Saturday, May 11, 2013

Wahkeena to Multnomah Falls

** I meant to post this on Wednesday, but I have been preparing for the beach trip I'm on now!  So here it is for you, a few days late :)

Two weeks ago-- wow that feels like a long time-- Jason and I continued our goal to hike ever trail in the gorge from Portland to Hood River.  After Angel's Rest the week before, we decided we wanted to do an easier hike-- but not too easy... so we went with the Wahkeena Falls to Multnomah Falls loop.  We even had company on this hike!  Jason's college friend Brendan joined us for the trip.

The trail combines the one mile hike up to Multnomah Falls with the short trail to the top of Wahkeena falls.  It's a total of 5.5 miles round trip.

Wahkeena Falls

"Wahkeena" literally means "most beautiful" in the Yakima Native language.  And it is probably the most beautiful Falls in the gorge.

I forgot how gorgeous this hike is.  The last time I did it, I was 11 and I believe I complained the ENTIRE way up the trail, and back down the other side.

But I digress...

Both of these falls are incredibly popular, but Wahkeena less so, especially on a Tuesday afternoon.  So we decided to start there.  (Side Note: if you're not into hiking, Wahkeena probably has one of the best picnic areas in the gorge.  It's shaded and cool, with tons of space for big groups)

From the highway you can see much of the falls, cascading from the top and down into the creek below.  We followed the paved trail up about 0.2 miles until we got the the bridge where you get a gorgeous view of the top of the falls (pictured above)  It's a pretty easy stroll to the bridge, so if you don't want to hike you could just walk up to the bridge.

We continued up the switch backs to the very top of the falls, where there's an awesome view of the gorge.  It's probably the best view on the trail.

After taking in the view, we continued up the trail.  It winds through Wahkeena Canyon, following the stream.  We climbed up the trail, following the switch backs, and sweating our asses off until we made it to Fairy Falls.

Isn't it pretty?  I could have stayed here all day... except Khloe would have kept barking at me until I got up to continue hiking.  Oh well!

There's a tiny bridge... in fact it's not really a bridge at all, more like a piece of wood placed over the stream to cross over.  But once we crossed the bridge, we continued up the hill until we got away from the stream and were in the forest.

Connecting Trails

There are so many trails that connect to each other in the gorge.  Wahkeena Falls alone connects to:  Angel's Rest, Devil's Rest, Larch Mountain and Multnomah Falls.  It can get confusing if you don't pay attention, or know where you're going.    You want to stay on trail #420.

This trail winds through an old growth forest, on a cliff high above the freeway.  It's pretty to see all the trees-- but honestly, not as pretty as the hikes along the waterfalls and creeks (which is why I didn't take any pictures of this part).

The trail continues until you reach a four-point junction with the Larch Mountain trail.  We turned south, to head down to Multnomah Falls.

Multnomah Falls

The Multnomah Falls trail winds down Multnomah creek past two waterfalls, Ecola Falls and Weisendanger Falls.  Fun Fact: Ecola Falls was once known as "hidden falls," and there's a reason.  You can kind of see it from the trail-- but not really.

Obviously you can see Weisendanger Falls from the trail.  And it's a gorgeous sight at that!

We continued to follow the trail down, as it followed the winding creek to the top of Multnomah Falls.  This was the point when we ran into a TON of people-- and interesting ones at that!

The view from the top is great... but honestly, it was a bit of a let down from what we saw over at Whakeena Falls.   We enjoyed the view for a little bit, and then decided to head down the trail.

The one-mile hike to the bottom is all paved, and laced with signs telling you how long we had to walk to get there.   We passed people wearing ugg boots, flip flops and toms...  it made me realize just how commercialized and touristy the falls had become.

I hate to be one of those old people who says, back in my day-- but I'm going to be.  When I was a kid, we used to go to the falls all the time... back when you could swim in the pool at the bottom.  It wasn't a paved trail all the way up, and there certainly wasn't a coffee cart at the bottom.    I get that things change, but I hate to see those beautiful places I loved to go as a kid, turn into a tourist trap.  It's a bit heartbreaking.  But despite the tourist aspect, it's still a great sight.

We made it all the way to the bottom and reveled in our accomplishment before heading back to the car via the 0.5 mile return trail.  Thank God for that return trail,  that's all I have to say :)

One of the things I love about Wahkeena and Multnomah Falls, besides the fact that they're easily accessible, is that both trails connect to different hikes and loops.  All listed below, and all of which I would like to try some day:

Angel's Rest to Wahkeena Falls
Angel's Rest to Devil's Rest
Multnomah Falls to Larch Mountain

We finished our big hike with a drive to Hood River for some beers at Full Sail!  Delicious :)

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