Wahclella Falls is one of the best, easy waterfall hikes within the Columbia River Gorge. It’s just far enough so that it actually feels like a hike, but you don’t have to climb several hundred feet of cliff face at the beginning to head back up the canyon. The canyon is interesting, with steep, basalt rock formations along the way, and the amphitheater at the falls itself is amazing.
Begin your hike from the Wahclella Falls Trailhead and head up the nice, flat closed roadway along Tanner Creek. In about a quarter mile you will reach a small dam and diversion structure along the banks of the Creek. Bonneville Power diverts some of the water from Tanner Creek here to use in their fish hatchery on the other side of the freeway. Head past it and begin the actual trail work by crossing a bridge right over Murna Falls. This falls slides down a rockface for 68 feet before dumping into Tanner Creek. You are so close to the falls, during the winter rainy season, you can expect to get sprayed as you cross the bridge.
Past the falls, the trails drops down to single track and begins making its way up the canyon. The views of the canyon improve as you continue to climb, and the basalt cliffs will tower over you. After climbing a small staircase, you will soon reach a junction in the trail. Head to the right for the best views along this lollipop loop.
As you begin the loop, you will quickly drop about 100 feet as you make your way to a ridge over Tanner Creek. As you cross the bridge and start heading into the amphitheater, take note of all the huge boulders in the creek and around. Those were part of a massive landslide that came tumbling down here in 1973. Makes you hope there isn’t another on the horizon soon.
After crossing the creek, you will enter into the coolest part of the hike. The mossy cliffs tower above you and small, seasonal waterfalls tumble down the cliff faces around you. Follow the trail past a small, dripping grotto and cross back over the creek. You will be able to see Wahclella Falls as you approach and, if you are early enough in the year, the upper seasonal waterfall will be running as well. Once over the creek, the trail continues on to a viewpoint right in front of the plunge pool.
Wahclella Falls is a two-tiered waterfall. The primary, lower tier, drops 65 feet from a narrow slot in the cliff face. If you can get a straight on look of the canyon behind the lower tier, you will also be able to see the upper, 50 foot drop further back. There is also a seasonal waterfall, known as East Fork Falls, is higher than both falls and cascades down the side of the canyon into the narrow slow. Water, water everywhere. There is also a logjam along the downstream end of the plunge pool where logs that have fallen into the creek above the falls have collected following the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.
Once you are done admiring the view, find a rock staircase that heads away from the falls to continue your loop. The trail quickly climbs above the canyon floor, offering some impressive views of the amphitheater and landslide below. You will find yourself back at the beginning of the lollipop before you know it and just follow the trail back towards the trailhead to complete your amazing day.
To reach the Oneonta Trailhead, head Take exit 40 on I-84 towards Bonneville Dam, 23 miles east of Troutdale or 3 miles west of Cascade Locks. Head south, away from the Columbia, on Bonneville Way and follow the signs to Wahclella Falls Trailhead, only 0.1 miles ahead.
Passes: Northwest Forest Pass is required at this trailhead.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: Open and accessible all year. Winters can be very wet and don't be surpries to find some snow or ice along the trail.