Wahclella Falls Trail Waterfall hike Portland Oregon Columbia River Gorge Tanner Creek Falls

If you were designing a landscape just for waterfalls, you would end up with something not unlike the Columbia River Gorge. Dozens of waterfalls spill from the basalt cliffs in this region. The abundance of water creates mossy natural retreats that could barely be matched even if you were designing a landscape from scratch. Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the area, and while Wahclella Falls is not as grand (its two tiers total 130 feet), it is quite charming and the trail to the waterfall is a lot less crowded. Wahclella Falls gets its share of visitors, but it is possible for a hiker to have the waterfall all to his or herself. The lollipop loop trail to Wahclella Falls is two miles round trip with 250 feet of elevation gain – a beautiful one-hour trek.

Warm up with a level stroll down a wide trail bordering Tanner Creek. After 0.3 miles, the trail makes a sharp turn to the left. Here hikers cross a short wooden bridge in the mist of 35-foot Munra Falls. This unadvertised waterfall courses down a rock wall to join Tanner Creek, and is so close you can practically touch it.

In Southern California this waterfall could serve as a hike’s main attraction, but this being Oregon, Munra Falls is just an appetizer for the waterfall ahead.

Munra Falls Oregon
Munra Falls

Beyond the bridge, the trail narrows to a single track and begins a gradual climb along the side of the canyon carved by Tanner Creek. A section of wooden steps, half a mile from the start, represent the steepest climb. You won’t mind the effort as you pass through a charming woodland with a forest floor of moss and ferns.

Wahclella Falls Trail Oregon
Moss and ferns along the trail

At 0.7 miles you will come to a split in the trail. To the left, the trail continues up through the forest to the waterfall. To the right, the trail drops to a bridge, crosses, and proceeded upstream to the falls. An upper bridge just below the waterfall allows for the loop. Which way you should go depends on how you want to be introduced to the falls. If you would like your first impression of the waterfall to be up close and in full glory, select the upper trail to the left. If, on the other hand, you prefer to begin with a distant view of Wahclella Falls and track in for a close up, select the lower trail. Both routes to the waterfall are approximately 0.3 miles in length.

Wahclella Falls Columbia River Gorge
Wahclella Falls

The sight of Wahclella Falls is an impressive one. The lower tier of the falls plunges 80 feet into a dark pool surrounded by a rock amphitheater laden with moss and ferns. Stand at the rock lectern and absorb the waterfall-filled arena.

Above the cataract, an upper tier of the waterfall can be seen dropping an additional fifty feet. Between the two, as through afraid of missing the party, another seasonal falls can be seen. Silky threads from East Fork Falls shower into the creek from a hidden source in the rock above the creek. The more you look at Wahclella Falls, the more there is to see. Spend time taking it in from a few angles. This serene location would be worthy of a much longer hike.

Wahclella Falls Oregon
Wahclella Falls

On the west side of the bridge below the falls is a rock overhang with a small cave. Poke your head in before returning down the trail. Dogs are allowed on leash. Children should love the hike, but keep ahold of them as there are steep drops along the trail. No fee or permit is required to hike to Wahclella Falls so get out and enjoy!

To get to the trailhead: Take Interstate 84 to exit 40, Booneville Dam (40 miles east of Portland). turn south and drive a short distance to the parking area for Wahclella Falls Trail.

Trailhead address: Northeast Bonneville Way & Interstate 84, Cascade Locks, OR 97014
Trailhead coordinates: 45.63152, -121.95368 (45° 37′ 53.4″N 121° 57′ 13.25″W)

Trail Map
View Columbia River Gorge in a larger map
Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.

You may also view a regional map of surrounding Oregon trails and campgrounds.

Photos

Wahclella Falls TrailheadWahclella Falls TrailWahclella Falls TrailWahclella Falls TrailWahclella Falls TrailWahclella Falls TrailWahclella Falls TrailWahclella Falls TrailWahclella Falls TrailWahclella Falls TrailWahclella Falls TrailWahclella Falls Trail

These photos were taken in September of 2011. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
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This 2 to 9.5-mile hike ventures up Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail to a pair of tunnels carved into basalt cliffs on the side of Columbia River Gorge.
Eagle Creek Trail Punchbowl Falls Eagle Creek Trail
This 4.55-mile hike ventures up a beautiful and dramatic canyon to impressive waterfalls like Metlako Falls, Lower Punchbowl Falls, and Punchbowl Falls.
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Lower Oneonta Falls Oneonta Gorge to Lower Oneonta Falls
This 0.8-mile trek follows Oneonta Creek between the tall, mossy cliffs of a wild and beautiful gorge to the base of an enchanting 100-foot waterfall.
Multnomah Falls Multnomah Falls
This 0.4 to 2.6-mile hike visits Oregon's tallest (and probably most visited) waterfall, offering something to hikers of all abilities.
Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop
This 6.05-mile loop uses Wahkeena Trail and Larch Mountain Trail to visit six glorious waterfalls (Wahkeena Falls, Fairy Falls, Ecola Falls, Weisendanger Falls, Dutchman Falls, and Multnomah Falls) as well as many fine cascades along Wahkeena Creek and Multnomah Creek in two beautiful canyons off Columbia River Gorge.
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Latourell Falls Latourell Falls Trail
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Tagged with · Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area · Free Trails · Waterfalls
Distance: 2 miles · Elevation change: 250 feet

5 Comments on Wahclella Falls in Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

  1. BearNWolf says:

    This is a great family trail. Easy if you stay to the right at the fork. There is a short stretch that is a bit of a climb where you’ll want to hold smaller kids’ hands, especially if it’s been raining lately, but other than that, not too strenuous to get up and over.

  2. […] the most famous. But on the recommendation of locals, we spent the last day of our trip hiking to Wahclella Falls, a trail that’s an easy one mile each way — but one that offers plenty of moss-, lichen-, fern- […]

  3. […] N and I drove into the Columbia Gorge to Wahclella Falls – our next hike. We have been fortunate to have fairly nice weather recently as winter hiking can […]

  4. Ali says:

    I actually used map my run to map the distance. 2 miles each way. Overall definitely worth it in the end.

  5. […] Wahclella Falls is about a mile from the trailhead. It’s an up and down trail but not too much elevation gain and it’s a nice little area. The trail splits at about .7 miles. Go either direction, it loops back on itself. More on the hike here. […]

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