Horsetail Falls Loop Trail, Oregon — Excellent Family Hike

While the hike at Multnomah Falls was disappointing, the hike at Horse Tail Falls was everything I was hoping for and more. The month was April and on the trip were my husband, myself, and our two teens ages 15 and 17. On this hike we saw:

On this hike we saw:

— two beautiful waterfalls, Horsetail Falls and Ponytail Falls (pictured below)
— a bridge over the creek that becomes Oneonta Falls
— an abundance of moss, lichen, ferns, and mushrooms
— fantastic views of the Columbia River Gorge

Ponytail Falls, Columbia River Gorge

All this remarkable scenery is packed into a mere 2.3 miles. Begin the hike next to 176-ft Horsetail Falls. At .2 miles, turn right onto the Gorge Trail which takes you to the 80-ft Ponytail Falls. Here you get to walk behind the falls!

About .4 miles later, you’ll come to several trails to the right. These lookouts have outstanding views of the Columbia River Valley from far above the river. Be careful not to stand at the edge and watch any kids with you. There is a plaque about a teen that died falling from the cliffs here.

Moss Plants, Columbia River Gorge

Continue on the main trail another .4 miles, crossing over a metal footbridge above 60-ft Oneonta Falls. Quickly you’ll arrive at a junction with the Oneonta Trail. Here you have a choice, you can lengthen your hike by turning and walking .9 miles up the trail to the beautiful Triple Falls. Or turn right and head downhill on the Oneonta Trail back to the Highway.

Columbia_River_Gorge

 

Small Rodent Skull in the Columbia River Gorge

Mushrooms

Follow the highway back to your car. Most of the walk has a path, but near Horsetail Falls you’ll need to walk on the highway to get back to your car.

Difficulty: This is a short hike, but given the climbing, I’d say this is a moderate hike.

Crowds and Parking: Available along the highway. We visited in early April when crowds were light. I believe it’s extremely busy in this region in the summer months and packed to crush on summer weekends.

Dogs: Allowed.

Maps: I got a paper map at Multnomah Falls Visitors Center, but don’t go there on a weekend as the crowds are insane.
Digital Map: https://gorgefriends.org/hike-the-gorge/horsetail-ponytail-triple-falls.html
Signage: Trail is clearly marked.

Oneonta Gorge, Columbia River Gorge

We found Oneonta Gorge by accident on our way to Horsetail Falls. We were walking along the pedestrian bridge when we spotted a stairway off to the side and a super mossy wall. It seemed like a secret passage, so we went.

Oneonta_Falls_Stair

We followed the wall away from the bridge; the wall was, in fact, the side of the gorge and completely covered in moss and small plants. There was no one else on the little path, and we had to climb boulders to proceed. We bouldered over a 15-foot pile of rock and found ourselves in an enormous, green gorge — surprisingly full of people. Honestly, Oneonta Gorge was one of the most beautiful sights any of us had seen. I felt I was in a movie or the garden of paradise.

The people were another thing. What were they doing here? There was no sign to mark the entry, but there’s a group of 10 kids under 8 years old over there. We were puzzled and amazed.

Later we learned Oneonta Gorge is well documented online, I mean what wonderful place isn’t. We looked around that Sunday and then came back a couple of days later. The only other person there was a woman with a wetsuit and a professional camera who was making her way up the Gorge. My online sources explain that it’s a freezing but awe-inspiring trek up the gorge to Lower Oneonta Falls. We didn’t do it as there was so much water and it was so cold. It was Spring, after the rainiest year in many, many years. But I’ll be back to hike the Gorge!


I Heart Moss

I Heart Moss is a project about moss, trees, waterfalls and the forest. I, Karen Nierlich, am a nature photographer, living in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can also visit our shop.iheartmoss.com for gifts and jewelry for nature lovers. Handcrafted gifts made by artists, craftspeople, and makers just for you!

