Wahkeena Falls Hike
From Portland Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Wahkeena Trailhead
- Ending Point: Lemmon's Viewpoint
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Hike Type: Out and back
- Distance: 1.4 miles round trip to the top, 0.4 round trip to the bridge
- Elevation gain: 850 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Seasons: All
- Family Friendly: Yes
- Backpackable: No
- Crowded: Yes
Wahkeena Falls is one of the more popular destinations in the gorge and there's a reason for that. 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 falls this way and that, now a plunge, now a horsetail, now a cascade. It's just beautiful.
Wahkeena Trail (#420) is also my favorite beginner trail. Even though there's a lot of climbing here, the surface is good, a lot of it recently paved. One of neat things about the Wahkeena Trail is that there's something cool every few hundred feet. It might be a Columbia River view, or it might be a cascading stream. Lots of rewards make it easier for people to challenge themselves. Every time I'm there, I talk to a new hiker and they tell me how tired they are. I encourage them to climb a bit further. Later in the day, I'm likely to find them 500-1000' higher, still tired, but happy and proud.
The trail starts with some beautiful stonework and a wooden bridge over Wahkeena Creek. Make sure you're headed right here. The trail to the left leads to Multnomah Falls. The trail climbs in one long switchback to a stone bridge at the base of Wahkeena Falls. Expect a bit of spray on the trail here year-round. In winter, things can get really icy. A large log here was cut away to clear the trail after it fell down the falls. After the falls, look across the valley at the trail you just traveled and you'll see old stonework that's slid from the trail. A bench makes a good resting spot, or a turnaround if you're pressed for time.
From here, the trail starts up a pretty steep section, climbing about 400' in about half a mile. I have several guidebooks that reference 10 switchbacks, but I counted 12. There are beautiful rock walls, another bench cemented into a wall and better views the higher you climb. The most alert hikers will find a Lego cemented into one of the walls. At the top of this first climb, you'll crest a ridge. Follow the pavement out to the point, called Lemmon's Viewpoint. A plaque here commemorates a firefighter who gave his life fighting forest fires near here. The views from the point are really good up and down the river.
This is the end of the hike presented here and this spot makes a pretty good turnaround. On the other hand, better stuff awaits for those who are willing to venture a bit farther. There's an abandoned trail to the top of Wahkeena Falls that's not really for the faint of heart. The hike to Fairy Falls and beyond is on a very well maintained safe trail.
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Guidebooks that cover this hike
- 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
- Stevefromdodge (creator)
- Jen Thomas