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Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Revision as of 01:32, 6 April 2019 by Justpeachy (Talk | contribs)

Ecola Falls along the Multnomah Wahkeena Loop (Steve Hart)
Fairy bells (Prosartes hookeri) along the trail (bobcat)
You may spot a pika in the moss covered talus slopes along the trail (cfm)
Bracken slope scorched by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, Wahkeena Trail (bobcat)
Large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora), Wahkeena Creek (bobcat)
American salmonfly (Pteronarcys dorsata), Wahkeena Creek (bobcat)
Western corydalis (Corydalis scouleri), Multnomah Creek (bobcat)
Fairy Falls (Steve Hart)
The loop hike from Multnomah Falls to Wahkeena Falls (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start-end point: Multnomah Falls Trailhead
  • Alternate start-end point: Wahkeena Trailhead
  • Hike log: Trail Log
  • Distance: 4.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1600 feet
  • High point: 1,560 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year round (Some snow in winter)
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

April 5, 2019: Due to rock fall near Multnomah Falls, the Forest Service has closed the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop until further notice.

NOTICE: This trail was impacted by the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017. The Forest Service has reopened the trail, but warns hikers to enter at their own risk because of hazardous conditions, including loose rocks, falling trees and limbs, debris flows, and damaged or blocked trails. There may be vegetation carpeting the trail tread in places. Less experienced hikers should consider an alternative to this hike while these conditions exist, and all hikers with dogs or small children should consider safer alternatives.

This popular loop is a waterfall lover's paradise. There are six officially named waterfalls on this trip as well as countless cascades and intermittent falls. The loop can be hiked either way, and it can be started from either trailhead. The description below begins at Multnomah Falls, follows the Larch Mountain Trail up Multnomah Creek, and then takes the Wahkeena Trail west and down to Wahkeena Falls. Then you'll take the Return Trail #442 above the Historic Columbia River Highway back to the Multnomah Falls Lodge. There are short diversions to the Multnomah Falls Upper Viewpoint, Wahkeena Spring, The Necktie (not for kids, dogs, and the fainthearted), and Lemmons Viewpoint. Almost the entire area of the loop was impacted by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. Much of the understory was burned away, and there are areas of crown fire along the Wahkeena Trail.

The trail begins at Multnomah Falls Lodge, a historic building constructed to serve early automobile travelers in 1925. From a photographer's viewpoint, get a head on vista of both the lower and main tiers of Multnomah Falls and the picturesque span of the Benson Bridge. From here, the route is a gently sloped 2/10 mile paved path to the Benson Bridge, put in place in 1914 by Simon Benson, one of the builders of the old highway. This part of the trail has one switchback. You'll pass below a rock net and can look up to see the seasonal Shady Creek Falls, which splash down a cliff just west of Multnomah Falls.

Beyond the bridge, the asphalt trail switches up steeply for another mile to a ridgecrest (There are 11 switchbacks to be exact). At the first switchback, you'll come to the Larch Mountain-Gorge Trail Junction. After the Eagle Creek Fire, logging crews cut many of the trees on this slope and the views are more open although some of the logged trees seem to point dangerously down the steep slope. At the third switchback, a once shaded viewpoint with a bench offers a view to Multnomah Falls. As you ascend higher on the slope, look for Columbia River views. Post fire, the trail seems more precipitous and the drop-offs more lethal as much of the buffering understory was incinerated during the blaze. At the crest, you'll see a few trees that were killed by the 2017 fire. From the top, the trail drops slightly to a signed junction where you'll go right for the Multnomah Falls Viewpoint. The asphalt follows a new side path that switchbacks down twice to the Multnomah Falls Upper Viewpoint, a balcony of sorts at the lip of the falls looking down on the Multnomah Falls Lodge and the crowds of visitors below. The ten-foot uppermost tier of Multnomah Falls splashes down into a shady pool encased by columnar basalt here.