Ainsworth Campground, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

 

I found my favorite moss photo of our trip to Columbia River Gorge in the early morning. I was hiking on a trail behind the campground when I came across a log with these bright green layers of moss and lichen that made me giddy.

Mosses and Lichen

We camped at Ainsworth Campground in the Columbia River Gorge in early April during the week. The friendly ranger told me the campground is 100% full from late April throughout the summer, so book early. This is mostly an RV and car camping campground. There are only 6 walk-in only tent spots. However, these tent spaces are nestled in trees and have a good amount of room separating one from another. Very lovely.

Alert for Light Sleepers: Be aware that trains come through the whole Columbia Gorge with their horns blaring several times a night. If I was a light sleeper, I might choose to stay outside the Columbia River Gorge area.

The night we arrived we stayed in a car / RV space near the road. The train noise kept my husband, who is a bonafide light sleeper, up all night. The following nights we were in one of the 6 tent only walk-in spaces which worked fine for him. The trees seemed to muffle the train noise.

Other Amenities: This campground was perfect aside from the train noise. It’s close to the waterfalls and trails. The bathrooms are large, clean and there are even free showers. There are a few other things like a tether ball court. We found the wood we bought at the campground was poor and heard others say the same, so you might want to bring firewood with you.

Ainsworth Campground, Columbia River Gorge, OR

 

 

Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

I’ve visited mossy places all around the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California. This Spring I got a chance to venture further from home to see the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge outside of Portland Oregon.

Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge,Oregon

A visit to the Columbia River Gorge would not be complete without a visit to the awe-inspiring Multnomah Falls. It’s intensely popular — I’ll say more about that later — and for good reason. You have an unobstructed view of the Falls from something like a half mile away. The 640 feet tall Falls actually consists of a tall upper fall of 542 feet and a lower fall of 69 feet. It’s the tallest waterfall in Oregon. Unlike some falls that dry up in late summer, Multnomah Falls runs year around because its feed by both an underground spring and the snow runoff.

In 1914, lumber baron and philanthropist Simon Benson hired Italian stonemasons to build a viewing bridge so visitors could get a closer look at the falls. Benson’s aesthetic instincts were right on, as it’s a romantic arc of a bridge.  I highly recommend walking the 1/4 mile to Benson’s footbridge as its a grand view. I don’t recommend going much further the footbridge as I explain below.

Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge

Visiting Notes for Multnomah Falls:  I’d avoid the trail to the top of the Falls, for two reasons. One it’s extremely crowded and two it’s super steep. I was worried I’d see a tourist have a heart attack!

Honestly, the trail was filled with many who don’t ordinarily hike. The steep 1.1-mile trek looked like it’d put one of them in an early grave. There are beautiful trees, mosses, and views from the paved trail, but it’s no nature experience. We had only three days in the Columbia River Gorge and I was frustrated that we’d spend half a day on the busiest trail in all of Oregon.

Multnomah Falls receives two million visitors a year. It reminded me a great deal of Yosemite for that reason. Go on a weekday if possible. Avoid going in the summer months. We visited in early April and found it was all well organized for the visitor; there is a giant parking lot, bathrooms, National Park Rangers to provide info on the Columbia River Gorge overall, and a beautiful historic restaurant at the lodge people. However, official sources say the parking lot fills up 100% in the summer months and they often close the gate and raise a “closed” sign to keep people from exiting from the Columbia River Highway.


point reyes
I Heart Moss features the moss, forest and waterfall photos of photographer Karen Nierlich. For nature lovers, we have a 
gift and jewelry shop which helps support the art project.  There you’ll find nature charm necklaces such as twigs, acorns, squirrels, antlers, foxes, and other gifts for birthdays, holidays, bridesmaids and other special occasions.

 

Abbott’s Lagoon – Point Reyes, CA

Abbott’s Lagoon in Point Reyes is an easy hike and great for young families, occasional hikers, and beginners!

My only caution is that it’s windy there most days, so bring a windbreaker! You won’t catch me out there in the Winter, as I imagine it’s extremely windy and freezing cold.

