First off, for the time being, this is not a loop. It may one day be a loop again, so we will retain the name “loop”, but for now, it is an out and back. A landslide damaged the cutoff trail between the Starvation Ridge Trail and Cabin Creek Falls in 2018 and has yet to be repaired. Just a heads up.
The Starvation Ridge Loop trail begins at Starvation Creek State Park just off of I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge. This state park is often overlooked, being situated further east along the gorge than many of the more famous waterfalls. Regardless, four beautiful cascades can be seen from here as well as some impressive views of the gorge.
Starvation Creek got its name in 1884 when a train became stranded in a snowbank, trapping passengers here for weeks. Luckily, residents were able to ski in with food and supplies for the stranded travelers and nobody actually starved.
You’re first stop along the hike should be to Starvation Creek Falls. Although not technically on the loop, this impressive, two-tiered 190 foot waterfall is only a measly 0.1 miles in the wrong direction. So head towards the east, towards the restrooms, on a paved trail and you will quickly find yourself at the base of this falls.
When you are ready to continue on, head back towards the parking area and follow the paved Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail to the west. It starts out right along the freeway, which isn’t super fun, but it will quickly dive into some trees. Here you will reach your second waterfall, 220 foot Cabin Creek Falls. This falls drops into a small amphitheater created by cliffs, and a user trail can take you right up to it if you desire.
Following Cabin Creek Falls, the trail slides back over to the freeway for 500 feet or so. Then it will finally move away from that infernal traffic and into the blessed shade of the forest. Continue along the highway trail for another 2 tenths of a mile and then watch for a sign directing you to the Mt Defiance Trail heading off to your left. This trail will pass a small picnic area and then transition to dirt. Its also where you will encounter Hole-in-the-Wall Falls.
Hole-on-the-Wall Falls didn’t exist until 1938. At that time, Warren Falls was threatening to wash out the Columbia River Highway. To fix the problem, a tunnel was blasted through an adjacent cliff redirecting the creek away from the problem area, and creating Hole-in-the-Wall Falls in the process. Hole-in-the-Wall Falls is now a 2-tiered waterfall dropping a total of 96 feet to a nice little, pool below.
Following Hole-in-the-Wall Falls, head over a small bridge on Warren Creek and begin your first climb of the hike. The climbing on this section of the hike really doesn’t mess around. You will march up about 100 feet in a tenth of a mile before reaching the junction with the Starvation Ridge Trail. But don’t take that turn yet, there’s still one more waterfall on the agenda.
Continue right on the Mt Defiance Trail for only 250 feet or so. This will also make for a nice reprieve from the climbing. Then, you will find the trail crossing over Wonder Creek, right at the base of Lower Lancaster Falls. Unfortunately, you can only really see the final drop of the three-tiered falls as it cascades in a beautiful fan 35 feet to the trail below. If you don’t mind rock hopping or getting your feet a little wet, heading to the far side of the creek can offer you some views of the much larger tiers above, especially of the trees have not yet leafed out. There are two more drops above this one, with the first falling 255 feet followed by a second 120 foot fall in a narrow slot. The spray you can feel from this falls on a hot day is amazing.
Once you’re satiated on all your falls for the say, head back the way you came then then continue up the Starvation Ridge Trail. The trail climbs pretty steadily and steeply over the next half mile or so. There are some areas that border on really steep, and they are kind of loose with steep drop-offs off the side, so be sure your prepared for some butt clinching action. Especially when you’re coming down. (You won’t have to come down this way if they ever reopen the cutoff trail).
After you cross over Warren Creek and climb up the next ridge, you will see of rock overlook a little ways below you just past the ridge. While you will be leaving the high point of the trail, this overlook offers some amazing views of the gorge. It also makes for a great place to turn around, unless they have repaired the cutoff trail which was damaged by a landslide in 2018.
To reach Starvation Creek State Park, head east on i-84 from Portland 50ish miles and take exit 55 at Starvation Creek State Park. This exit is only available to the east bound lanes however, so when leaving, you will have to head east one mile to Viento State Park and flip around there. If you are coming from the east, you have to pass Starvation Creek State Park by about four miles and take exit 51 to Wyeth. Flip around and head east on i-84 until you reach Starvation Creek State Park. The parking area is fairly small, so it may be difficult to find a spot on a busy weekend.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash a 6' or shorter leash.
Usage: Moderate to Heavy. Not as bad as the further west waterfalls, but this is still the Gorge.
Open Season: Area is open year round, but you could find ice or snow as you start to climb in the winter.
Flowers:Wildflowers will bloom along the open slopes in this area in May into June.
Poison Oak:Its here, especially along the upper trail, and it encroaches on the trail. Long pants can help. Or you could be immune. That's nice too