On returning to the main trail, turn upcreek and cross a rock-faced culvert over Multnomah Creek. Pass the old junction with the Perdition Trail, a lower link to the Wahkeena Trail across the face of the Gorge that was severely damaged by the 1991 Multnomah Falls Fire and has been permanently closed. The next three miles of the Larch Mountain Trail parallel Multnomah Creek offering numerous scenic views. The trail passes Lower, Middle and Upper Dutchman Falls, each 10 to 15 feet in height, followed by a unique trip through a creek-washed overhang called Dutchman Tunnel. Just beyond the tunnel, you'll come to Weisendanger Falls (A plaque honoring Albert Weisendanger, a Forest Service ranger, can be found in Dutchman Tunnel). Weisendanger Falls has also been known as Upper Multnomah Falls and Twanlaskie Falls. The trail switchbacks four times above Weisendanger Falls, and soon passes the lip of plunging Ecola Falls, once known as Hidden Falls. From here, the tread is rocky in places, but the climb is more gradual than it was in the beginning. Views up Multnomah Creek from here reveal a scorched understory and blackened tree trunks. Oxalis, bleeding heart, corydalis, montia, and candy flower bloom along this stretch in mid-spring. Another quarter mile brings you to a trail junction with the Wahkeena Trail #420.

Make a right: It's about a mile of uphill to the next junction and the high point on the loop. Hike up a steep, scorched slope above Multnomah Creek getting views to the Columbia River through a now-open understory. Round the nose of a ridge in an area of crown fire where Oregon grape, trailing blackberry, and bracken are making a speedy comeback. Cross rushing Shady Creek, which splits around an alder just above the trail. Reach the first of two junctions 25 yards apart: Keep right at the junction for Devils Rest and then left at the intersection with the Vista Point Trail. Descend a bouldery slope on the Wahkeena Trail and, as you arrive at a lovely sword fern and oxalis-carpeted bowl, keep your eyes peeled for a trail sign being eaten by a tree. Pass some large Douglas-firs and hemlocks, and come to the Wahkeena-Angels Rest Trail Junction. Stay left here for the short side trip to Wahkeena Spring, which gushes impressively out of the hillside in full force into a shady cedar glade.

Return to the Wahkeena-Angels Rest Trail Junction, and go left to make three switchbacks down to the lower junction with the Vista Point Trail #419. Staying left, you'll descend five switchbacks on a burned slope with the conifer canopy still intact. Arrive at Fairy Falls, a beautiful fan waterfall right next to the trail. Six more steep switchbacks take you down rushing Wahkeena Creek and cedar-shaded Wahkeena Canyon before you cross the creek on a new footbridge at an open mossy face. Follow the creek into a narrow defile where a seasonal waterfall sometimes splashes down a massive dome of basalt, and recross the creek.

Ahead, you'll see Lemmons Viewpoint, named after a fire fighter who lost his life in the line of duty. Vistas extend across the Columbia River to Cape Horn, the Prindle Cliffs, Archer Mountain, Hamilton Mountain, and Beacon Rock (For a description of a short but sketchy off trail excursion near the viewpoint, see The Necktie). From here, the now paved pathway drops in 11 stone-walled switchbacks before reaching the old west junction with the Perdition Trail at a large Douglas-fir. The trail traverses west from here to cross the stone bridge in front of Wahkeena Falls, which may douse you with heavy spray. Keep traversing west, and then switchback down to a footbridge over Wahkeena Creek. Reach 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 leafy maple trees.

Keep straight to pick up the Return Trail #442, and walk above the highway under Douglas-firs and big-leaf maples. Hike across a licorice-fern cloaked scree slope, and then drop below a dripping rock face covered with maidenhair fern. The trail drops below a basalt overhang and then leads below a stand of burned maple trees. A rock net protects the highway from tumbling boulders, now more frequent since the Eagle Creek Fire. Finally, you'll make a short descent to reach the old highway just west of the Multnomah Falls Lodge.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Hiking Loops Near Multnomah Falls (USFS)
  • 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

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • I Heart Oregon (& Washington) by Lisa D. Holmes
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Columbia Gorge Getaways by Laura O. Foster
  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • 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
  • 100 Oregon Hiking Trails by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Best Trail Runs: Portland, Oregon by Adam W. Chase, Nancy Hobbs, and Yassine Dibboun
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest by David L. Anderson
  • 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.