The hike is only 4 miles round trip with very little change in elevation. It’s a gentle stroll among rolling hills to the beach and back, with an abundance of Spring wildflowers and birds. As you approach the beach, there are dramatic views of the water, sand dunes, and cliffs.

Wildflowers Point Reyes

 

Yellow Lupine Point Reyes

Want to know more about the lagoon aspect? Abbotts Lagoon is a two-stage lagoon. The upper lagoon is a freshwater expanse which overflows into a lower brackish lagoon level with occasional winter tidal exchange. (1) Brackish means containing both fresh and salt water. The eastern shore of the lagoon is covered with old growth northern coastal scrub, including coyote bush, yellow bush lupine, sword fern and California Blackberry. (2)

Abbotts Lagoon Point Reyes

Maps: There is a map posted at the trailhead, but no maps to carry with you. The trail is easy to follow and has a sandy texture. (Not rocky like so many trails.)

If you want a Point Reyes Map, go to the Point Reyes Visitor Center at 1 Bear Valley Rd, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956, where there are rangers, parking and lots of natural history exhibits.

(Photo credit of ocean and cliffs: Isma Kahn)

Abbotts Lagoon Point Reyes

 

 

 

 

Picniking Point Reyes

Birds: There are tons of birds at the lagoon! Here a few you might see: blackbirds, cormorants, ducks, eagles, falcons, finches, geese, grebes, gulls, hawks, herons, hummingbirds, larks, owls, pelicans, plovers and more!

Crowds and Parking: I understand this is a great place to go for a quiet nature experience, especially on weekdays. We visited on Mother’s Day and there were plenty of other people but it wasn’t crazy. There is plenty of parking and two pit toilets at the trailhead.

Dogs: Not allowed here and in 99% of Point Reyes. The ranger at the Point Reyes Visitor Center can tell you where you can go, but honestly, the only place dogs are allowed is two forsaken ultra-windy beaches.

Poppies Point Reyes

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point reyesI Heart Moss is a project about art, nature, and environmental activism. We offer free local hikes in Fall, Winter, and Spring and donate 5% of our proceeds to Greenpeace.

We have a gift shop for nature lovers which can be found at www.shop.iheartmoss.com. In the shop, you’ll find hip jewelry and gifts all made by artists and makers.

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References:

1.  Abbotts Lagoon. Great Outdoor Recreation Pages. Archived from the original on 2010-09-09h Retrieved 23 August 2011.

2. Stallcup, Rich & Pitkin, Melissa Discovering Birds at Point Reyes (2007) Point Reyes National Seashore Association ISBN 0-9607890-6-5, pp.35-37

Coast Trail in Point Reyes, CA

Last Spring I had the pleasure of spending the weekend in Point Reyes with the Albany High School Art Department. It rained the whole weekend but we choose the drier of the two days and headed out on a trail that followed the shoreline. It’s Coast Trail that starts near the Youth Hostel and takes you over gently rolling hills to Coast Camp. (Story Continues Below.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was scarcely anyone else hiking and I like having the place to myself and my people, though that sounds absurd when you are part of a large group. I admit I’ve avoided hiking in the rain to date, probably because I’m from sunny SoCal (Southern California). However, in my quest for moss photos, I’ve made friends with cool, drizzly days. Increasingly, I’ve developed a tolerance for rain and a soft spot for the landscape of gray, wet days. It also makes me feel rugged and a bit rebellious to be out hiking in the rain since we’ve all been told to stay out of the rain. Not good for the camera, but that’s another story!

I admit I’ve avoided hiking in the rain to date, probably because I’m from sunny SoCal (Southern California). However, in my quest for moss photos, I’ve made friends with cool, drizzly days. Increasingly, I’ve developed a tolerance for rain and a soft spot for the landscape of gray, wet days. It also makes me feel rugged and a bit rebellious to be out hiking in the rain since we’ve all been told to stay out of the rain. Not good for the camera, but that’s another story!

