The top 5 Reasons to Hike the Big Five Lakes Loop with good reasons. The views, both natural and artificial, are simply stunning. You might not even realize it’s a loop trail at a distance! There have no tunnels or bridges connecting the five lakes that give this trail its name.
Instead, you’ll hike on boardwalks, around lakes, and over streams to get from one end to the other without ever coming back on yourself. Here are our top five reasons to hike the Big Five Lakes Loop.
Top 5 Reasons to Hike the Big Five Lakes Loop
1. The Scenery
Columbia River Gorge hiking trails offer some of the most scenic hikes in North America. The Big Five Lakes Loop is no exception. You’ll travel through old-growth forests of cedar and fir from the start. The trail follows the path of a long-disappeared river to the wildflower-studded lakes of Mary, Helen, Margaret, Daffodil and Abbot, each with its character.
You’ll see outstanding views of the Columbia River, the Cascade Mountains, and the Gods Bridge. The trail also passes through one of the most scenic sections of the Columbia River Highway, where the road hugs the cliff face.
2. The Variety
Few trails offer the variety that the Big Five Lakes Loop does. From the very start, you’re going to be in a forest, and then you’ll be right by the water. You may see both eagles and salmon. But what makes this extra trail special is that it mixes so many different types of terrain.
You’ll hike on boardwalks and climb stairs, walk along the highway and take a ferry across a lake. You’ll pass through forests, lakes, and wild rivers and see the Columbia River from a few different angles.
3. The Fitness Benefit
If you’re looking for a challenging Columbia Gorge hike, this is one of the best options. The Big Five Lakes Loop is 10.5 miles (17 km) long with a steep elevation rise of around 1700 feet (515m). Most hikers take between 5 to 8 hours to complete the trail. The trail is not just steep but also long.
If you’re hiking the loop clockwise, you’ll gain a lot of altitudes and then lose it again as you drop down to the lakes. A fit person may be able to bag the hike in 5 hours, but a more realistic time frame would be 7 hours.
4. The Water Filter
If you’re like us, you’ll have remembered the essentials, like your hiking boots and water filter, but forgotten things like sunscreen, snacks, and insect repellent. Luckily, you have a couple of options. The first is to call a taxi to drive out, pick you up, and drive you back. While practical and relatively cheap, it takes time and can be very frustrating if you’re not around the right area. Then there’s the option of hiking out and back. This has the added challenge of having to carry your gear and water.
5. Directions to Start the Big Five Lakes Loop
The trail starts at Eagle Creek Trailhead. The trailhead is in the town of Cascade Locks, Oregon and can be reached from either Interstate 84 or Highway 14. From Interstate 84, take the exit for the Historic Highway 99, follow the road for about a mile, and turn right onto Hwy. 30. Continue on Highway 30 for approximately 2 miles.
Turn left onto S.E. War Na Pa St. and follow that road to the trailhead parking area. From Highway 14, take the Cascade Locks exit and follow the signs to the trailhead parking area. From the trailhead parking lot, walk through the gate and follow the trail to the first bridge crossing.
Turn right and cross the bridge. On another side of the bridge, turn right and walk a short distance to the next trail intersection. Continue straight ahead on the trail that passes through the short tunnel and climbs up to the powerline trail. Turn left and follow the powerline trail until the next trail intersection.
The Big Five Lakes Loop is one of the most rewarding trails in the Columbia River Gorge. If you get the outdoors and don’t mind a bit of a challenge, you should check it out. Why not make it a weekend or even a week-long trip? You’ve got plenty of reasons to stay longer! Bring friends and family, create an unforgettable hiking experience, and then share the wonders of the Columbia River Gorge with the world.