One of the most impressive Columbia River Gorge waterfalls is Wahclella Falls in Oregon, and the easy, scenic hike in is just as spectacular.
The 2.4 mile out-and-back trail has breathtaking views along the way, with natural features like a narrow slot canyon, huge boulders and river crossings before arriving at the 350-foot high waterfall.
Wahclella Falls directions
The Wahclella Falls trailhead starts just off I-84 across from the Bonneville Dam, between Cascade Locks and Warrendale. Take Exit 40 towards the dam, and follow the slight curve in the road to the parking area. The day use fee is $5 per vehicle.
Since this is also the trailhead for Gorge Trail #400 the parking area can get busy, so you may have to park along the shoulder of the road heading up the hill.
Hiking to Wahclella Falls Oregon
The trail starts off quite flat and winds past a small intake dam for the Bonneville Fish Hatchery, and gets narrower as it leads into the canyon.
Just a few minutes in, a wooden bridge and sign marks the entry to the Mark O. Hatfield wilderness area, and the powerful Munra Falls which was created by a tributary stream pours down just an arm length away.
The trail forks about 0.7 miles in, and visitors can either continue up to the left to look down on the pathway or cross the picturesque bridge that heads past a group of massive boulders that came down during a 1973 landslide.
A dramatic cliff face lines the path, and during spring runoff you might even see another waterfall. There’s also evidence of the devastating Eagle Creek Fire that forced the closure of this area in 2017, and as a result of the damage landslides are still frequent.
Coming around the final bend, the two-tiered Wahclella Falls finally comes into view. The upper falls are tucked into the canyon, while a gorgeous horsetail-style falls plummets into a large amphitheatre and creates a plunge pool.
The stunning scenery makes this one of the most photogenic Columbia Gorge waterfalls, and those visiting in summer may want to cool off by dipping their toes in the deep, gem-toned pool.
Wildlife watchers will want to keep an eye out for birds like water ouzels bobbing into the side of the stream, and salmon spawning at the base during late fall. It only takes about an hour to complete the loop, and the mild elevation gain makes this one of the best Columbia Gorge waterfalls hikes for families.
Wahclella Falls is close to other great Columbia River Gorge falls including Multnomah Falls, Elowah Falls, Upper McCord Creek Falls and the four found in Starvation Creek State Park, so it’s possible to visit a number of them in the same day.
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Tamara Elliott is the travel editor and founder of The Gorge Guide, which highlights the best experiences in the Columbia River Gorge. She’s an award-winning writer based in Hood River, Oregon, who particularly loves the area wineries and waterfall hikes. Tamara is also the founder of Globe Guide, which offers savvy tips for exploring destinations around the world.