13 Hiking Tips for the Lower Oneonta Falls Virgin

Lower Oneonta Falls is not the kind of hike that you decide upon at the last minute. You’ve got to steel yourself for this one and there is prep work. I’m not saying it’s difficult, dangerous, or remote. On the contrary. This little gem can be tackled within an easy drive of Portland, Oregon, sans hiking poles and pack, and suffering a mighty hangover. (Okay, the famous log jam might test the hangover.) Complex, it is not. But this popular route does have one compelling attribute that sets it apart from every other trail in the Columbia River Gorge Natural Scenic Area

The trail is a creek. You heard me: a creek.

TIP #1:  Wear something you want to see wet. Because if you are in Oneonta Creek, you are on the trail. The creek IS the trail, and you will be wearing it. A narrow gorge with steep, moss-frosted walls and a floor of water is NOT the place to break in your new suede Keens, either. And today is a good day to forgo actual underwear and pull on the swim trunks under the hiking shorts. Going commando not recommended. (See TIP #4)

No, seriously, dude, you’re getting wet. Deal with it. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

TIP #2:  Love your fellow man. Because he will be at Oneonta Gorge on the very same gorgeous weekend you choose to hit it and he will have brought with him his nattering wife, his shrieking kids, his howling dogs, his smartphone with the obnoxious Macklemore ring tone, and several dozen of his un-outdoorsy friends to share in the quiet beauty and peaceful serenity of the place.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

TIP #3  The views will be breathtaking–like an emerald green version of those golden slot canyons in the southwest–and there will be plenty of opportunity to stuff your memory card with it, so bring the DSLR but make sure it has a waterproof bag. There’s even a bit of birdwatching if you possess a waterproof set of binoculars. Remember, I said waterproof.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Water ouzels are the definition of cute with their underwater scuba antics and their bobbing dance moves.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

TIP #4:  WARNING! The water you’ll be hiking in is approximately twelve degrees Fahrenheit. Even in summer. Even when it’s ninety degrees outside. There will be a few places where altitude-challenged individuals will be wading through deep, frigid pools on their tiptoes while their privates are rapidly flash frozen beneath the surface. Ladies who shop in the petite section of Nordstrom’s, practice your Kegel exercises for this. Short men who plan on procreating in the near future, wear several swimsuits under your hiking shorts as a thermal buffer. Don’t be a hero; going commando today means you can only adopt in the future.

Due to the slot-canyon-esque narrowness of the topography, the way in is the way out. Once you commit, you’re pretty much all in. So sack up, boys, literally and figuratively. Only wimps turn around. There will always be a few males who will insist “Aw, come on. Ha, ha! It’s not so bad.” These men have lost their genitals to war or accident and their testimony should therefor be stricken from record.cold testicles copyTIP #5: To avoid personal injury of this nature, one should go there on the hottest day possible. I don’t mean Crank the AC And Pick Up a Frappuccino On The Way There Hot, I mean Birds Are Flying Directly Into Erupting Volcanoes To Cool Off Hot. The kind of hot that makes Satan cry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATIP #6: While you wait for your nuts to thaw like a bag of frozen peas after the deep pool incident, you can entertain yourself by investigating a few mini-grottos along the base of the wall. Must love frogs, salamanders, and slime.

TIP #7: If you hike ahead of the group and stow away in one of these OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgrottos, you can pop out and scare the living shit out of the family of six that’s been screaming and throwing rocks at each other all day. Payback is a bitch.

TIP #8: The falls, themselves, are so beautiful and mesmerizing they will make you momentarily forget all the hardship and pain you endured on the journey in. Do not make this rookie mistake. You still have to hike back out, Kimosabe.

(Click on the photo below. Do it now.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATIP #9: Brain damaged individuals–as well as dogs, teenagers, and Vikings–who do not sense the cold will be tempted to swim in the splash pool. This is not recommended; remember your future children.

TIP #10: Teenagers looking to impress their girlfriends will handily disregard all of the above in order to do a back OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAflip off the lower cataract of the waterfall. If you are not a stupid teenager, stay on the shore. If you are a stupid teenager, I have two words for you: Darwin Awards.

TIP #11: A consolation prize for not killing yourself would be to watch all the professional photographers contort themselves into testicle-saving positions just above water level while they attempt to keep their other equipment free of mist.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

TIP #12: Don’t forget to take your own commemorative photo. Wait until the rabble has cleared away for a pristine memory. The mist is so formidable, you will basically have one shot at this before your lens beads up like a shower door, so make it good. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATIP #13: Have a worthwhile reward waiting for you back in the car. You will arrive there tired, grimy, wet, bedraggled, unfit for selfie, and wondering when you will have a private moment to check inside your swim trunks for whatever it is that’s been jabbing you in the nads for the last quarter mile. (Told you not to swim in the splash pool, didn’t I?)  A chilled bomber of craft brew, a Tupperware container of homemade brownies, or a very small rock of crack cocaine will go a long way towards settling your nerves for the drive home. A dry change of clothes is also nice.

