Multnomah/Wahkeena Falls

July 31st, 2005  |  Published in old and busted  |  3 Comments

We spent yesterday out at Multnomah Falls, which might be the most common place people from Portland take out-of-town company. I’ve been out there several times since living here, but most times I’ve taken the trail up to the falls overlook then come back down the same way. Only once before have I taken the larger loop that keeps going past the overlook, gains some more elevation, then drops down past Wahkeena and Fairy Falls.

Waking up From a NapI guess Gretchin’s comment from last week’s entry put the Multnomah bug in my ear, but I was also thinking it might be good to do another uphill hike before tackling the Lost Lake Butte. I don’t think the path up to the Multnomah Falls overlook is much less steep than the butte, but the butte trail is a little more rough.

So we decided to do the Wahkeena/Multnomah trail, which is a five mile loop starting at the base of the falls, proceeding up 760 feet to the overlook, then splitting off to continue east a little bit before doubling back.

I didn’t look at the hiking guide too carefully, so my conception of the trail was a little screwy: I thought it stopped gaining elevation at around 800′ and settled into a meander back to the west before descending. I didn’t realize it gains another 800′ over a little under two miles. By the time we’d made it past the overlook and up to the peak of the trail, we’d gained 1600′ and I was feeling pretty beat up.

Ben, for his part, took a brief nap on my back once the trail quieted down, and managed to chuck his binky over the side. Al braved nettles to retrieve it and field improvised a binky strap with her bandana.

Fairy FallsThe overall trail experience was one of those “best of/worst of” sorts of things. Multnomah Falls is immensely popular, so the observation bridge and the trail leading up to the overlook are packed. Lots of the people wandering the trail aren’t very familiar with trail etiquette, so there’s a lot of dodging and loss of momentum as groups stop dead in the middle of the trail to chat without bothering to clear off to the side.

If the trail up to the overlook rates a ten for congestion, it tapers down to a four just a half mile past the overlook, and a mile past that, there’s nobody else around. In the middle two miles of the trail we saw four other people and it was unbelievably quiet. Just the occasional sound of the train in the distance or a bird every so often.

As we began the descent just above Fairy Falls, the people count increased pretty dramatically. Depending on your guidebook, the Wahkeena/Fairy trail is pitched as a quiet alternative to the more popular Multnomah Falls. I guess I prefer Wahkeena and Fairy falls … it’s possible to get a lot closer to them.

So it looks like the next trip on the agenda is probably the Ramona Falls trail. It’s a seven mile loop, and it gains 1,000′, but in a much more gradual fashion.

Oh … here’s my Multnomah/Wahkeena flickr set, and here’s the flickr “Multnomah Falls” tag set (which has some pictures of the main falls … I haven’t moved mine over to flickr yet).

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