Sunday, November 27, 2016

Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop

One of the classic Gorge Fall hikes is the lovely Multnomah - Wahkeena Loop.  It's a trail I hike every fall (long-time blog followers will no doubt already know this!)  So continuing on the theme of "Autumn's Greatest Hits," here's a photographic recap of my mid-October visit to this stunningly beautiful place.

Slender cascades stream down this rock face

After seeing photos on the Portland Hikers Facebook page touting lovely leaf colors peaking along the Wahkeena Trail, I knew the time had come to make my annual trek.  So the Sunday following my Silver Falls State Park visit, I recharged my camera for the weekend's second autumn photoshoot.  One of the best things about this hike is it's a quick 45-minute drive from my house.  Traveling through the Columbia River Gorge this time of year is always a treat.  Brilliant oranges and yellows lined the Historic Highway as I approached the trailhead at Wahkeena Falls.

Train tracks view from the Gorge Trail

Over the years I've done this loop many times, started at different places, and hiked the trails in both directions.  Today, I decided to do the loop clockwise starting at Wahkeena Falls. I began on the Gorge Trail for a short half mile to Multnomah Falls.  A quick ramble through colorful woods, I passed by a tall cliff dripping with tiny rivulets, and was treated to scenic glimpses of railroad tracks through the trees.

Mighty Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is always a busy place, and today was no exception.  Despite the cloudy, gray, damp weather, a good crowd had gathered on the lower viewing platform, and many more clogged the path up to the picturesque Benson Bridge.  A top tourist draw - at 611 total feet in height, this lovely cascade is the tallest waterfall in Oregon.  (The upper falls is 542 feet high, while the second tier measures a respectable 69 foot drop.)

Lookin' good with her autumn wardrobe!

Changing trees surrounding Multnomah Falls makes autumn an especially scenic time to visit (hence the throngs of people...)  The waterfall looked fantastic surrounded by colorful orange and yellow leaves just reaching peak color.  Although not packing my tripod, I was still able to capture some great images of this gorgeous waterfall.  With scenery this stunning it's not difficult.

Upper falls from above the Benson Bridge

After photographing from the lower viewpoint, I dodged tourists and trekked to the Benson Bridge for some up close and personal views.  Recent heavy rainfall had the falls roaring, and anyone standing on the bridge was instantly doused with spray.  Wishing to avoid such a camera-unfriendly situation, I waited until I'd passed the bridge before snapping a couple of upper falls images.

Gnarly tree branches

Then my climbing began!  Although paved, the trail to the top of Multnomah Falls gained 700 feet in eleven long switchbacks (and to add insult to injury, each switchback was numbered).  It didn't take long before I was puffing heavily and shedding clothing layers.

Beautiful Multnomah Creek

At the very top of the climb, there's a short path that takes visitors to the very top of the falls.  Having seen this sight many times already, I was planning bypass this detour, continuing on the Larch Mtn trail another mile to the Wahkeena Falls junction.  But a huge downed tree blocked this trail just beyond the viewpoint turnoff, putting the kibosh on any uphill travel.

Mossy delight

I sized up the situation.  There wasn't enough room to shimmy under the tree.  And climbing over it with my backpack and camera bag strapped on would be dangerously awkward.  Was I going to have to cancel my plans and turn around?

After pondering a bit, I decided to shed my baggage, sliding it under the tree to the opposite side.  Now unencumbered, I was able to clamber onto the wet, slippery bark and hoist myself over.  It wasn't easy, but I made it.  And my acrobatics even impressed a man watching from the other side!

Weisendanger Falls

That large fallen log definitely kept the crowds down!  I traversed the entire trail to Wahkeena junction without seeing more than a handful of people.  It was definitely a magical place to have all to myself.  Large, gnarled, mossy branches overhung the forest.  Thick, multi-hued vegetation lined my path.  And a couple more mighty waterfalls churned through nearby Multnomah Creek.

I just loved all the mossy branches!

I was having so much fun taking in this spectacular scenery, the Wahkeena Trail junction appeared in no time.  Continuing up the Wahkeena Trail, I thought I'd left the best of this autumn finery behind.  But the color show wasn't over yet......

Yellow burst in the woods

Climbing upwards through more mossy green forest, a huge patch of yellow leaves lit up the woods like a beacon.

Fabulous yellow leaf colors

Absolutely stunning!  Comparing photos from previous years (I'm realizing I tend to take photos of the same places each visit) this was definitely some of the best leaf color ever.

Branch silhouette

Nope, photos don't lie.  This year's autumn show was incredible.

Wahkeena Trail was an autumn wonderland

I traipsed along the trail, clicking away, a huge smile plastered across my face.

Really brightened up the forest

The entire Wahkeena trail, from the Multnomah junction to Wahkeena Springs was one huge golden color-fest. 

Funny graffiti

Reaching the trail sign at Wahkeena Springs, I was amused by the graffiti written near the bottom.  Although I'm not in favor of defacing anything, I must admit it made me chuckle.

Old fallen leaves

Then began the downward march to my car. 

Lovely little Wahkeena Creek

The trail switchbacked down a steep, muddy path, following charming little Wahkeena Creek.  I passed by lovely little Fairy Falls, but there was already a crowd gathered at it's base, so I kept on walking.

