Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Ornament Trail

2020 Update:  Since this post has been generating a lot of views lately I wanted to provide some updated information.  This area was extensively burned in the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire and as of November 2020 has still not reopened.  So please don't go looking for this trail because the area is closed and it's extremely likely this trail doesn't exist anymore.

I'd heard rumors.  Seen mentions in trip reports on the Portland Hikers website.  Even read an occasional blog post about it.  Finally, curiosity piqued, I wanted to see it for myself.

What, you ask?  Why, the famous Christmas Ornament Trail!

A surprise in the forest!

Deep in the forests of the Columbia River Gorge, there's a place where Christmas Ornaments dangle from trees.  Many hiking groups have a holiday tradition of visiting the Ornament Trail and adding to its collection.  But nobody has yet divulged the exact location of this magical spot.  So I had to do a little detective work to determine its whereabouts.  Although my research didn't uncover the precise location, it gave me a good general idea of where to go.

Wahkeena Falls without ice

On the Sunday after Christmas, I recruited my friends John and Young to join me for an exploratory hike.  They're such good sports!  Who else would accompany this crazy lady in search of a hidden ornament trail?

Young taking some photo ops

We began our quest on the Wahkeena Trail.  Having visited already twice this fall, it was familiar ground.  This time, I almost buzzed past the waterfall, but Young wanted to get a couple of shots.  It was amazing to think just two weeks ago this place was a huge sheet of ice.

Fairy Falls in the fog

Continuing up the Wahkeena Trail, my friends and I ran into a thick fog bank.  We didn't bother to stop at the nearby Gorge viewpoint, as there were no views that day.  Pausing briefly at lovely Fairy Falls so Young could get a photo, we resumed our climb through foggy woods.

The first of many trail junctions

The Wahkeena Trail switchbacks relentlessly, but it does get one to the top of the ridge quickly.  Before we knew it, my friends and I had climbed over a thousand feet, and had reached the top of the fog bank.

Coming out of the fog

Above the clouds, all was clear.  It was nice to be able to see more of the forest again.

Let's hug this big ol' tree!

The Wahkeena Trail topped out, and became a fairly flat ridge run.  Heading towards the Multnomah Falls/Larch Mountain Trail, Young and I had fun checking out the enormous old growth fir trees that lined our path.  We thought this old grandpa tree deserved a hug!

Beautiful woods above Multnomah Creek

We followed the Wahkeena Trail until its intersection with the trail above Multnomah Falls.  An incredibly beautiful area, this path followed a rushing, whitewater Multnomah Creek.  Huge mossy trees lined the creek, and bright green moss-covered boulders could be found everywhere.

Crossing the rickety bridge

Our exploration continued upriver, towards Larch Mountain.  Although I've hiked this trail many times towards Multnomah Falls, this was the first time I'd ventured in the other direction.  The forest and creek were an absolute delight!  Tons of ferns, more green mossy trees and boulders, and an absolutely beautiful stream.  I couldn't get enough of all this spectacular scenery.  We crossed the creek on a rickety damaged bridge (a sign warned hikers to cross one at a time) and continued our upwards climb.

The trail was a rocky shelf above the creek

The final leg of our quest was up an old road that intersected with the Larch Mountain Trail.  The Trails Club of Oregon had a lodge somewhere off this road, and my friends and I decided, if nothing else, we'd hike to this lodge, have lunch, and turn around.

We found the Ornament Trail!

The road was long.  The distance seemed to drag on and on without any ornament sightings.  I began to doubt my research, and told my friends if nothing else, at least we'd get a good hike.

It was past noon, and everyone was getting hungry.  John had just started to suggest stopping somewhere to eat, when Young exclaimed "Hey, I see an ornament!"

Photo time!

There, hanging from a tree on the roadside, was a small Santa boot tricked out with holiday decor.  Up above, some colorful balls dangled from a tree branch.  Woo-hoo!  We'd found it!

Walking thru Christmas all over again

Our hunger forgotten, Young and I pulled out cameras and excitedly began taking photographs.

Lots of decor on this tree

The trail dived into some thick, mossy woods.  Following it further, we discovered more and more brightly colored ornaments hanging everywhere.

John checks out an unusual garland

There were all kinds of decorations.  Someone had strung a colorful garland between two trees, high above our heads.

Little red disco ball

Some of the colorful balls glittered with raindrops.

Old mechanical parts make great ornaments

Other hanging ornaments were more practical.  These were parts from an old pump.  Made a great star!

So do old cookie cutters

And someone apparently donated their old cookie cutters for the cause.

Fa la la!

My friends and I had an absolute blast walking the trail, discovering more and more colorful Christmas decorations around every bend.

I'm not sure who maintains this lovely display.  Since the Trails Club lodge is not far away, it quite possibly could be something their members maintain.  But John did run into an older gentleman, hard at work hanging more decorations, who said he wasn't associated with the club.  We got the impression anyone could contribute an ornament or two.

Huge tree toppled by landslide

After a fun photo session, a quick lunch break, and a second short trip through the ornament trail, Young, John and I headed back down the trail to Multnomah Falls.  We passed by a recent landslide, and I captured this shot of a giant tree that had fallen across the trail.  The power of nature is amazing isn't it?

Merry belated Christmas!

A successful quest!  I'd sought and found the location of the famed Christmas Ornament Trail.  My friends and I are already planning a Christmas 2014 return visit.  And next time we'll bring some holiday decor of our own.

Stats - 10 mile round trip loop, 1700' elevation gain.

Sharing with:  Weekly Top Shot and I Heart Macro.


