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Wahclella Falls Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Wahclella Falls (Jeff Black)
Footbridge where Munra Falls drops into Tanner Creek (Jeff Black)
Hiker on a footbridge over Tanner Creek - unnamed seasonal waterfall in the background (Jeff Statt)
Closer view of Wahclella Falls in the winter, with East Fork Falls at full flow (Steve Hart)
Map of the trail (The east leg of the loop remains closed)
  • Start point: Wahclella Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point Wahclella Falls
  • Trail log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 2.4 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 320 feet
  • High point: 335 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes
Falling

Contents

Hike Description

This is one of the must-do easy hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, a sort of mini-Eagle Creek without the distance. The trail reopened in August 2019 after a two-year closure following the Eagle Creek Fire. While vegetation and trees along the route are recovering, frequent slides have turned the hike into an out and back excursion rather than a lollipop loop. The outing is at its most pleasant from fall through spring, but even on hot summer days, the grotto-like amphitheater at Wahclella Falls offers a cool respite where day hikers often tarry for long periods.

From the Wahclella Falls Trailhead, start down Wahclella Falls Trail. The first part of the trail is a leisurely flat walk on a closed access road shaded by cottonwoods, alders, big-leaf maples, and Douglas-firs. At the end on the road is a small dam and fish ladder managed by the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. This is also where you'll see the first burn scars from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. The trail narrows to a single tread and just past the dam, there's a blind curve around a bluff. Suddenly, you'll be visually assaulted by Munra Falls. This waterfall might be a sideshow to the bigger falls upstream, but this slide falls is so close to the trail that you might get wet as you cross the bridge at its base.

Past Munra Falls, the trail climbs quite a bit up the east side of the canyon, transitioning from the soft sedimentary deposits of the Eagle Creek Formation to the 15 million-year-old Columbia River Basalts. Two massive Douglas-firs by the side of the trail were scorched by the 2017 fire. There are some steep dropoffs, so keep close watch on your little ones. After a flight of stairs, you'll soon begin to descend. Look down the deep slope to burned maples and hazels coming back from their roots. A couple of gabions have been installed to bolster the tread at dangerous slide areas. Come to the former Wahclella Falls Trail Junction. Here trail crews reinforced the area with extensive rock work, but the upper part of the loop remains closed because of ongoing slides and rockfall.

Instead, drop down to the right, taking a couple of switchbacks to the lower bridge. The great creek views start at the bridge. Note the enormous builders that have tumbled from the basalt rim far above. Continue on through a 1973 slide zone. Recross the creek on another footbridge, and clamber around the boulders at the mouth of the cool, cedar-shaded amphitheater to get views of Wahclella Falls.

Wahclella is one of the more interesting falls in the gorge. The most obvious portion is the lower drop, where the water drops from a hidden, narrow gorge 65 feet into a large open canyon. Above the lower falls is a semi-hidden upper falls in the main stream. You can see this 50 footer from a higher viewpoint. Most months, there's a second waterfall visible from further back on the lower level trail. This seasonal falls, sometimes called East Fork Falls, is taller than either of the main stream tiers.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: 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
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required at trailhead
  • Port-a-potties, picnic table, information kiosk
  • Dogs on leash

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Pokin' Round the Gorge by Scott Cook
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; revised by Jim Yuskavitch
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Columbia Gorge Getaways by Laura O. Foster
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Hiking Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Hike America: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • 50 Hikes in Oregon by David L. Anderson
  • Columbia River Gorge: 42 Scenic Hikes by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 35 Hiking Trails: Columbia River Gorge by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Short Trips and Trails: the Columbia Gorge by Oral Bullard & Don Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest by David L. Anderson
  • Waterfall Lover's Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A.Plumb
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

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.