December 25, 2012

Zigzagging short climb up Wahkeena Falls Trail in the rain well worth the effort

Wahkeena Creek rumbling and tumbling below the bridge
while water falls plunge above the bridge
After 28 switchbacks (my own unofficial count) up the side of the Columbia Gorge’s steep canyon walls, the top of the Wahkeena Falls Trail is reached. There, it intersects with the Vista Point Trail. This is a bittersweet point of the trail, because it marks the spot where the wonderfully scenic trail ends, but, even at only 1.6 miles, a sense of accomplishment can be had.

View up the Columbia River Gorge
from short, side trail viewpoint
Fairy Falls and rustic rest bench
The Wahkeena Falls Trail is a good destination when you only have a couple hours of open schedule to get in a hike. Zigzagging up the Gorge’s wall on the Oregon side, the trail makes its way between two large, roundish rock outcroppings. Perhaps the most interesting part of the trail is high above the Columbia River, where canyon walls narrow to the point where only the creek and parallel trail can pass through. Near this point is yet more plunging water known as Fairy Falls.

Most beautiful. That is the meaning of “Wahkeena,” an Indian word used to name one of the numerous waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge. From the trailhead’s parking lot, Wahkeena Creek crashes along its final journey to the Columbia River. A short distance up the trail is an old and ornate bridge crossing the creek just below the head of the falls.

The falls were originally known as Gordon Falls. In 1915, after the completion of the original highway, the falls were renamed to Wahkeena.
A few of the numerous switchbacks along the Wahkeena Falls Trail
The trail crosses Wahkeena Creek several times with broad range of bridge types. I don’t remember seeing any pooling on the creek, as the entire length of the hike, the creek’s waters are churning through the narrow canyon or the more open steep slopes.
Trail and Wahkeena Creek wind their way through narrow canyon
My most recent hike up Wahkeena Creek was taken Christmas Eve morning, 2013. Snow near the trail’s intersection with Vista Point Trail was slowly melting. Heavy rain at daybreak pelted the area, then stopped, making the return hike down the Gorge’s slopes a pleasant experience.
Wahkeena Falls

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