About Upper McCord Creek Falls
The Upper McCord Creek Falls (also called just Upper McCord Falls) was an attractive double-barreled waterfall said to have a height of about 64ft.
I happened to see this falls in a bit of a low flow state because it lacked that twin segmented characteristic.
As you can see from the photo above, the left segment of the falls only showed a wet stain on its underlying wall.
I’d imagine that this reduced flow would be typical towards the late Summer, which was the case when I made my visit on August 2017.
Nevertheless, while this falls lacked the dramatic plunge of its downstream neighbor in Elowah Falls, the hike leading up to it featured dramatic scenery and an intimate experience.
Indeed, the scenery included an opportunity to look down at the Elowah Falls as well as cliff-hugging views across the Columbia River Gorge.
The trail also yielded a bit more of an intimate experience with the Upper McCord Creek Falls given the amount of effort to reach it (and hence its reduced popularity).
But rather than giving in to comparing the two waterfalls, I found it worthwhile to combine them in a single hike to get the full experience.
Hiking to Upper McCord Creek Falls
The hike to Upper McCord Creek Falls shared the same trailhead as that of Elowah Falls.
Therefore, it was also within the boundaries of the John B Yeon State Park.
In order to hike to the Upper McCord Creek Falls, it was about 2.2 miles round trip, but it had a 380ft elevation gain.
If you combine both waterfalls into a single hike, then you’re looking at around 3 miles round trip.
For the first 0.4 miles, the trail ascended above the trailhead parking area and reached the trailhead junction.
At this junction, I went right, and from this point forward, the hike deviated from the Elowah Falls experience.
Upper McCord Creek Falls Trail Description – the long climb
The Upper McCord Creek Falls Trail continued its gradual climb as the trail went further to the west.
It eventually switched back as it turned out to be the first in a series of switchbacks ascending far higher than the Elowah Falls Trail did.
Along the way, I noticed some corroded pipes criss-crossing the switchbacks in a couple of spots.
For each of these pipes, I had to climb over them while being careful not to succumb to the dropoffs given the narrow width of the trail.
These pipes turned out to be penstocks that used to divert water from McCord Creek towards a pulp mill belonging to settler Myron Kelly in the late 1800s.
Eventually, after the switchbacks (ultimately gaining about 380ft), the trail then skirted a basalt cliff ledge.
This was said to be where Kelly utilized this break in the hard rock layers to move the water from McCord Creek to the pipes that I had to cross over a couple of times.
By the way, if you want to read more about the fascinating history of this area, I’ve provided a link to an excellent source here.
Upper McCord Creek Falls Trail Description – the payoffs
With railings to mentally assure me that I wouldn’t go off the dropoffs to my left, this dramatic cliff-hugging part of the Upper McCord Creek Falls Trail was the first main payoff of this hike.
It afforded me gorgeous views across the Columbia River towards Mt Adams as well as a hint of Cascade Locks in the distance.
The ledged part of the trail would continue to round a bend as it skirted the gorge carved out by the McCord Creek.
At about a half-mile from the trail junction way down below, I started to catch a fleeting glimpse over the top of Elowah Falls (also appearing below this trail).
Unfortunately, there was overgrowth in the foreground, which conspired to obscure the views of that waterfall from the trail.
Moreover, some of the railings here were actually loose or had fallen off already so I had to be careful not to get too close to the cliff edges to get a cleaner look at the falls.
In any case, the trail would continue its meander along the ledges (with one section having an overhang above me) for the remaining 0.2 miles before the trail re-entered a forested area.
Shortly thereafter, I approached the Upper McCord Creek Falls where there was a lookout providing the view you see pictured at the top of this page.
The trail actually kept going towards the top of the waterfall, but I was content to turn back at the viewpoint.
After having my fill of this waterfall, I looked forward to taking advantage of my momentum on the all downhill return hike.
Upper McCord Creek Falls resides in the John B. Yeon State Scenic Corridor, which is within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area near Portland in Multnomah County, Oregon. It is administered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
We accessed the parking lot and trailhead (known as the John B. Yeon Trailhead) from the very east end of the Historic Columbia River Highway just before the road merges back onto the I-84 east.
We would access this trailhead from Portland by going east for about 25 miles on the I-84 to the Bridal Veil Exit (exit 28).
Then, we’d keeping left and continue for just under 10 miles along the Historic Columbia River Highway (avoiding entering the I-84 at each of the junctions).
If you happen to be coming from the west on I-84 (say if you’re coming from Cascade Locks) or you managed to overshoot the John B. Yeon trailhead going east and had to go back west on the I-84, then the key exit was exit 37 (Warrendale) off the westbound I-84.
Once on the NE Warrendale Road, we’d then turn left in about a half-mile to go under the I-84, then turn left again to go east on the Historic Columbia River Hwy.
After another 0.3 miles, the trailhead parking was on the right just before the road was about to re-enter the I-84 east.
For some geographical context, Portland was about 49 miles (over an hour drive) west of Cascade Locks, 75 miles (90 minutes drive) west of Hood River, 80 miles (1.5 hours drive) east of Cannon Beach, 112 miles (under 2 hours drive) north of Eugene, 274 miles (over 4 hours drive) north of Medford, 173 miles (about 2.5 hours drive) south of Seattle, Washington, 440 miles (7 hours drive) west of Boise, Idaho, and 423 miles (6.5 hours drive) north of Redding, California.
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