It also makes me feel rugged and a bit rebellious to be out hiking in the rain since we’ve all been told to stay out of the rain. Not good for the camera, but that’s another story!

In my experience, Point Reyes is a bit removed from the rest of the Bay Area and less visited. It can seem otherworldly with it’s harsher weather conditions. It has fewer trees to break the wind and that cold ocean wind whips across the place…like it’s a tiny island.

I plan to venture out to Point Reyes and get to know it better. Look for future photos and dispatches!

Start: Point Reyes Youth Hostel
Distance:
4.3 miles round trip
Difficulty: Easy, but expect it to be windy. Bring a windbreaker. Coast Trail can and does close due to flooding from time to time.
Maps: Available at the Bear Valley Visitor Center – Park Headquarters.
Parking: on road by Youth Hostel I think.
Dogs: Dogs not allowed in 95% of Point Reyes National Seashore
Bikes: Permitted on the trail to and from Coast Camp.

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point reyesI Heart Moss is a project about art, nature, and environmental activism. We offer free local hikes in Fall, Winter, and Spring and donate 5% of our proceeds to Greenpeace.

Visit our gift shop for nature lovers at www.shop.iheartmoss.com. In the shop, you’ll find hip jewelry and gifts made by artists and makers. Gifts mailed out promptly in 100% recycled packaging.

Berry Creek Falls Trail, Big Basin Redwoods SP, CA (Santa Cruz) — Every Step is Beautiful

Many, many years ago before we had kids, my husband and I decided spontaneously to go away for the weekend. We looked at the map and selected a big green square and headed there. That green square turned out to be Big Basin Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz, CA.

When we got to the park, we asked the ranger for their best hike! (Continued below.)

Walking below the Redwoods

The ranger on duty sent us on an 8-10 mile hike to Berry Creek Falls. We set out late morning and barely made it back before dark. I remember running up the switchbacks to the headquarters at dusk. I normally find these switchbacks strenuous to walk, so I’m sure it was grueling.

However, the spontaneously trip to a new place, followed by a long hike through beautiful scenery became a lasting memory for us. We’ve returned nearly every year to camp and hike at the park, bringing our kids with us.

Waterfalls | Berry Creek Falls

How to Get to Berry Creek Falls

There are three different trails one can take to get there. Like a lot of people, I like loop trails. The second two options are loops.

Maps: You don’t want to set out without a paper map as you may need more info then the trail markers provide. You will be taking interconnected trails so a map in necessary.

You’ll find free maps at the ranger station at park headquarters at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The headquarters can be found on GPS and the park rangers are friendly and helpful; I think most rangers like helping people choose hikes.

Strenuous Hike: All three trails to Berry Creek Falls are pretty strenuous and all have different sights and scenery to recommend them.

1) There and back trail: From park headquarters take Skyline to the Sea Trail to Berry Creek Falls and back. This hike is eight miles roundtrip and includes several switchbacks 🙂

Every inch of Skyline to the Sea Trail is beautiful. It’s lined throughout with redwoods and ferns and follows Kelly Creek for most of the distance to the falls. Check out my previous post for some photos of a spot I found on this very creek. Note: there are two-three waterfalls above Berry Creek Falls which are beautiful as well and can be accessed by continuing on the Berry Creek Falls Trail.

2) Loop Option 1: This trip starts the same as the hike above. Head out on Skyline to the Sea Trail.  Just past Middle Ridge Road, you’ll find the juncture for the Howard King Trail.  I love this trail because one, it has a fantastic view of the ocean from Mt. McAbee Outlook at 1739ft and two, the trail takes you through a couple of contrasting micro-climates. First, you’ll walk through the redwoods, then chaparral and then back into the redwoods again. Total distance is about 10 miles.

