albeit inaccessible from the Eagle Creek Trail), it was merely a side attraction to the more popular waterfalls further upstream on Eagle Creek.

While we were hiking the Eagle Creek Trail, we saw the spur for Metlako Falls about 1.5 miles into the hike.

This spur led right to the cliff’s edge with a railing to keep us from getting foolishly too close to the dropoffs.

Eagle_Creek_006_03292009 - The early part of the Eagle Creek Trail already started to hug cliff ledges alongside Eagle Creek itself and across some ephemeral waterfalls
The early part of the Eagle Creek Trail already started to hug cliff ledges alongside Eagle Creek itself and across some ephemeral waterfalls

Along the way, we passed by numerous (almost uncountable) other tributary waterfalls on both sides of the gorge.

The trail itself was also quite scenic as it hugged Eagle Creek close to the base of the gorge at first before ascending and clinging to cliffhugging ledges that precariously overlooked the Eagle Creek Gorge.

This waterfall could have easily been its own attraction, but the Eagle Creek Trail featured plenty of other waterfalls (including Punch Bowl Falls and others we didn’t do like Tunnel Falls, Eagle Creek Falls, etc.).

For that reason, we saw that this trail was very popular even though it had its share of hazards such as dropoff exposure.

I could also foresee this being a rather strenuous hike had we made it all the way to Tunnel Falls (which would be 12 miles round trip).

Eagle_Creek_020_03292009 - The Eagle Creek Trail continued to climb alongside the cliff ledges well above Eagle Creek en route to the Metlako Falls and beyond
The Eagle Creek Trail continued to climb alongside the cliff ledges well above Eagle Creek en route to the Metlako Falls and beyond

In fact, we saw on the local news that one woman fell to her death a couple days after we first did this trail so I think our concerns about the hazards and the slippery trail conditions were warranted.

The Disappearance of the Metlako Falls Viewpoint

Finally, being able to view this waterfall is now a thing of the past (at least as of the last time I was on the Eagle Creek Trail in August 2017).

The reason why was because the cliff that supported the Metlako Falls overlook had collapsed in a major landslide around December 2016.

With continuing instability in the cliffs, signs had been erected all over the vicinity of the trail (probably also to obscure where the trail used to be), and proceeding beyond the closure signs would be foolish considering more could still fall at any time.

Punch_Bowl_Falls_17_069_08182017 - Signs discouraging any further exploration towards the dropoffs that once held up the Metlako Falls lookout
Signs discouraging any further exploration towards the dropoffs that once held up the Metlako Falls lookout

Then, there was the Eagle Creek Fire that started in the Eagle Creek Gorge by some teens who thoughtlessly threw fireworks for social media likes.

The end result was the entire area being burned so any steep slopes or cliff ledges would now be prone to landslides due to soil instability as the vegetation holding them up are no longer alive.

I doubt that longer trails like Eagle Creek would be open or even re-built for the foreseeable future.

Authorities

Metlako Falls resides in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area near Hood River in Hood River County, Oregon. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Eagle_Creek_002_03292009 - Julie hiking on the early part of the Eagle Creek Trail flanked by moss-covered trees
Eagle_Creek_003_03292009 - Julie on the muddy trail that hugged Eagle Creek at first
Eagle_Creek_007_03292009 - The Eagle Creek Trail approaching another temporary waterfall seen on the opposite of Eagle Creek
Eagle_Creek_008_03292009 - Tiny waterfall seen across Eagle Creek near beginning of the Eagle Creek Trail
Eagle_Creek_010_03292009 - Julie continuing on the Eagle Creek Trail, which was quite popular despite the dropoff hazards that were always present
Eagle_Creek_011_03292009 - Another tributary waterfall seen along the Eagle Creek Trail
Eagle_Creek_012_03292009 - Same waterfall as in the prior photo but in context as seen along the Eagle Creek Trail
Eagle_Creek_015_03292009 - Julie approaching a part of the Eagle Creek Trail with some mossy overhangs
Eagle_Creek_018_03292009 - Walking beneath a section of the Eagle Creek Trail that I'm calling the Weeping Wall
Eagle_Creek_031_03292009 - Finally made it to the viewpoint of Metlako Falls
Eagle_Creek_034_03292009 - A different contextual look at Metlako Falls and its surrounding cliffs, trees, and mountains
Eagle_Creek_053_03292009 - Passing under the Weeping Wall section again on the return hike along Eagle Creek.  Notice how narrow and wet the trail is here
Eagle_Creek_055_03292009 - Julie hiking across an ephemeral waterfall near this mossy overhang on the way back from Metlako Falls along the Eagle Creek Trail
Eagle_Creek_057_03292009 - Checking out a familiar ephemeral waterfall seen opposite Eagle Creek on the lower part of the Eagle Creek Trail
Eagle_Creek_058_03292009 - Looking across Eagle Creek at another ephemeral waterfall as we were nearing the end of our hike
Eagle_Creek_060_03292009 - Looking across the creek at yet another waterfall seen along Eagle Creek

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The Eagle Creek Trailhead can be reached by exiting off the I-84 eastbound at the Eagle Creek exit (Exit 41).

This exit is about 40 miles (45 minutes drive) east of Portland.

Eagle_Creek_001_03292009 - The nearest parking lot (which fills up very fast) to the Eagle Creek Trailhead
The nearest parking lot (which fills up very fast) to the Eagle Creek Trailhead

If you’re westbound on I-84, there’s no direct access and you’ll have to exit at Bonneville Dam (Exit 40; 4 miles west of Cascade Locks), then go under the freeway, and hop back on the I-84 going eastbound (essentially doing a big U-turn).

Exit 41 for Eagle Creek would be another mile.

Bottom up sweep of the falls from the lookout area well downstream

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Tagged with: eagle creek, columbia river gorge, hood river, mt hood, mount hood, cascade locks, oregon, waterfall, pacific northwest



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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