Hike to Metlako & Punchbowl Falls
Oregon › Eagle Creek Trailhead
Added by Vic Garcia
Check out two of the Columbia River Gorge's most popular waterfalls: Metlako and Punchbowl. During the warmer months, there are some great spots for a swim along the route.
This is a fairly short hike. 2 miles in to Punchbowl Falls (past Metlako Falls) and then 2 miles out. I’ve done it in all sorts of conditions from 95 degree sunny summer days to a trip in a deep freeze where I got in my wetsuit and shot under/over shots of Punchbowl while snow dumped down on me. To check out Metalko Falls, it's a quick side trip just off the trail. After you've been hiking for about a mile and half, head onto the spur trail the shouts out to the right. It's a quick hike out and back to check it out.
This is an amazing hike because for the short 2 mile hike into Punchbowl you see so much. You are deep in the woods, you climb to tall exposed cliffs along steep besalt cliffs and you see 2 huge waterfalls plus a bunch of creek crossings. Bang for you buck? This is the best hike in the gorge for any first time visitor.
Be prepared to pay the $5 fee at any Gorge trailhead OR just buy a Northwest Pass if you do enough hiking to justify it. Those are only $30 and you can pick them up at your local REI or other outdoor retailers. In the summer and on weekends are times for the biggest crowds. If you can get there on a weekday you might just get the place to yourself. It’s worth one day of PTO!
- Since it's a short hike, you don't need too much
- $5 for Parking or $30 for a Northwest Pass
- At the top of your list should always be water - long or short is the most basic necessity
- I always have matches with as well
- Poler Excursion Pack and Insert - the insert and pack do a great job of protecting and organizing my camera body and lenses
- Canon 5D Mark ii - It’s my baby
- If you go in the summer don’t forget your suit
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Are we missing something?Suggest an edit
ReviewsLeave a Review
Beautiful, But Wet
PNW & wet go hand in hand but even on a beautiful dry afternoon be prepared to walk under tumbling water and across heavy streams. Also important to note the main lot that you reach is about a half mile walk to the trail head rounding out this hike just over 5 miles out and back.
An Easy Hike with A Big Reward
The Eagle Creek Trail is the perfect easy hike for any age. The Punchbowl is great place to get some great waterfall shots and cool off from that summer heat. After your hike check out the Thunder Island Brewery near the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks. The Brewery sits right on the edge of the Columbia River Gorge.
One Of The Best In The Area
The Eagle Creek trail is probably one of the most beautiful hikes in the area! The overall grade of this trail is less than 5% so you aren't killing yourself and you get rewarded with stunning views. There are some steep and pretty scary parts especially for little children or those afraid of heights. (but I was afraid of heights at the time and could deal) Also the trailhead I heard from some locals is known to have a few thefts so keep your bags around you and don't leave any valuables in your cars. When I went up there we went swimming in the punch bowl and each of us brought an inflatable raft we blew up to hang out with inside the bowl! One of my favorite hiking spots!
Needs Better Signage
Gorgeous hike. Not being a HUGE fan of being a foot away from a couple hundred foot drop, I was thankful for the cable "railing" along the way. Definitely got a little dicey when multiple people would try to pass at a time, so if you're nervous, just wait til you have a clear shot. :) Our plan was to go to Tunnel Falls - we missed Metlako, we saw it from afar, but couldn't find a trail to take us closer to the river. The trails were pretty busy with kids, dogs, and families up until Punchbowl-then it thins out beyond that. My only complaint about this trail was the lack of signs. Bridges didn't have signs or names, or mileage markers. We only encountered two signs the entire time. We made it about 5-5.5 miles out based on a trail guide I found after (but didn't know we were so close to Tunnel Falls) and turned around as we were quickly losing daylight, and crossing those cliffs in the dark wasn't high on my fun list. Next time we'll be more prepared for sure. And ready to swim when it's hot!
One of the best!
This hike is a classic, and as such can get really busy. As with most gorge hikes, weekdays in the spring or winter are the way to go. If you're up for a serious challenge, park one car at Wahtum Lake and the other at the Eagle Creek trailhead and hike from one to the other. It's around 20 miles so you might want to leave yourself some camping gear on the other side so you can pass out upon arrival!
Amazing Hike, Don't Make Our Mistake
Coming from SoCal, this hike was a treat. Walking along the edge of the cliffs surrounded by evergreens and being able to see the river throughout most of the hike was such an amazing experience. The mistake we made was not going far enough. When we got to the very end at the bottom of the trail called "Lower Punchbowl", we wrongfully assumed that the falls at the bottom where there are steps was the Punchbowl. We didn't know you have to go out past the steps and around the mountain to actually see the Punchbowl. Even then, we still thought this was a great hike!
This is one of the best trails in The Gorge. If you like somewhat narrow cliff trails with intermixed spots of forest, this is the place to go. One of the best runs of my life was on this trail on rainy, 40˚ morning in March, there was no-one else on it on the way out and with less vegetation you could see the falls better.
Classic gorge waterfall!
Man, looks rad - albeit freezing - in the winter! I came here in the middle of the summer and swimming in the pool was super refreshing, can't imagine how chilly it would be in any other season. It's a great hike, too!
we took our kids with us on this hike which i wouldnt recommend for everyone but our kids have been hiking since before they could walk so they are quite experienced and we are big on safety. it was a amazing hike!!!!
More Adventures Nearby
Climb to Mt. Hood's Illumination Rock
Oregon / Timberline Lodge
The Pacific Northwest has an abundance of beautiful, technical and fun Alpine ascents.
Hike the Summit Trail Loop at Smith Rock
Oregon / Smith Rock Parking Area
Smith Rock State Park is an iconic PNW canyon that's become one of the rock climbing capitals of the country, and known worldwide for its sport climbing routes.