3) Loop Option 2: Again, head out on the Skyline to the Sea Trail. Ignore the Howard King Trail, and look for the Sunset Connector Trail to your right. Follow Sunset Trail several miles to the three upper falls: Golden Falls, Cascade Falls, and Silver Falls. In my opinion, Sunset Trail isn’t as interesting as the other two and it’s probably 11 miles…a little longer. What is cool is that it makes a loop that takes you past all three-four waterfalls. Follow the Berry Creek Falls Trail down past Berry Creek Falls and return on the Skyline to the Sea Trail.

Bathrooms: The last bathroom is near the amphitheater and the bridge before you start on the Skyline by the Sea Trail.

Dogs: Not allowed on the trails at Big Basin Redwoods SP. They are allowed in the campground and the paved roads and trails.

Crowds and Parking: Weekends, especially summer weekends, are busy. Go as early in the day as you can; before 9 am is really great. If you arrive after 11 am, you’ll spend more time finding parking but we’ve always found a spot in our 2 decades of visiting.

Silver Falls, Big Basin Redwoods SP

Golden Falls


I’m Karen Nierlich. I take forest pictures with a focus on moss plants and ferns. Please follow me on instagram.com/iheartmoss or facebook.com/iheartmoss. We also have a nature-inspired jewelry shop especially for nature lovers.

Mossy rock

 

 

Steep Ravine Trail, Marin CA — My Mossy Rockstar

I declare Steep Ravine the rockstar of mossy trails. I reveled in the abundance of mossy trees, mossy rocks, lichens and ferns. You get the idea. The science fiction fans in my household dubbed it Middle Earth for any Tolkien fans reading this.

These first three moss plant photos were taken on Mother’s Day in early May. It was a super foggy day which enhanced the green color of the mosses.

sR_tree

 

Steep-Ravine2

 

SteepRavine3

This trail is more strenuous than others I’ve reviewed in Marin, such as Cascade Falls and Cataract Falls, though not as strenuous as the name Steep Ravine Trail might make you think.

 

falls_ladder

In addition to the plentiful mosses and ferns, the other highlight of the trail is the wooden ladder about 1.5 miles downhill! I’m so geeky — gushing about a ladder on a trail! It adds adventure and magic to the trail and made me feel like a kid.

I also appreciate how the trail builders took the trail via ladder right up along the waterfall. Some less imaginative trail builder might have placed the trail so it went around rocky outcropping and bypassed the waterfall.

fern

Maps: It’ll make your trail days so much happier if you pick up a paper map at Pantoll Station in Marin CA.  Pantoll Station can be found on GPS.

Moderate Hike: If you haven’t hiked in while, I suggest going the 1.5 miles down the trail to the ladder. Climb down the ladder, look around, and then hike the 1.5 miles back. There are places you can sit, if you wish to take breaks on the way back. Lots of people jog or move fast on trails, but this is a trail that bears slowing down and pondering.

Challenging Hike: If a seven mile hike with some uphill climbing suits you, I recommend three options:

1) Down Steep Ravine Trail from Pantoll Station to where the trail meets the Dipsea Trail, and return back up Steep Ravine. (Approximately five miles and strenuous, as the trip is 50% uphill.)

2) Down Steep Ravine Trail and follow the Dipsea Trail to Stinson Beach. At Stinson Beach, locate the Matt Davis Trail behind the fire station at the end of the short block. Follow Matt Davis back uphill to Pantoll Station. Matt Davis will take you back to where you started. (Approximately seven-eight miles and strenuous.)

3) Reverse the hike above. Start at Stinson Beach and go up the Matt Davis Trail located at the end of the side street past the Fire Station. Come down Steep Ravine. (Approximately seven miles and strenuous, but on this route the second half of the trip is downhill.)

Dogs: Not allowed in the Mount Tamalpais State Park, but dogs are allowed in the Mount Tamalpais Water District. Hikes at Cataract Falls and Cascade Falls both allow dogs.

Crowds and Parking: Weekends, especially summer weekends, are busy. Go as early in the day as you possibly can; before 9am is really great. If you arrive after 11 am you may have a very hard time parking. There is some parking along the side of the roads, which is okay if you don’t mind walking with cars passing by.


