The 2-mile family friendly trail to Wahclella Falls takes you to one of the less frequented set of falls in the area. This is a great option if you're wanting to witness a great set of Columbia River Gorge falls without having to deal with the crowds.
Wahclella Falls receives far fewer visitors than the average Columbia River Gorge waterfall, perhaps due to lack of stature and visibility as well as length of hike. The second and most visible 60-foot drop of the falls occupies a peaceful grotto at the end of a deep canyon. Although it is often overlooked by hikers feeling the need for more exercise, Wahclella certainly rates as highly as any other hike in the area in terms of beauty. A family–friendly, two-mile hike that only gains 380 feet in elevation provides a little exercise, while also allowing hikers of almost any age and aptitude the opportunity to explore and enjoy the canyon’s many attributes. The grotto that surrounds the falls is endlessly explorable. There is a mini-cave just before the bridge that crosses the creek, which is fun to explore if you have the time. There are boulders to climb and small pools to wade through, so be mindful where the kids dip their feet. This is still a dangerously fast moving creek in some spots, depending on the season.
What Makes It Great
The two-mile hike to Wahclella Falls starts at the Wahclella Falls Trailhead. The trail leads to a small dam used by the Bonneville Fish Hatchery and then takes a blind curve around a bluff. When you round the corner on the Wahclella Falls Trail, you will see Munra Falls. Past these falls, after stairs, you will get to a fork in the trail. This begins a loop, so taking either side will lead to the same place, though the lower path provides better views of Wahclella Falls as you approach it. You will cross the lower bridge, where you can catch some beautiful creek views that continue as you proceed down the trail. The loop continues around until it takes you back to the original trail that leads to the parking area.
Munra Falls, while not the highlight of this trip, is unique because it is just feet from the trail. A lot of times, hikers will feel the spray from it or can even reach out and touch it at times of high water flow. You will notice a slide area after you pass the falls that resulted from a big chunk of Tanner Creek Canyon giving away in 1973. At one point, the rocks impeded on creek flow, but the water found its way through. When you look at Wahclella Falls, the main, lower falls are obvious, but if you look harder, you will see where the falls originate. There is a semi-hidden set of upper falls and a third tier to be seen some times of year from farther away.
For a delicious food and drink option, you must try East Wind Drive-In. The Cascade Locks burger and ice cream joint is a traditional post-hike stop for generations of Gorge hikers.
Who is Going to Love It
The fair grade and short distance of this trail make it accessible for hikers of all skill levels. Wahclella Falls is beautiful and interesting enough to make this short hike worth every minute.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To get there from Portland, take I-84 E to exit 40 for Bonneville Dam, then turn right toward Yeon State Park.