Cape Horn is only a short distance down the Columbia River Gorge and HWY 14 from Vancouver, WA. The full trail is a 7.2-mile loop with 1,300 feet of elevation change. Part of the loop is a road (downhill at the start if going clockwise.) The rest of the loop features technical rocky sections, shoe sticking mud in the winter, and soft trails, making it a fun challenge.
From Feb. 1-July 15, the lower section of the Cape Horn trail has a seasonal closure for nesting peregrine falcons. So the loop is not available during the closure because the closed section is located between a point about a half-mile southwest of the west pedestrian underpass/tunnel at SR-14 and the bottom of Cape Horn Rd.
Also, It’s a good idea to leave dogs at home. It can be a very challenging terrain for our four-legged friends. Two dogs have died in the last few years at Cape Horn.
On a cold, wet, and windy day in December, Northwest Dirt Churners joined up with Active NW and Bivouac Racing for a group run. We went clockwise, which means heading through the new underpass and going down Cape Horn Landing Rd. for just over a mile. Look for the trail on the right, where the climbing starts. The trail winds through some mossy rock beds and over to the bridge next to Cape Horn Falls. The continues up above the falls, through some conifers and eventually some spots to see the gorge.
Once above the falls and through the trees, the trail tunnels under HWY 14. A couple viewpoints section off the trail, including the Nancy Russell Overlook. After the overlook is a gravel road that leads to a gate. This is also another place to park. During the spring, this section will be full of wildflowers. The last viewpoint is the Pioneer Point, then the trail turns to mud during the wet season. It descends through a forest of maple trees until the trail finds the parking lot.
The Cape Horn Conservancy preserves this trail loop. Consider donating time or money for this organization dedicated to making Cape Horn one of the best trail runs in the gorge.