***This story dedicated to the pansy-ass date that I had to listen to whine the entire way about his wet sandals. You know who you are.

September 4, 2006


94 thoughts on “13 Hiking Tips for the Lower Oneonta Falls Virgin

  1. Pingback: All Thoughts Work™ Outdoors

    • Insanely jealous of your home in Hood River.

      The spirit of my blog is either to focus entirely on the positive, get all poetic and stuff, or deliver as much snark per paragraph as possible. If I accomplish all three in one post, I reward myself by replacing a shameful percentage of my hot cocoa with Kahlua.

  2. My love and I giddily enjoyed this post, but perhaps not enough to venture out and risk our happy marriage. Still, we’re tempted to reconsider once the weather heats up. Portland is practically in our front yard so the possibility is real. We’re so glad to have popped over to read from the FP today. Thanks!

    • Oh, it’s easy. Just pretend you’re five years old again and playing in puddles. Really big puddles. Really COLD puddles.

      Remember, the deeper the chill, the more the snuggling to get warm again. Hubba, hubba.

    • Hiya, Eggs!

      I wouldn’t go just now–there’s about a foot of snow and a sheen of ice over the whole thing at the moment. But give it about sixth months and I guarantee the only ice you’ll see will be floating in your sweating glass of lemonade.

  3. The pics in this post are mind boggling, but surely I’ll visit this very place soon once I’m a bit older. Thanks for sharing such beautiful pics. Love it.

    • Older? Older than what? Some of the hikers weren’t even two years old!

      Okay, those might have been dogs. But there were children and teens there. Bring a floatie and we’ll pull you across the deep spots.

  4. Love that area. I have been above the falls on the trail to Triple Falls, and at the entrance to the gorge when it was way too chilly for wading. (call me a pansy, fine). Great photos.

    • Ha, ha–your comment was just what I needed today. I just did battle with an effin’ moron and had to pull out the shield and broadsword. Blood everywhere, very messy.

      Anyway, thanks for the upbeat note.

  5. Pingback: Aye, matey! Another swashbuckling new post on All Thoughts Work™ Outdoors 1! | All Thoughts Work™ Outdoors

  6. This is one of my favorite hikes of all times, and my favorite in the Columbia Gorge! In my experience, the logjam and the freezing snow-runoff water weed out a lot of the weaker specimens of humanity before they get to the falls, so I’ve often had the view to myself. Definitely a great way test a date for whininess!

    • weed out a lot of the weaker specimens of humanity

      That is the very aspect of so many hikes that double their romance for me. And why I appreciate our many, many city parks that seem to provide “wilderness” for the bottom level of nature lover. That would be the “Eeeeeek! Did you see how close that squirrel got to my foot?” Level. My own level hovers between “It’s a bear! Don’t move a muscle, I’m getting out my camera!” and “It’s already stopped bleeding, I can keep going.”

      a great way test a date for whininess

      Man, no kidding. There’s only so long a woman can be forced to watch a dude’s martial arts moves breaking wood in her garage before she must demand that he pee in the woods without complaint. (For the record, he passed that test okay but failed miserably at the Not Twitching Like a Little Girl Upon Hearing Occasional Profanity and Not Throwing Rocks Like a Seven-Year-Old Over Every Precipice on the Trail so I had to send him back for a full refund.)

  7. Hi there! I attempted this hike today, but ended up at middle & upper oneonta falls – oops!

    We followed the signs for oneonta gorge..

    A lot of the websites have information about what the hike is like, but nothing about where you go to start the hike. Can you shed some light on this 🙂

    Thank you!

    • Luckily, the upper falls are gorgeous, too, so you drank in some beauty and peace by mistake. Sucks to be an Oregonian.

      About fifty yards east of the place where you probably parked for the other Oneonta Trails is an Oneonta Gorge sign, a tunnel, a bridge, and a set of concrete stairs that takes you down to Oneonta Creek, itself (see first ten seconds of video below). Go down and follow the creek away from the highway until you see a waterfall colder than snow. You have just hiked Lower Oneonta Falls Trail.

      I strongly urge returning on a hot weekday in September when the parking spots are lush, all the demon spawn are back in school, and you can safely change into dry clothes right next to your vehicle without your bare ass showing up later on YouTube thanks to “friends.”

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