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!"
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.