Spotted leaf

I admired the patterns and colors the already-fallen leaves made on the trail.

Approaching Lemmon viewpoint

Passing by Lemmon Viewpoint, I took a quick detour to get a good look at the Columbia River.  Although it's opposite shore was a lovely patchwork-quilt of colors, the light was at the wrong angle for photographs.

Ferns and leaf

From Lemmon Viewpoint, the trail transitioned into an asphalt path.  With the improved trail came a sharp increase in the number of hikers.  The closer I traveled towards the trailhead, the more people (especially unprepared for hiking) I encountered.

Bench with a view

Just before Wahkeena Falls, I came upon this idyllic bench surrounded by a huge swath of colors.  A  perfect photo op!  But it quickly became overtaken by a large family who decided to hang out for awhile.  I waited patiently for several minutes before the group finally moved on.

Wahkeena Falls was a busy place

Upper Wahkeena Falls is a mere 1/4 mile from the trailhead.  Due to it's close proximity the path below is usually packed with people.  I tried for a few quick images of this cascade, but a people-free frame was virtually impossible.  This shot was the best I could do.

Wahkeena Falls through the autumn colors

Crowds or not, it still was a splendid place.  Yellow leaves brightened the adjacent forest, with a swirling whitewater creek as it's centerpiece.

Downstream from Wahkeena Falls

Covering the final distance to my car, I was immensely pleased.  A memory card full of outstanding fall colors and good bit of exercise to boost my mood.  And despite threatening clouds, I lucked out with a dry day.

GoPro selfie

A delightful trek!  I was able to fit this adventure into a Sunday afternoon and still be home well before dinner.

Stats:  5.4 miles round trip, 1600 feet elevation gain

Sharing with:  Through My Lens


  1. Linda, I love your smiling face at the end of this post, and I love how you captured all the gorgeous colours and magnificent falls! :)

  2. We were at Wahkeena Falls 1st weekend of Oct. It was lovely even though the waterflow was lower than when you visited. We went the short way....not as long as you did. Your autumn photos are beautiful. It's interesting how many people flock to the falls to see them all. We visited the ones I wanted to get. May go back to bridal veil with a shorter lens. Should taken camera bag with me....sigh!! Thanks for sharing your journey that gave you a puzzle to solve! Happy week!!

  3. Love the shot of the train tracks you captured. As you go deeper into the woods along the trail the sights become more and more interesting. Nature seems to intensify colors, density and charm. Love the waterfall as well. It's a real winner, as are your photos.

  4. Great captures.. love those autumn colors.
    Thanks for taking us along!

  5. Impressive amounts of water and moss - not the kind of thing I tend to see on my walks!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  6. That's a whole lot of scenery in a 5.4 mile walk! Thanks so much for sharing it with us flatlanders who have nowhere like that to explore.

  7. Hello Linda! What a gorgeous hike. The waterfalls is beautiful. Wow, the colors are just stunning. Awesome captures. Thanks for taking me along on your hike. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week ahead!

  8. I saw Multnomah Falls years ago, what a sight. Thanks for taking me back.

  9. You manage to tell a good story along with awesome photos.

  10. Another GORGEOUS fall hike! Nice going getting over/under that downed tree.

    As Hans and I contemplate buying a home in Southern OR I get excited about the potential for fall color hikes!!!

  11. I can certainly see why you'd hike this trail every fall. What a stunning place. And what a nice selfie!

  12. Multnomah Falls is always a great place to stop! We have been there twice and both times there were hoards of people. I really enjoyed your hike! :)

  13. You captured the season perfectly! I've never walked the trail between these two falls before. Looks fun.

  14. Great set of pictures, Linda! And props to you for going clockwise, that climb away from Multnomah Falls is a doozy!

  15. I agree with a previous comment in that your photos bring back some nice memories I have seeing Multnomah Falls back in July 2002. It was a lot greener back then, and a magnificent site. I'll have to re-visit the photos I took back then.

  16. Autumn bliss! Such wonderful captures as always.

  17. Truly spectacular scenery - that first waterfall is out of this world.

  18. Wonderful pix, with lots of waterfalls. Lovely.

  19. Oh my friend, I do remember this, but I never tire of seeing these falls. Would love to hike to them some day! Love the photo of you at the end! Oh, and I have a thing for moss. Just love it!! :)

  20. Linda, this was the most beautiful trek. The colours of the leaves are brilliant as are the huge waterfalls

  21. Estas montanhas são de uma grande beleza e ainda mantêm toda a sua vida selvagem intacta e pura.
    Um abraço e boa semana.

  22. Wonderful October colors and landscape!

  23. You have some amazing waterfalls over there. One advantage of a very large country and higher mountains is that the drainage is spectacular as well. Even makes a dull, misty day look fantastic.

  24. When we visit Oregon someday Multnomah Falls will definitely be on our itinerary! I just hope I'll be able to hike so far and high ... sadly my knees are not what they used to be

  25. I'd still be here too, LOL. I'd still be everywhere you show us. Such gorgeous scenery. Oh to have this in my back yard. The best I can do is Ricketts Glen a long way from my house.


Don't be shy! Please leave a comment.