The Columbia River, Klamath River in Northern California, and Fraser River in Southern British Columbia are the only three rivers connecting the east-side watersheds of the Cascade Mountain Range to the Pacific Ocean. Each river has created a gorge through the Cascade Mountain Range. The Columbia River Gorge marks the state line between Oregon and Washington. The wide range of elevation and precipitation makes the Columbia River Gorge an extremely diverse and dynamic place. Ranging from 4,000 feet to sea level, and transitioning from 100 inches of precipitation to only 10 inches in 80 miles, the Gorge creates a diverse collection of ecosystems from the temperate rain forest on the western endówith an average annual precipitation of 75 to 100 inchesóto the eastern grasslands with average annual precipitation between 10 and 15 inches, to a transitional dry woodland between Hood River and The Dalles. Isolated micro-habitats have allowed for many species of endemic plants and animals to prosper, including at least 13 endemic wildflowers. The Gorge transitions between temperate rainforest to dry grasslands in only 80 miles, hosting a dramatic change in scenery while driving down I-84. In the western, temperate rainforest areas, forests are marked by bigleaf maples, Douglas Fir, and Western hemlock, all covered in epiphytes. In the transition zone (between Hood River and The Dalles), vegetation turns to Oregon white oak, Ponderosa pine, and cottonwood. At the eastern end, the forests make way for expansive grasslands, with occasional pockets of lodgepole pine and Ponderosa pine. Atmospheric pressure differentials east and west of the Cascades create a wind tunnel effect in the deep cut of the gorge, generating 35 mph winds that make it a popular windsurfing and kitesurfing location. The Gorge is a popular destination for hiking, biking, sight-seeing, fishing, and watersports. The area is known for its high concentration of waterfalls, with over 90 on the Oregon side of the Gorge alone. Many are along the Historic Columbia River Highway, including the notable 620-foot-high Multnomah Falls. Trails and day use sites are maintained by the Forest Service and many Oregon and Washington state parks.

Elkhorn Crest Trail

From Baker City, OR, head north on Highway 30 toward Haines for 10 miles; In Haines turn left and follow the Anthony Lake Highway signs (turns into Forest Road 73) for 25 miles to the Anthony Lake Recreation Area; Turn left into the Elkhorn Crest Trailhead on the left before the Anthony Lake Campground and ski area.

From La Grande head south on Interstate 84 for 25 mile to exit 285 inNorth Powder, Oregon; In North Powder follow the ski area signs on Highway 237 for 4 miles to Ellis Road; Turn left on Ellis Road and go about 1 mile to the Anthony Lake Highway; Turn right and follow the Anthony Lake Highway (becomes Forest Road 73) for 16 miles to trailhead entrance on your left before the Anthony Lake Campground and ski area.

The Elkhorn Crest Trail (#1611) was established as a National Recreation Trail in 1979. It is the highest trail in the Blue Mountains and runs along the Elkhorn Mountain ridgeline across sub-alpine forests and grasslands. The trail offers panoramic views of the Baker Valley, the distant Wallowa Mountains and the Blue Mountains. Along the way you can also view six high mountain lakes, craggy nearby peaks and maybe catch a glimpse of a herd of elk or resident mountain goats.

There are several end point and side access trailheads for the Elkhorn Crest including the Elkhorn Crest Trailhead on the northend near Anthony Lakes and Marble Pass Trailhead on the south end. Water on the trail is scarce and unsafe to drink if not previously treated. Due to the trail weaving in and out of wilderness, mechanized use is limited on many sections of the trail.

Difficulty level:
From Anthony Lakes, the trail is 'more difficult', ascending 1,000 feet on the first 2 miles. Then, the trail levels to offer a gentle hike to the south end at Marble Creek Pass with an 'easy' rating.

Columbia River Gorge