Five years after the devastating Eagle Creek Fire tore through a large swath of the Columbia River Gorge, two hiking routes damaged in that burn have finally reopened.
On Oct. 20, the U.S. Forest Service announced that the Nesmith Point and Wyeth trails were officially accessible to the public for the first time since 2017.
The fire, ignited by a Washington teenager who tossed a firework from the Eagle Creek Trail into a steep canyon on Labor Day weekend, dramatically affected the forest around the routes. There was a widespread loss of trees followed by numerous landslides.
The two trails were restored thanks to the hard work of people in multiple agencies, including the Forest Service, Northwest Youth Corps, American Conservation Experience, and the Trailkeepers of Oregon, who alone dedicated more than 2,000 hours to rehabilitating the land. That often meant digging through mudslides, casting aside fallen rocks, and using crosscut saws to remove hundreds of burned and windfallen trees.
The Nesmith Point Trail, located about 8 miles west of Cascade Locks, starts at John B. Yeon State Park and climbs via a network of switchbacks up the canyon for about 3.5 miles. At 3,848 feet in elevation, Nesmith Point is the highest along the cliffs lining the Gorge—so you’re in for a steep, butt-punishing hike, but the views of Beacon Rock and Mount Adams across the Columbia are stunning.
Wyeth Trail, which begins in the Wyeth Campground off Interstate 84 some 7 miles east of Cascade Locks, is another challenging climb, which you can take to the Mount Defiance Trailhead or North Lake if you’re looking for a longer backpacking outing.
While the trails are open, the Forest Service wants to remind hikers that routes through any wildfire scar should be approached with caution. Avoid those areas following heavy rains, high winds and winter storms, since those conditions can trigger more tree falls and debris slides.
At this point, five trails remain closed because of the Eagle Creek Fire. They will stay that way until crews are able to rebuild or reroute the paths.