We had originally planned to hike Latrourell Falls, but found it was closed for 'remodeling'. Luckily, we had brought along a new guide called "Curious Gorge" by Scott Cook & quickly found another suitable waterfall hike nearby.
Upon the guidebook recommendation, we parked at Oneonta Trail Loop trailhead parking and walked the .3 miles on the road over the bridge and through the tunnel to the Horsetail Falls trailhead. At the bottom of the trail is Horsetail Falls, another pretty Gorge fall, but not the star of this hike. Up some switchbacks .8 miles is Ponytail Falls (upper Horsetail Falls).
The trail goes behind the falls for some pretty spectacular scenery. You can tell most people just come here to experience that portion of the hike. It was hot day and there were even people in the pool directly below the falls who appeared to be doing a great job of beating the heat.
We continued on over the bridge above Oneonata Falls and at the trail junction, took the trail to the right to loop out to our car parked on the scenic Columbia Highway. That 2.7 mile loop was enough for us and our dog since the temperatures were in the 90's that day.
There are three other side hikes that we will try next time on this same loop. Triple Falls is something we will want to see in the future, and it is an in/out spur at the junction where you turn left and continue upward instead of right and down to the parking area. Also the book mentions an unmaintained .25 mile 'scramble' to Hidden Upper Oneonata Falls near bridge. We overheard another group trying to decide if they were going to go off trail to do this spur as we crossed the bridge.
Finally, we will bring swimsuits and Tevas for the Oneonta Gorge next time. The guide book recommended doing this last as there is 'crotch-to-waist' deep water that you must wade through in a slot canyon to view Oneonta lower falls. As we were hiking, we could hear the high-pitched shrieks and squeals of laughter echoing off the canyon walls as people were getting in the cold water for the first time. We were jealous as we came off the trail sweaty and hot, but not the proper gear to do this last suggested part of the route.
One tip for getting there is to NOT drive the scenic highway from the Portland area. The traffic jam in front of Multnomah Falls is a big fat mess with people trying to turn left into a totally inadequate parking lot that was clearly beyond capacity. Instead, take I-84E to exit 35 and go west for two miles on the scenic highway, passing the Horsetail Falls trailhead.
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