Hike to Metlako & Punchbowl Falls

Details

Distance

4 miles

Elevation Gain

500 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Added by Vic Garcia

*Currently Closed 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.

*Currently Closed, find out more info here

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!

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Known for

Photography
Hiking
Dog Friendly
Forest
Scenic
Waterfall

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Reviews

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Sucks that it’s closed

I’m sad it’s closed rn but last summer I came here and swam on a nice warm day and had a BLAST! Totally worth it for any PNW enthusiast.

Scenic

Loved this trail!!! Very scenic and great views. Some spots on the trail are closed for maintenance and indefinitely. Being on the ledges with only the cord to hold on too were a tad scary with others on the trail. Lower punchbowl Falls is great to just take a dunk but when you go to the actual punchbowl Falls it was very cold water and deep even with the water being low. 90 degree weather during the hike the water felt amazing!!! I knew I'd warm up as soon as I got out of the water! The mountain water was so clear!!! 5 star recommend going!!! No need to pack a lot just you and your water bottle!

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.

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.

Another bonus to the awesome landscape/views - see tons of spawning salmon in the creek at the start of the hike! We were able to see them in early November.

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!

1691 total saves

4.7/5

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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