Wahkeena to Multnomah Falls
Wahkeena to Multnomah Falls
The Wahkeena Falls to Multnomah Falls Loop serves up waterfall after waterfall – each one unique – delivering a cascading paradise that is well worth the visit. To be sure, this is a world-class destination that only slightly misses the five-star rating because you'll be battling mega-crowds on the lower section of the trail near Multnomah Falls. But hey, beauty has its price.
As this is a loop trail, it can be done in either direction, but we think it's most rewarding to hike counter-clockwise, finishing at Multnomah Falls.
Begin at the "Return Trail" trailhead, about 100 yards west of the Multnomah Falls Visitors Center. This short trail follows the highway for 0.30 miles to the Wahkeena Falls Trailhead. (You'll notice a parking lot here, this could be your starting point if you don't want to mess with parking at Multnomah Falls.) Hike 0.25 miles up a paved path up to a bridge spanning the base of Wahkeena Falls. Admire the power of this staircase falls as it drops 240' down six distinct ledges seemingly right onto your feet.
Pry yourself away and continue across the bridge and upward. As the trail climbs, notice the crowds thin dramatically. After negotiating 12 paved switchbacks, reach a junction. To the right is Lemmon's Viewpoint, a nice view of the Gorge. The main trail goes left. The trail joins Wahkeena Creek soon after, and at 1.25 miles, reach Fairy Falls. Although far shorter in height than others in the area, its fan shape provides wonderful photo opportunities, especially in the early morning.
Continuing on, reach a signed junction above Fairy Falls and bear right on Trail 400/420. At 1.75 miles, you'll feel the trail begin to flatten out and reach a three-way trail junction. The main route continues straight on through (#420), but we recommend a short side trip to the right for a view of Wahkeena Springs, which feeds the roaring falls below.
Once back on the main trail, the route climbs a bit more along a ridgeline, and finally reaches a highpoint of 1,617' and yet another signed junction at 2.5 miles. Follow the trail to the right for about 100' and then bear left as it splits (stay on #420). The good news is that the leg-burning hard work is over: it’s all descending from here.
The trail runs east for about a mile until it joins the Larch Mountain Trail (#441) at an unmarked junction at 3.5 miles. Head downstream along Multnomah Creek about 0.25 miles to the crest of Ecola Falls (also called Hidden Falls), plunging downward just a stone's throw away from the trail. Next, arrive at Weisendanger Falls (named after a long-time Forest Ranger). This is a great place to stop and enjoy your last moments of (potential) solitude before you head back into touristville. An unofficial trail leads to a small pool at the base of the falls with invigorating water for those who want to swim.
Further down the trail you'll come upon Dutchman Falls, dropping in three sections visible from the trail. Cross over a giant culvert and reach pavement once again near the spur to the Multnomah Falls overlook. Descend down 11 switchbacks alongside thundering Multnomah Falls and at 4.75 miles, reach Benson Footbridge, straddling the creek between the upper and lower drop. Literally soak up the views of 542-foot-tall upper falls and 69-foot-tall lower falls. Wow. It never fails to amaze.
Permits & Tips
No parking permits required. Toilets, water, and food are available next to the Multnomah Falls Visitor Center. A map of all the hikes in the area is also available from friendly volunteers staffing the center. Don't leave valuables in the car; this area is notorious for prowlers.
How to get there
From Portland, head east on I-84/US-30 to exit 28. Stay on the exit ramp as it merges onto E. Bridal Veil Road. Continue on the Historic Columbia River Highway for 3.1 miles. The parking lots are on the north (left) side of the road. The trailhead is on the south of the road, just west of the Multnomah Falls Visitors Center.