Lower Cape Horn Trail Reopens Early

Release Date: Jul 2, 2018  

Contact(s): Rachel Pawlitz, 541-308-1744


Cape Horn, Wash. —July 2, 2018—Lower Cape Horn Trail in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area reopened to hikers today, thanks to successful Peregrine falcon nesting.

The closure policy is based on a 2009 Environmental Assessment, which was the result of a public planning process to recognize the popular route as an official trail. In its early days, the user-created trek crossed private lands and, in some places, sensitive habitat.

The portion of the trail south of Washington State Road 14 passes near cliff faces where Peregrine falcons nest. To prevent disturbances while Peregrines mate and rear their young, an annual restriction in the vicinity of nesting habitat from February 1 to July 15 was instituted. As part of an agreement, volunteers trained by a U.S. Forest Service biologist monitor cliffs in the vicinity of Cape Horn Trail, looking for nesting Peregrine pairs. If the pairs successfully nest, the closure may be lifted early.

In late June, volunteer observers confirmed to the U.S. Forest Service that two young falcons had successfully fledged and left the nest.

With no further risk of disturbing nesting Peregrines, the U.S. Forest Service will reopen the trail on July 2.

Hikers should be advised that the most recent maintenance work on the trail took place back in January, so there may be downed logs and overgrown brush on the trail. Cape Horn Conservancy, a volunteer organization that created and maintains the trail, has already planned several work outings for July.

About Peregrine Falcons

The peregrine falcon was federally listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1970. By 1980, only five pairs were known to nest in Washington State. With restrictions placed on the pesticide DDT and with protection of known nest sites and habitat, peregrines have made a slow but steady recovery over the past several decades.

The success of the Cape Horn peregrines is an example of intentional conservation in action. Continued success of this nesting site helps to ensure the long-term presence of the peregrine falcon in the Columbia River Gorge.