If you are up for seeing one of the coolest waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, Wahkeena Falls might just be what you are after.
This powerful torrent of water is an incredible 242 feet high, and unlike the nearby Multnomah, instead of plunging over the rock in a single drop, it seems to flow a bit more gently over the rocks, giving it the ‘ahhh’ factor.
The falls are named after the Yakama word for ‘most beautiful,’ and it is pretty clear to see why. The waterfall is multi-tiered and runs down between two moss-covered rocky faces.
It lacks the “showyoffness” of some of the other waterfalls in the Gorge. Without the big car park and facilities, it has a grandeur, which we love!
Although there is parking at Wahkeena Falls, it can be a bit of a nightmare and TINY. The easiest way to get to Wahkeena is to hike from Multnomah, which has a vast parking lot with plenty of spaces.
There are a couple of different routes to reach Wahkeena Falls, depending on how many waterfalls you want to see (are there ever too many?) and how long of a hike you want to tackle, both start at the Multnomah Falls parking lot.
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Wahkeena Falls!
Wahkeena Falls Trail
Distance: 3.11 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 941.6 feet
Taking this hike is a great way to see Wahkeena Falls, as not only will you be able to view this beautiful waterfall but also two other waterfalls, Multnomah and Fairy Falls. This is the “main” way to see Wahkeena Falls.
Start the hike by parking at the large parking area at Multnomah Falls (unless you lucked out and actually found a parking spot around Wahkeena). You’ll see Multnomah straight away with no effort!
This incredible waterfall is one of Oregon’s most spectacular and makes a great starting point for an epic hike. Don’t forget to make the time to walk up to Benson Bridge to see Multnomah from a different angle!
Follow the hiking path that connects Multnomah with Wahkeena Falls, which will be marked and runs almost parallel to the road below. If you’re looking at Multnomah, just go right and head past the lodge.
Heading Up to Wahkeena Falls
Now comes the climb. Once you are ready, start heading up the path that takes you up a series of switchbacks to Lemmons viewpoint. You’ll pass over the bridge, which gives you another great angle of the falls. The bridge is so close to the waterfall that you shouldn’t be surprised if you take an involuntary shower!
Although the trail up to the viewpoint is uphill the entire way, we are talking about ten switchbacks here, climbing over 600 feet in half a mile, it is paved, making it a little easier going underfoot, and there are some epic views along the way.
Once you have rested for a while at the viewpoint, keep going up! The trail here turns to dirt but is still well-marked and easy to follow. The path narrows, and you will walk almost through a canyon to the beautiful Fairy Falls.
Fairy Falls is much smaller but is still a great waterfall to tick off your Columbia River Gorge waterfalls bucket list, and this is your turning-around point to head back down to Wahkeena Falls and back to the trailhead. But it doesn’t have to be…
Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls Loop Trail—A Second Option With MORE Waterfalls!
Distance: 5.1 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 1640.42 feet
If you have time, we strongly recommend you do the loop hike that allows you to see about six incredible Columbia River Gorge waterfalls in one hike.
It is a fair bit longer than the hike above, but it will save you from having to come back down the same trail you have already come down and instead take a whole new route that will bring you back down to your starting point.
The loop can be hiked in either direction, starting from Multnomah Falls, you can either choose to see Wahkeena Falls first or save it until last, the choice is yours!
Both options include an uphill struggle to begin with, as you head up, up, up the walls of the gorge, and then descend, with the chance to take in a whole new set of waterfalls!
Multnomah Falls to Wahkeena Falls—The Loop (Our Fav!)
We will do this route as if you are going to go to Wahkeena last. This is the way we did this hike, and we recommend doing it this way because Multnomah gets very busy. It’s wise to see that one first, then head over to the rest!
Of course, the magnificent Multnomah will be the first tumbling waterfall you will set your eyes on, as it falls an incredible 620 feet over two tiers.
You’ll follow the clear path that then takes you up to the top of the waterfall, and although it is a tough climb, it won’t be long before you come across the first set of waterfalls, these are Dutchman Falls, Wiesendanger Falls, and then finally, Ecola Falls.
From here, you will leave the Multnomah side and follow the trail over the Wahkeena side, where Fairy Falls will greet you as almost a marker that it is time to start descending to the beautiful Wahkeena Falls. When you have taken it all in, it’s simply a matter of following the path back to your car!
Tips for Visiting Wakheena Falls:
- Start at Multnomah Falls as early as possible and then do the loop trail, ending at Wahkeena. This way, you’ll encounter fewer people on the trail and tackle the busiest and uphill sections first thing in the morning.
- Parking can be challenging around here, especially during high season. You might need a permit to park at the Multnomah Falls parking area. Double-check your visit time and, once again, aim to arrive early if possible.
- Consider camping in the Columbia River Gorge area. This is the ideal option so you can be among the first to access the trailheads. As you can see, getting an early start is a recurring theme here. Beat the crowds!
- The parking lot near Wahkeena is small and fills up quickly. Additionally, the facilities are often closed. This is why we recommend starting at the Multnomah parking area for a smoother experience.
- While most of the trail is decently shaded, it’s not as shaded as it should be! There are quite a few burned areas on this hike, particularly at the top of the loop when you’re going between Multnomah and Wahkeena. Make sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection.
We hope this helped you plan your visit to Wahkeena Falls!
I’ve been perpetually traveling and living around the world for years but it’s hard to beat Oregon and the PNW. After years of road-tripping the area, I guess you can say I know it pretty well! When I’m not writing guides for you, you can catch me somewhere petting a dog, attempting to surf, hiking a volcano, or stuffing my face with bread and cheese.