Ancient Lakes Trail in Vantage, WA is a 5-mile loop trail that is carved out between tall canyon walls that features multiple small lakes, fueled by a grand waterfall. The views are stunning in every direction, and the rock walls are balanced by the flow of smaller waterfalls that stain the rock with minerals.
I did this one with my husband in the beginning of January to start the new year right, so it wasn’t busy at all. We took our time to gear up as we watched ranchers unload their horses at the trailhead, and waited for them to hit the trail before letting our pup off-leash.
When we did, she was off like a bullet, and all I saw was her curly pug tail. We moved swiftly and enjoyed the bright blue sky above us, which seemed to almost trick us into feeling warm. We felt like Moses, walking down the middle of the split Red Sea as we traveled in between the colossal cliffs on either side of us.
As we migrated towards the waterfall, we noticed a giant rock about 20 feet tall, balanced on its side in the middle of the desert terrain we were used to seeing. As we moved closer to inspect it, we heard a noise that drew our eyes to the edge of the cliff behind us- the first small stream that met the edge and turned into a small waterfall. We became giddy, smiling and pointing to it, and spending a minute simply observing it. As we kept moving, we found multiple similar streams against the rock wall that kept our excitement high.
Approaching the lakes, we couldn’t help but move closer to their edge. Because it was so cold, we didn’t end up swimming- but this is an option for those who choose to do so during the warmer months. If you do choose to do this, please keep in mind that rattlesnakes are very common in this area and they have been known to swim in the lakes!
Something about the Columbia River Gorge is extremely humbling. Perhaps it is the gigantic rock walls that surround the area or the historically beautiful petrified elements near Grinko Petrified Forest State Park, but spending time in the area was a good reminder of how small I am. In a world with the fixation on the self and being known, this trail has taught me to authentically enjoy each moment as its own and punctuated the significance of being small.