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Wahtum Lake via Herman Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Camp Creek on the Herman Creek Trail (Greg Lief)
Nick Eaton Falls on the Herman Creek Trail (Tom Kloster)
  • Start point: Herman Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Wahtum Lake
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back (with potential loops)
  • Distance: 22.2 miles (round trip)
  • Elevation gain: 5070 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: summer, fall
  • Backpackable: Yes


Hike Description

This hike parallels Herman Creek, but mostly provides glimpses of the actual stream from high on the canyon wall. Instead, the main attraction is the series of graceful waterfalls that occur along several of the tributary streams that the trail crosses. The gate at the Herman Creek Campground is closed in winter, so the hike starts along the frontage road in front of the gate, at the Columbia Gorge Work Center—just east of Cascade Locks. There is an unsigned spur trail from the work center to the main trail, you can follow the paved access road for one-third mile to the campground trailhead.

From the campground trailhead, the route begins a steady climb through a couple of switchbacks, under a power line, and past the |Herman Bridge Trail which provides a continuation of the 400 Trail, dropping down to Herman Creek Proper. This section of the hike is a bit of a grind, with noticeable highway noise, and especially when the trail turns to old roadbed for the next mile or so.

But shortly after passing the Gorton Creek Trail (Indian Point) at 1.0 miles (and Nick Eaton Trail shortly thereafter) the road narrows to a pretty forest path at about the 2.0 mile mark, dominated by the sound of Herman Creek, far below. The first waterfall appears shortly—for lack of a name, called "Nick Eaton Falls" here. It is a tall, twisting cascade that can be tough to photograph, but very pretty to admire. In spring and summer, the wall of moss here is particularly impressive. Beyond this falls, the trail soon passes through a nice stand of gnarled Oregon white oak on a bluff above Herman Creek before curving back into dense forest, and the Wilderness entry sign.

Just beyond the wilderness entry, the trail passes lovely Camp Creek at the 3.0 mile mark. No waterfalls to be found here, but the creek is especially attractive, with a moss-covered scree slope forming the south border of the stream. The trail rounds another bend, and passes what is likely a seasonal waterfall on an unnamed stream—a nice tiered drop, with a magnificent bigleaf maple perched on the second tier. From this stream, the trail turns away from the sound of Herman Creek, and enters a quiet woodland for the next half-mile or so.

At the 4.0 mile mark, the route passes a campground at a little crest covered in dense forest. The Casey Creek Trail heads steeply uphill from here, and an unmarked trail heads steeply downhill for one-third mile to the confluence of the two main forks of Herman Creek. The confluence is an especially pretty spot, and a worthy destination that would make for a 8.6 mile hike with about 1,600 feet of elevation gain, including the 300 foot climb back up the confluence spur trail.

The main route continues on to a crossing of tiny Casey Creek, then Hazel Creek, where an upstream falls can be glimpsed through the forest. Next up, at the 5.0 mile mark, is tall, wispy Slide Creek Falls—a photogenic cascade set into a mossy basalt wall. This would be a good stopping point for most, and would make for a 10 mile hike with about 2,000 feet of elevation gain. But if you're interested in seeing a couple more streams, the next pair are Mullinix Creek and, finally, Whisky Creek at the 6.0 mile mark. Neither have waterfalls, but both would make nice lunch spots.

From Whisky Creek, the trail climbs steadily toward Cedar Swamp Shelter, fords the East Fork of Herman Creek, then passes Noble Camp at 7.5 miles. From here, the path climbs through increasingly open terrain to the Mud Lake trail junction at 9.5 miles (Mud Lake is just under one-half mile down the spur). The main route continues uphill from the junction to the intersection with the Anthill Trail at just over 10 miles. Continuing on the Herman Creek Trail, there's a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. This route continues on the Crest Trail to Wahtum Lake.

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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.

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