  1. This post was too wonderful for words--but I will try! LOVE the idea of a Christmas ornament trail--so beautiful! And the old growth forest photos were amazing--SO want to hug a BIG tree (perhaps another New Year's resolution for me--LOL)
    Now about that rickety, one person bridge...shudder, shudder:)You are one FEARLESS lady:)

  2. So cool..
    Wow, how great is that.. and you found it!
    Ya gotta go back next Christmas and contribute.
    This really is too cool..
    Thanks, Linda!

  3. So very cool !!
    You take the greatest hikes !

  4. Ornament trail! Wow, that is such an amazing idea to hang the ornaments on the trees that fellow hikers would discover. Its like being on a treasure hunt :) Glad your detective skills paid off as you got to see sooo many beautiful ornaments dear Linda :)

  5. What a wonderful surprise! It gives me ideas of starting my own 'ornament forest'! Your photos are just lovely!

  6. This is so cool, Linda!!! What a fun time this must have been. Gorgeous views and fun stuff!

  7. What a fun hike. I think I heard of this before. I'm not much of a hiking person. But I've been known to wander in the woods on trails. I want to find a glass float on the coast one of these days. Will see! Thanks for sharing your venture!

  8. This is so awesome! Your images would make amazing Christmas cards. :)
    Ahh, Portland.. all that GREEN MOSS! I love it. I was daydreaming yesterday, and thought once again that if I were to pick up and relocate to any one place, it would be a small town in Oregon.
    Thanks for sharing the Ornament Trail - I love it.

  9. Do you think they are removed after the Christmas period? I too would have enjoyed joining you on this treasure hunt of a walk.

  10. I'll have to agree that's one cool idea. Bet a visit to that trail will become a tradition.

  11. At last you found it! We have a trail near us where someone decorates a tree every year but not a large area like this one. Sadly, it's too icy here to investigate this year so I'll enjoy your find. )

  12. Wow! what a place to experience and fantastic photography ~ xxx

  13. Love it! What a fun idea. I wish we could send some of our snow to you. We had about 6" yesterday...and who knows how many more today. And New Years? Well, that was a good pack of about 8", until the winds blew it all around. Ugh!

  14. Oh that was a wonderful hike!!!! Beautiful photos as usual!! I absolutely love the Ornament Trail...what a wonderful idea!! Thanks Linda for sharing...:)

  15. What a gorgeous place to hike! I love the idea of hanging ornaments in the forest!

  16. That is absolutely the coolest idea. And the moss on that trail is amazing.

  17. Oh how neat is this!! What a glorious and magical delight!
    Happy New Year!

  18. So special. So glad you didn't turn back.

  19. Oh how fun and absolutely lush and gorgeous, wow!!! Thanks for sharing the love up-close with I Heart Macro:-)

  20. Wow! What a wonderful hike. The ornaments are such a touch of whimsy along the path. So glad you were able to take the walk and share these amazing shots!!

  21. Wow!!!! Awesome photos and awesome composition!!
    I enjoyed every moment here :)

  22. Linda, What an incredible place. It's almost like a place out of fairy tales. I was thinking of how I would love to take a hike there and I read that it is 10 mile hike. Well, I don't think so, I live in a flat land and that 10 miles vs. your 10 miles are little different. I am lucky though, I get to visit place as beautiful as this with help from your blog... Thank you.

  23. Thanks so much about this hike and the Ornament Trail. I have family in Portland and spend most Christmas' there. On my way back home (eastern WA state) on the 28th, I was in that area. It is nice to know that next year I can conduct my own search.

  24. I found a spot with ornaments in Kettle Moraine last year, and now I'm wondering if there are some up there again this year. Planning on a hike Friday or Saturday when the weather warms up so I'll have to go see. Your newly discovered trail is gorgeous, can't believe it was a new one for you but now you have a new great tradition.

  25. That is so cool! What a neat idea. I love the fog in that one photo. I don't know if I'd be brave enough to cross that rickety bridge. Yikes!

  26. How awesome that you found the ornaments. Somehow this reminds me of italy in the Cinque Terra region where there is a trail filled with locks. This area looks just gorgeous, and looks like a wonderful hike. My husband and i are going to be at multnomah Falls in may. We are going on a river cruise along the columbia, and this is an area that we will have an opportunity to explore. Looking forward to it. Hope that last was an ornament that you added.

  27. What a great idea with the ornaments. It must have been a very nice day to walk in that beautiful nature. Thank you for sharing.

  28. What an awesome hike! How cool, the ornament trail is really neat. And the green lush scenery is gorgeous. Lovely photos, Linda!

  29. What an awesome trail and a cool tree - great shots. There's a tree in a nearby park that serves as a memorial to lost pets at this time of year.

  30. Wonderful post Linda! Great work Sherlock! :)

  31. I am kind of jealous of your snow and ice free trails. And although it's not very wildernessy, I do kind of like the ornament idea, as long as people remove them later.

  32. Congratulations for your success adventure. I can not imagine how fun you got.I hope you will decorate many ornaments in this coming Christmas. Thanks for sharing.

  33. Linda, what a fun and exciting trail! I just told hubby that I want to start an ornament trail somewhere here in UT next year. How fun would that be? I loved seeing all of the different ornaments mixed in amongst all of that gorgeous moss. I am so glad you found it!

  34. My sister and I will go up today to seek the ornament trail--thanks for the beautiful inspiring photos and words.

  35. Such Fun! Tom The Backroads Traveller

  36. I've lived in the Portland area for eleven years now, hiked in the beautiful Columbia Gorge dozens of times, but, until today, I've never heard about the Ornament Trail. What a great idea! Now I need to find it and see it for myself.

  37. Today is the first I've heard of it, too, and I've lives in Portland/Vancouver for 35 years! I recently fell in love with hiking in the Gorge, and have to try this now!

  38. Great photos! Thanks for sharing!


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