Nancy Russell Memorial Cape Horn Overlook 🌲🌲🌲🌲 – Edward runs Bella up into the treetops to give her a look at the things that exist “in his world”
570 Strunk Road, Washougal, Washington
(The start of the trail to the Overlook is located at 281 Rim Road, but the parking lot on Strunk is as far as you can go in a car, unless the gate is open. It’s not a far walk – less than a quarter mile.)
As long as you spot the right turn off from the highway, this location is pretty easy to find.
Depending on which direction on Evergreen Hwy you are travelling…
* Going west (coming from the Shire), look for mile marker 24, which is right before Oregon View Road and “Ozone Climbing Crag”📍 (a point noted in Google Maps). Go another half mile and turn right onto Belle Center Road.
* Going east (downhill), look for mile marker 23, directly in front of “Mt Pleasant Iris Farm”📍 (also on Google Maps) and just after Marble Road. Go another half mile and turn left onto Belle Center Road.
Follow Belle Center as far as it goes (approximately 1.2 miles). When you come to the stop sign at the end, turn right onto Mt Pleasant Road. Continue straight until the fork for Strunk Road on the right. Take Strunk Road until it ends, which is the parking lot for the trail.
Leave your vehicle there and continue on foot down Rim Road beyond the green metal gate.
Follow the road for a few minutes until you see the sign for the trail. It’s a small sign so keep an eye out for it. (The trees that you can see here on the left beyond the field at the cliff’s edge are the ones the stunt doubles were strapped into as the helicopter flew around them.)
Take the trail down to the lookout. It branches off at a few points but just stay on the main path. It’s pretty well marked. You’ll see the stone lookout area before you reach it.
There are three separate views of the Overlook used in ‘treetop date’ scene in movie.
The first establishing shot pans over 3 of the 4 evergreen trees that are the focal point of the Overlook. (Someone who knows tree science can fill me in on the correct species.) Apart from some minimal growth and filling in, they look identical. Not much has changed with them in 10 years so that’s pretty cool.
An interesting fact I discovered during my research is that the stone circle, a memorial for Nancy Russell – the founder of Friends of the Columbia Gorge and the person responsible for saving much of the Cape Horn area from development, was only constructed in 2011, so it wasn’t there during the filming of Twilight. It was just a grassy area. (I don’t like to include pictures we didn’t take personally or I haven’t been given permission to use, but I’m going to share one picture I found while going through hoards of random shots on Google. It’s pretty bad quality but shows what the viewpoint looked like before the stone circle memorial was in place and how Catherine, Rob, Kristen and the film crew would have seen it.)
The second view is a close up of Edward and Bella talking within the branches of a large tree. This is the part with the famous lines, “This isn’t real. This kind of stuff just don’t exist.” “It does in my world.” This tree doesn’t actually exist here. We were told that the top half of a tree was brought up to the edge of the cliff from elsewhere and planted into the ground with a platform built around it so that the actors could safely appear to be in the upper branches with iconic landmarks of the Columbia River Gorge below them. (Throughout the scenes, Phoca Rock, Skamania Island (no longer in existence 😦 ), and Beacon Rock can all be identified.)
If you stand on the trail before entering the stone circle area and face the gorge, there is a tree with a wooden marker on your left, just over the stone wall. The marker can be difficult to see because it’s on the side facing that little grassy hill area. (If you’re already in the walled circle area with the gorge at your back, looking back up at the trail, you won’t see it.)
It was originally thought that the marked tree was the one Rob and Kristen climbed up into but the “prop treetop” was placed to the right of the four trees at the edge of the cliff. The one with the marker is on the left. It’s hard to say why exactly that marker is on that tree specifically but our best guess is that it was where the camera would have been and the marker itself is probably a remnant of the platform that was built for the camera rig. (Take a look at Catherine Hardwicke’s Director’s Notebook to see some of her hand drawn plans of how the scenes were shot as well as a few behind the scenes photos of the rig and Rob and Kristen in the half-tree with the safety platform underneath them.) Regardless of why the marker was put there, it does give you the proper vantage point from where the camera would have been, looking out to the right of the four trees.
Our ProTip: IF you want to go up into the grass to try to match the scene and get some wide angle pictures of the entire filming area, BE CAREFUL. Maybe take a big stick with you to clear a path. We didn’t realize until we had been up there for a long time and were making our way back down that there are huge spiders EVERYWHERE in that tall grass. They make their webs at knee- to waist-height. It’s gross! 😭
The final view is of Edward and Bella (actually portrayed by stunt doubles in this shot) standing together on the upper tree limbs while the camera pans around them. (There is some very interesting behind the scenes footage along with director Catherine Hardwicke’s commentary about the filming and CGI post-rendering available in the movie’s bonus features.) This group of trees is not actually at the Overlook itself but nearby at the edge of the field where the beginning of the trail was (as mentioned in the directions section).
There are also a few B-roll scenic shots used throughout the movie that can be matched almost exactly from this site. (Check out the “Split Personality” album in the Road Tripper’s group for my own personal screenshot and real life side-by-side comparison pictures, if you’re interested.)
You can do a hike (moderate difficulty, total 8 miles – see provided links) around the entire trail if you want to spend an afternoon here or you can just do a quick in and out of the Twilight-relevant area (as described in the directions). Note: The full loop trail is currently closed until July 15 for peregrine nesting season but that doesn’t effect the section with the Overlook.
From the parking lot to the Overlook, half of the distance is on a wider road. The trail itself is level, packed dirt and well-maintained so it’s free from any major obstructions. However, it is slightly downhill (and back up again on the way back). There are a few stone steps at the lookout. If you use a mobility aid, proceed with caution.
There is a really great history to this area so if you’re interested in reading more, here are a few links for you:
*Great description of the entire loop trail and a brief history
*Similar to the last link with a cool topographical map at the very bottom that shows how the cliff drops off right at the Overlook
*Vintage postcards and photos depicting Cape Horn, describing many landmarks in the area and referencing Lewis and Clark
*Many chunks of text are missing but still a good article about Nancy Russell’s impact on Cape Horn
*Great article about Nancy Russell’s Cape Horn legacy
*Another article about Nancy Russell’s last visit to Cape Horn, mentions the removal of the only house ever built there
*History of Friends of the Gorge – founded by Nancy Russell and John Yeon
The two main selling points for Cape Horn Overlook as a Twi-Sites destination are that 1) you can see the views almost exactly as they are in the movie and 2) the entire Columbia Gorge is really pretty and this spot is a great vantage point to see it.
As always, if you’ve been to this location, please share your stories, advice and pictures in the comments.
Photo Credit 📸: All pictures, except screenshots from Twilight and as otherwise mentioned (roll over images with your mouse), were taken by Karen Mah in September 2018. Please do not use without permission.