A Magical Hike In This West Coast State Will Make You Believe You're In Iceland

Taking Iceland's famous Ring Road to the towering Seljalandsfoss waterfall is a bucket list item for many travelers — but it's not the only place you can walk behind a waterfall. For travelers from the United States, there's a spot that may scratch that itch a little closer to home. Tunnel Falls, located in Oregon's Eagle Creek Canyon in Columbia Gorge, is a tricky hike that takes visitors on a 12-mile journey through the forest, along steep cliffs, and through a mossy passage behind the waterfall, all while still being able to hear the roar of the water.

Not only does the trail provide the rare opportunity to pass through a tunnel behind a waterfall, but the hike there is also incredibly beautiful. While Tunnel Falls may not be in Iceland, the trail is open all winter, so it is possible to enjoy the walk surrounded by snow and ice. The big advantage of hiking in colder months is that this popular trail will be less crowded, giving you a more intimate experience of the falls. However, the wintery Oregon weather may make this already challenging trek even harder, so unless you have your heart set on seeing the waterfall in the snow, you may want to save this beautiful trip for the warm weather.

Hiking Eagle Creek Trail

If you're hoping to walk through the passageway behind Tunnel Falls, you will want to hike Eagle Creek Trail. This hike will take you around the beautiful, misty gorge, providing views of the titular Eagle Creek 150 feet below. While it isn't the most dangerous hike in Columbia Gorge, it shouldn't be taken lightly either. This 12-mile hike gradually gains more than 2,000 feet in elevation. While it is never too steep, the path is sometimes narrow and can have a sharp drop on one side, making it potentially dangerous for children, dogs, and anyone who isn't a confident hiker. There can also be loose stones on the path, another dangerous hazard.

For those able to make the journey safely, however, an incredible adventure awaits. In addition to the staggeringly beautiful 160-foot-tall Tunnel Falls, AllTrails users have noted that more than 20 other waterfalls are visible on the Eagle Creek Trail. Although it is possible to continue and see more of the gorge, many choose to make the passage behind Tunnel Falls the grand finale of their trip before turning around and hiking back.

How to visit Tunnel Falls

From bustling Portland, Oregon, it takes less than an hour to reach the trailhead for Eagle Creek Trail. In order to park by the trailhead at Eagle Creek Trail, you will need a day pass from the USDA Forest Service. Luckily, these only cost around $5 and can be ordered online. Once on the trail, most hikers on AllTrails stated that the trip took them around five hours in total, but for a few, it took as long as eight hours. With uncertain trail conditions and so much to stop and look at along the way, anyone planning the journey would be wise to plan accordingly and have enough supplies to spend the whole day on the trail.

For those hoping to get an early start, camping in the Columbia River Gorge may be the easiest way. Eagle Creek Campground is only about a 15 to 20-minute walk from the trailhead and costs $15 per night. However, there are only a few campsites, and although the spot is not generally too busy, hikers hoping to stay the night as close to Tunnel Falls as possible should try to book in advance.