What a hike this was. It absolutely blew my expectations out of the water. I came into this hike with little excitement (although a day outside is still better then a day in the office). If you are familiar with the Multnomah Falls area you know that it is beautiful, but very touristy. Something I despise when it comes to outdoor activities.
I had friends in town so of course we had to see Multnomah Falls. And don’t get me wrong, Multnomah Falls is amazing. It is the most popular waterfall in the Pacific Northwest for a reason. But we get there and are greeted by hundreds of others who had the same idea as us. We sit in line on US30 waiting for spots to open in the parking lot. After about 20 minutes of waiting, we are first in line and a spot opens up.
Starting the hike we were standing shoulder to shoulder with everyone else on the lower viewing area. Frustrated already with the crowds we spend less then a minute viewing the falls and begin ascending to the bridge. What would normalizing be a 5 minute 1/4 mile climb took us 15 minutes as we were stuck behind hoards of out of shape individuals methodically making their way up. I was NOT having fun.
Once reaching the bridge, we were met with the same fate we experienced at the lower viewing position, shoulder to shoulder with what seemed like half of Portland. We sat there waiting patiently just to cross the bridge as everyone in front stops for their selfie in front of the falls. Did I mention I was not having fun? Eventually we crossed the bridge and began our mile climb to the upper falls overlook. And again, we were met with out of shape groups chatting and claiming the entire width of the path.
Thankfully the climb to the upper falls has quite the elevation climb which helped us pass the hoards. Group after group we came upon eventually had to stop for rest. This played well for us and allowed passing. Once reaching the upper falls lookout you are greeted by a decent view of the Gorge. I say decent only because it is hard to ignore the busy I84 highway, the Multnomah Lodge, the line of idling cars waiting to park and the masses of people below. I want to disconnect from the busyness of society when I hike. This just isn’t that type of experience. For one, all the paths up to this point have been paved. Not really a hike.
My friends loved Multnomah Falls and seemed to be enjoying themselves, but I was hoping for something a little more. As we made our way away from the overlook, I noticed a trial heading up river. It appeared to almost be an abandoned trail. It started out as paved but viewing down the trail the pavement looked like the roads you see in the movies after an earthquake. We decided to head down the trail just to see what was down there.
As we started on this new trail we realized we were in for quite a treat. The trail turns into dirt and becomes a traditional hiking trail. You suddenly find yourself hiking along this peaceful creek, surrounded by large fully grown trees. Not only that, but you leave the crowds behind you. We saw only a handful of people on the trails once leaving the overlook.
In the first mile of this new path (Trail 441), you pass Weisendanger Falls and Ecola Falls. Weisendanger Falls is a beautiful 50 ft waterfall but Ecola Falls is the one you want to see. Ecola Falls is only 55ft, but it is a picture perfect falls. It is an esthetically perfect falls in my opinion. The size of the falls, the way it sits in the canyon and how perfect the water flows just make this falls look wonderful in any picture. You be the judge.
Shortly after Ecola Falls, you hit a split in the trail. We decided to head right and took Trail 420 and then 1.2 miles further, another right onto Trail 419C. This would bring us past Fairy Falls and then down to Wahkeena Falls where we can loop back to our car. Overall we hiked just under 7 miles in what turned out to be a wonderful hike. I now know never to doubt the Gorge. The Columbia River Gorge is an amazing place with so many things to see. I can’t wait to get back out there and explore some of the other less known trails.
Trail Map: stelprdb5227099