I have shared places to explore and camp along the Columbia River Gorge in previous entries. There is another place in the gorge I have wanted to share with you, but unfortunately, it has been inaccessible due to the devastation caused by the September 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.
That place is Wahclella Falls along with the access trail delivering you there, and I am happy to report that after being closed for two years the trail has been repaired, reopened, and declared safe for visitors.
Of course, the most well-known waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge is Multnomah Falls, which tumbles 620 feet and can be easily seen and visited by those traveling I-84. However, just down the road hidden up a side canyon lies Wahclella Falls, which is considered to be one of the best waterfalls in the Columbia Gorge.
The falls cascade 350 feet through a moss-lined basalt chasm into a beautiful boulder-strewn pool. Even the one-mile trek to the falls is enjoyable and beautiful as it winds its way along maple trees (only minimally damaged by the fire) and Tanner Creek past smaller falls, soaring basalt cliffs, over rustic bridges, and under grottoes while only gaining 380 feet in elevation.
The minimal elevation gain and well-maintained trail provide family-friendly access to most everyone. As you hike the trail and climb a flight of stairs, you’ll come to a fork in the trail known as Wahclella Falls Trail Junction.
Before the fire, you had a choice of taking the upper trail or the lower trail to the falls. Currently, the upper trail remains closed due to fire damage, but not to worry as the lower path is open and provides the best view of the falls as you approach.
How to find Wahclella Falls Trail
Take Exit 40 off I-84, then head south a short distance to the trailhead parking at N45° 37.883 W121° 57.228. My wife and I visited mid-week in early summer and were able to find parking for our truck and travel trailer (50-feet combined length), but parking is limited and you might not be so lucky.
If you are unable to find a parking spot large enough for your RV, you may consider parking across the freeway at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery (also worth a visit) and walk, bicycle, use your tow vehicle or dinghy to gain access to the trailhead.
A Northwest Forest Service Pass or America the Beautiful Pass is required to park at the trailhead.
Note: The 2017 Eagle Creek Fire burned especially hot in the Tanner Creek watershed that feeds into Wahclella Falls, so the Forest Service does not recommend hiking the area during or within 48-hours of heavy rain and snow events, as these can trigger flash floods, tree fall, and landslides. Risks will remain elevated for up to 10 years after the fire.