I’m Karen Nierlich. I take forest pictures with a focus on moss plants and ferns. Please follow me on instagram.com/iheartmoss or facebook.com/iheartmoss. We also have a nature-inspired jewelry shop especially for nature lovers. For example, a gorgeous twig necklace is a great conversation starter.

Cataract Falls Trail, Marin, CA — Enchanting Creekside Walk

 

waterfall

Cataract Falls Trail is an idyllic walk through the woods culminating in a dramatic waterfall! There are trees, ferns and mosses all along the creek. The image above is the top of the Cataract Falls, and if you follow the creek down, you’ll find multiple smaller but exquisite falls below.

The image below is of one of the lower falls that’s easily accessible, and where there is a short spur trail and some beautiful spots to sit.

These photos were taken in March and April of 2016, but by early May 2016 the water is slowing and the moss is considerably drier. Plan your visit during the Spring rainy season for optimal moss and fern viewing!

Cataract Falls, Marin, CA

Parking Recommendations: Go to Pantoll Station, which is easily found on GPS. Get a printed map there, speak to a ranger if you wish, and use the flush toilets! If you just want to grab a map, use one of the 15 minute spaces on the eastside of the parking lot, as the parking lot is often full.

On weekends, go early in the day. By afternoon, parking is harder to find, and you may need to walk along the road from your parking spot.

When you leave Pantoll Station, drive 1.3 miles up Pantoll Road to Ridgecrest Road. There is a larger parking lot there and pit toilets where the two roads meet.

Difficulty: This trail is appropriate for most hikers, as it’s just 5 miles round trip and almost entirely level. There are also lovely places to stop, and the scenery is outstanding!

Dogs Allowed: Dogs are allowed throughout the Marin Municipal Water District, including this trail.


I’m Karen Nierlich. I take forest pictures with a focus on moss plants and ferns. Please follow me on instagram.com/iheartmoss or facebook.com/iheartmoss. You’ll also find a nature-inspired jewelry shop on this site that caters to nature lovers. Forest-themed necklaces allow you to show the world your love of nature. An acorn necklace, for example, is a great conversation starter and helps you meet others who share your love of the outdoors.

Cascade Falls, Fairfax, CA – Easy Family Walk

Cascade_Falls_BoAe

Cascade

Cascade Falls is a moderate two miles roundtrip with little change in elevation. There’s no parking lot at the trail head but there are a few pull out parking spots. I went several times this Spring and each time there were three to ten cars parked on the street. If you hike here in Summer the waterfall will be dry or mostly dry.

To get there, drive west from Hwy. 101 on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard about 5 miles to the town of Fairfax. Turn left on a street called Pastori where there is a traffic light, and then make an immediate left and go one block down to Broadway and turn right. Drive up Broadway and as you are leaving the center of Fairfax turn left onto Bolinas Road. From Bolinas Road make a soft right on Cascade Drive and follow it until you get to the end. Trail starts at the gate at the end of the road.

Few more notes about Cascade Trail at this link and below.

Clumpy

 

Clumpy2

Distance: This is a great hike for young kids because it’s only 2 miles roundtrip and it’s quite level. As far as I can see the trail doesn’t continue after you get to the Falls. However, there are other trails that crisscross the main trail so you can take one of those to make this a longer hike.

Parking: No parking lot. A few pullout spots. Be careful not to block a driveway. I went 3 times in Spring and had no difficulty parking.

Dogs Allowed: This is the Marin Municipal Water District which allows dogs.

Bathrooms: None

Coffee, icecream, beer, lunch, dinner: Fairfax is a scenic small town and you have to go through it to get to the trail. I stopped each time for a coffee or ice-cream and that made it an especially relaxed and wonderful day.

 


I’m an artsy, California photographer. Please follow me on instagram.com/iheartmoss or facebook.com/iheartmoss where I post moss, waterfall and forest pictures daily. You can also visit our nature gift shop named I Heart Moss just for nature lovers.