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Wahclella Falls Hike

From Portland 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
  • Start point: Wahclella Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point Wahclella Falls
  • Trail log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Dogbone (Out to a loop and back)
  • Distance: 2.0 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain:
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes, some steep banks
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

This is one of the must-do easy hikes in the Gorge. 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. At the end on the road is a small dam used by the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. The trail narrows to a single tread and just past the dam, there's a blind curve around a bluff. I almost hate to spoil the sudden surprise, but as you pass this curve, you'll be visually assaulted by Munra Falls. This waterfall might be a sideshow to the bigger falls upstream, but this one is so close to the trail that you might get wet as you cross the bridge at the base of the falls.

Past Munra Falls, the trail climbs quite a bit up the east side of the canyon. There aren't any cliffs here, but there are some steep dropoffs, so keep close watch on your little ones. After a flight of stairs, you'll come to a fork in the trail. The end of the trail is a loop, so you'll hike both sides. The lower path provides better views as you approach Wahclella Falls. The lower path drops down the mountain through a couple of switchbacks to the lower bridge. The great creek views start at the bridge and continue on through a 1973 slide zone. Take a good look at the rocks around you and in the creek. Then look up at the cliffs to the west, where the rocks used to be. (Yeah, I moved a little quicker too.)

At the head of the canyon, you'll pass through a bit of a grotto in full view 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 the end of the trail loop. In the winter months, there's a third tier visible from further back, particularly on the lower level trail. This seasonal falls, sometimes called East Fork Falls, is taller than either of the main stream tiers. This oddity makes Wahclella Falls different heights at different times of the year.

Past Wahclella Falls, the trail gains a bit of elevation and loops back toward the trailhead. There's a particularly good view of the 1973 landslide from a small bridge halfway back to the junction. When you reach the earlier trail junction, continue straight and head back to your car.

Maps

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass required at trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge, by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Afoot and Afield Portland/Vancouver, by Douglas Lorain
  • 35 Hiking Trails, Columbia River Gorge, by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Columbia River Gorge, 42 Scenic Hikes, by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge - 1st and 2nd Editions, by Russ Schneider
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon - 3rd Edition, by William L Sullivan

More Links

Contributors

Portland 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.