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Wauneka Point Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. Adams from Wauneka Point (bobcat)
Tiger lily (Lilium columbianum), Nesmith Point Trail (bobcat)
At Nesmith Point (bobcat)
Moffett Creek Trail above McCord Creek (bobcat)
McCord Creek Meadows, Moffett Creek Trail (bobcat)
The route to the viewpoint at Wauneka Point (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: John B Yeon TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Wauneka Point
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 17.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 5680 feet
  • High Point: 3,872 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable:Yes
  • Crowded: As far as Nesmith Point

Contents

Hike Description

Given its distance from a trailhead, the mysterious workings at Wauneka Point are seen only by hardy day hikers and a few backpackers. The switchbacking Nesmith Point Trail is the best trail access to this destination, which gives you a chance to make a short diversion to the old lookout site atop a Boring volcano. The lope from here across the upper McCord Creek drainage takes you on the little-traveled Moffett Creek Trail to the final junction and ridge walk out to Wauneka Point. Not only can you inspect the various rills and pits, seemingly crafted by ancient humans, but the views are stupendous, taking in the prominences of the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge as well as the snowy peaks of the three closest stratovolcanoes to the north.

From the trailhead, switchback at the old wooden water tank. Come to the Elowah Falls-Nesmith Point Trail Junction and go right in woods of big-leaf maple, Douglas-fir, hemlock, alder, vine maple, sword fern, inside-out flower, and salal. The trail veers to the left and winds up in mossy, leafy forest with a vine maple understory. Switchback up and cross a creek bed; then traverse up a mossy scree slope to an alder/ cottonwood slide and a running creek. Switchback at the old junction with the Gorge Trail: the trail west of here is abandoned having been taken out by a massive landslide in February 1996. You may be able to find the old signpost partially buried here.

Recross the talus slope and head up more steeply. Switchback at a mossy cliff and switchback again to a spur that leads to a viewpoint above the trail: from here, you can get a view to Beacon Rock, Pierce Island, and Mount Saint Helens. Turn a corner and head in, crossing a mossy talus slope that provides shelter to a tribe of squeaking pikas. Make nine switchbacks up a mossy gully, and then head steeply up past old growth Douglas-firs. Traverse a steep face, and then make nine more switchbacks and head into luxuriant old growth. The trail negotiates a red osier dogwood, thimbleberry, elderberry thicket and then passes a huge Douglas-fir. You'll soon get a view of the Columbia River, Beacon Rock, and Table Mountain. Switchback at a cedar and traverse up, getting more open views across to the Washington side of the Gorge. There will be six more switchbacks before you hike through a grove of cedars and hemlocks. Pass under a mossy face, cross a small creek with a large cedar on the right, switchback, and traverse up. Cross a slide chute and pass under a mossy rock face to reach the ridge crest at Corky's Corner on a talus slope facing east. The faint Nesmith Ridge Trail leads down to the left from here.

Keep right on the Nesmith Point Trail. The trail takes a gentler grade here as you traverse the eastern slope of the Nesmith volcano. Get views of Wauneka Ridge, hiking up in a hemlock forest with devil’s club and Oregon grape in the understory. The trail levels and then drops before rising under hemlock, Douglas-fir and noble fir. Hike up gradually through the huckleberries. Cross a vine maple opening and ascend in noble/silver fir woods, then veer right at an old trail junction and ascend once more. Come to an old road bed (FR 20-222) at a signpost, the Nesmith Point Trail-Nesmith Point Road Junction. Go right here for Nesmith Point. The road switchbacks up and heads along close to the forested edge of the precipice. Come to a somewhat restricted viewpoint above this Boring volcano's red earth chasm. On a clear day, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Rainier are in view. Trails continue to the right and head down past an old outhouse in a trillium-carpeted forest to lower viewpoints which offer more expansive vistas.

Drop back down from the viewpoint to the Nesmith Point Trail-Nesmith Point Road Junction and continue down the road, making a wide turn. The next junction points to the Horsetail Creek Trail. Keep descending on the road until you come to the Moffett Creek Trail-Nesmith Point Road Junction on a wide saddle. The road continues to the border of the forbidden Bull Run Reserve, so take a left on the Moffett Creek Trail and follow its narrow tread off the saddle and down a steeper incline in bear-grass carpeted montane forest.

The Moffett Creek Trail arrives at the shallow, forested bowl that contains the headwaters of McCord Creek. Here, the trail runs along a carpet of moss, which simply indicates its lack of consistent foot traffic. Soon, you’ll come to the west fork of McCord Creek. A log here affords an easy crossing when water levels are low. Otherwise, you’ll have to ford the creek. On your right, you’ll see a spur trail leading to a small campsite at one of the several meadows in this bowl. The trail rises over a low ridge and then drops to the east fork of McCord Creek, an easy step across at most times of the year. Now you’ll rise about 180 feet out of the bowl in an understory of rhododendron to the ridge separating the McCord and Moffett Creek drainages. Reach the signposted Moffett Creek-Wauneka Point Trail Junction, and go left.

The indistinct and unmaintained Wauneka Point Trail #429 follows the ridge crest. At one point, Moffett Creek runs very close to the trail. Head off to your right to see the moss-covered relic of a diversion dam built here in the 1890s by Myron B. Kelly, owner of a pulp mill at the mouth of McCord Creek and creator of the riveted pressurized pipes you see coming up the trail to Upper McCord Creek Falls. Kelly also blasted the ledge in the cliff above Elowah Falls that is now used by that trail. Here, he attempted to divert Moffett Creek, fashioning a short canal and then a ditch across the ridge to join with the McCord Creek drainage.

Continue on the Wauneka Point Trail, which drops a little and offers a view west over the upper McCord Creek drainage to Nesmith Point and Yeon Mountain. Rise and then drop again before gradually ascending the ridgecrest in a carpet of bear-grass. Reach a talus slope marked by a tall cairn. Here, you need to drop down the edge of the talus to another small cairn before the trail turns to resume its northerly direction. Descend the wooded ridge among the rhododendrons and then hike along the east slope of a rocky prominence, crossing a talus slope. Eventually come out at the open talus slope on Wauneka Point, which offers splendid vistas to the Washington Cascades. Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams are all visible on a clear day, as are Silver Star Mountain and all the other notable peaks of the Washington Gorge.

This place is not only special for its views, however. All around you are unnatural, symmetrical “designs” in the rocks left there by unknown peoples at an unknown time. Some are in the shape of the spirit quest pits, but others are long ridges of rock that seem to be arranged in patterns. Stay a while and ponder these workings as you take in the wonderful views.

Note that a shorter hike approaches Wauneka Point from Upper McCord Creek Falls off-trail and up a steep ridge. Some trip reports below describe this hike, but it is for very experienced off-trail hikers only.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Bridal Veil, OR #428 and Bonneville Dam, OR #429
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
  • Geo-Graphics: Trails of the Columbia Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management: Columbia River Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • none

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder
  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi (Off-trail loop described)

More Links


Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.