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Wahkeena Falls Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Wahkeena Falls (Steve Hart)
Happy hiker (Steve Hart)
Giant salmonfly (Pteronarcys californica) at Wahkeena Creek (bobcat)
View to Beacon rock from Lemmons Viewpoint (bobcat)
The trail to Lemmons Viewpoint from Wahkeena Falls (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps

Contents

Hike Description

Wahkeena Falls has a beauty all its own. It's not a huge single fall like Multnomah or Latourell, and there's no lodge or fancy freeway exit to draw people. Wahkeena Creek twists this way and that through a narrow defile, the volume of water belying the fact that the creek is less than a mile long! While it's less than a quarter mile to the falls, you can continue switchbacking up a paved path to a viewpoint that provides expansive vistas over the west Columbia River Gorge. A short side scramble to The Necktie, i.e. the upper tier of Wahkeena Falls, and Little Necktie Falls completes the picture of this distinctive waterfall. Note that the excursion to The Necktie is not for kids or dogs.

Walk up to the viewing plaza just above the parking area on the highway. You can appreciate the tiers of Wahkeena Falls from here, but in spring and summer, the view is partially obscured by mossy big-leaf maples. Head to your right, and cross a footbridge over Wahkeena Creek. Then make a traverse on a paved trail into Douglas-fir/hemlock woods before making a switchback up. The trail traverses to cross the stone bridge, another Simon Benson contribution to the Gorge, in front of Wahkeena Falls. A bench makes a good resting spot, but when the wind is blowing you can get doused with heavy spray!

From here, the trail starts up a steep section, climbing about 500 feet in about half a mile. Continue west to pass the former junction with the closed Perdition Trail at a large Douglas-fir. From here, the pathway, which is still paved, rises in 11 stone-walled switchbacks to a junction. The most alert hikers will find a Lego brick cemented into one of the walls. Take the short spur to the right to reach Lemmons Viewpoint, named after an Oregonian fire fighter who lost his life in a Nevada wildfire. Vistas extend across the Columbia River to Cape Horn, the Prindle Cliffs, Archer Mountain, Hamilton Mountain, and Beacon Rock.

If you're interested in the short but sketchy scramble down to the top tier of Wahkeena Falls, known as The Necktie, walk back from Lemmons Viewpoint. About 15 yards past the junction with the spur to the viewpoint, find a trace of a rough trail leading down to the right (Please don't attempt this with dogs and young children.). Make three switchbacks on loose scree to the creek. Little Necktie Falls, about 30’ tall, cascades upstream; a head on look would require standing in the creek. Then, follow the faint tread down the east bank of the creek where you'll soon be bounded by a basalt face on one side and a cable and cyclone fence on the creek side. Please don't lean on the fence or trust any section of it. Eventually, after descending steps hacked into the rock, pass along a narrow chasm and find yourself at a dangerous overlook where the fencing is damaged. Look back up the creek to admire The Necktie, where Wahkeena Creek picturesquely crosses over itself. White shooting stars, mist maidens and Mertens’ saxifrage bloom on the dripping rock face here. You can stare down over two larger and lower drops of Wahkeena Falls to see the Simon Benson's stone bridge directly below you.

To venture farther up the Wahkeena Canyon, see the Fairy Falls Loop Hike.

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Trail Maps (Friends of Multnomah Falls)
  • Green Trails Maps: Bridal Veil, OR #428
  • 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
  • Multnomah County SAR map

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • The parking area can get full quickly: Arrive before 9:00 a.m. on weekends.
  • Don't take kids and dogs to The Necktie.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Columbia Gorge Getaways by Laura O. Foster
  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Pokin' Round the Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest by David L. Anderson
  • Waterfall Lover's Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb
  • Waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge, Volume One: Oregon by Zach Forsyth

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.