Elowah & Wahclella Falls

The Columbia Gorge is famous for its many waterfalls, three of which we visited on our most recent hike. The numerous trails and trailheads in the gorge offer plenty of options for hikers. Some of the waterfalls can be seen at the parking areas and others can be visited on hikes less than 5 miles total. Our plan was to combine two of these shorter waterfall hikes by connecting them using the Gorge Trail #400 which follows Interstate 84 for 35 miles from the Angles Rest Trailhead in the west to the Wyeth Trail #441 in the east. Starting at the Elowah Falls Trailhead we could hike a 3.1mi section of Trail 400 from the base of Elowah Falls to the Wahclella Falls Trailhead.
Elowah Falls Trailhead

We headed up the trail to a junction with the Gorge Trail and turned left toward Elowah Falls.

In another .3 miles we came to a second junction where a right hand fork heads up to Upper McCord Creek Falls.

We headed toward Upper McCord Falls climbing through a forest before views opened up across the Columbia River to Hamilton Mountain.


Hamilton Mountain

We got our first glimpse of Elowah Falls below us as we rounded a ridge end.
Elowah Falls

The path leads to McCord Creek just above Elowah Falls then follows the creek a short distance to Upper McCord Falls.
Upper McCord Falls

The creek turns at a right angle at the base of this twin fall then flows over the canyon lip forming Elowah Falls.
Upper McCord Falls

After visiting this fall we returned to the Gorge Trail and made our way to the base of Elowah Falls.
Elowah Falls

The bridge across McCord Creek is close enough to the base of the falls that the spray really soaked us as we passed by. Once across we continued on Trail 400 and headed toward our next waterfall trail. Because the Gorge Trail follows both I84 and the Historic Highway 30 traffic noise was constant on the trail, but it didn’t bother us much as we enjoyed the views and various spring flowers that we spotted.

Beacon Rock

Hamilton & Table Mountains

Bleeding Heart



Sweet Coltsfoot



Midway through the 3.1 mile stretch the trail crossed Moffett Creek on a footbridge.
Moffett Creek

Moffett Creek

It rained off and on while we were on the Gorge Trail but the weather began to clear as we arrived at the Wahclella Falls Trailhead along Tanner Creek.

Tanner Creek

The Wahclella Falls trail follows Tanner Creek for a mile to Wahclella Falls, but before reaching that waterfall it first passes Munra Falls. The trail is actually so close to Munra Falls you can touch it from the footbridge as you pass by. What you can’t do is get the whole thing in a picture due to how close you are.
Munra Falls along the Wahclella Falls Trail

Munra Falls along the Wahclella Falls Trail

Near Wahclella Falls the trail splits creating a loop that passes near the base of the falls. We opted to do the loop counter-clockwise which would lead us first to a lower viewpoint of the falls then up to a higher view before completing the loop. From this direction the first glimpse of the falls revealed two sections to the falls. An upper section on the left-hand side of the canyon then a lower section falling into the splash pool.
Wahclella Falls

Wahclella Falls

As we made our way across Tanner Creek and began to climb to the higher views we noticed a third section of falls located directly above the lower section.
Wahclella Falls

One of the perks of having set off early was we were able to spend time at each of the falls alone, but more people began arriving as we completed our loop and headed back. When we arrived back at Elowah Falls there were quite a few folks milling about. I detoured up an unmarked side trail to a former viewpoint above Elowah Falls to get a couple of final pictures.

Elowah Falls

Elowah Falls splash pool

One of the neat things about the gorge waterfalls is how different they are. All four of the waterfalls we saw on this hike were unique in their own way making each one that much more memorable. Happy Trails!


Butte Creek & Abiqua Falls

While much of the country is dealing with a winter that just doesn’t seem to want to end the Pacific Northwests never really started. Another beautiful weekend was being forecast and we decided we just couldn’t miss another one so we headed out to check out a couple of short waterfall hikes. The trailheads for Butte Creek Falls and Abiqua Falls are less than 5 miles apart a short distance outside of Scotts Mills, Oregon. Both trailheads are located on roads accessed by taking Crooked Finger Road from Scotts Mills.

We started at the Butte Creek Falls Trailhead in the Santiam State Forest.

The trail set off from a small parking area (with an outhouse) passing to the left of the trail sign and descending .2 miles to a signed junction.

The right hand fork would lead us past Upper Butte Creek Falls on a loop back up to the parking area so we turned left first and headed toward Lower Butte Creek Falls. In just another .2 miles we arrived at a rocky ridge and the end of the maintained trail.

A well worn trail led out onto the ridge which provided a front row view of the falls high above Butte Creek.

After enjoying the lower fall we headed back to the junction and started the return loop. Upper Butte Creek Falls had been visible through the trees from the junction and we were quickly on our way down to its base.

Shorter and wider than its counterpart Upper Butte Creek Falls offers close up views and a path behind the falls into a good sized cavern.

While we were exploring around the splash pool we noticed that the salmonberries were beginning to bloom.

From the upper falls it was a short .3 mile climb back up to the parking area. The hike to these two waterfalls had been less than 1.5 miles so why not visit another nearby waterfall – The .5mile trail to Abiqua Falls. To get to Butte Creek Falls we had traveled 11.4 miles on Crooked Finger Road to CF 400, took a left and followed signs to the trailhead. Now we returned to Crooked Finger Road and headed back toward Scotts Mills for .7 miles to CF 300 marked by signs for an ATV staging area on the left. Despite the trailheads only being about 5 miles apart the drive was not quick. The 2.5 miles on CF 300 were slow due to the presence of many good sized rocks and ruts. High clearance, good tires, and 4wd were all helpful.

The Abby Foundation of Oregon owns the land where the trailhead, trail and, Abiqua Falls are, but allow the public to use it. A yellow gate marked the end of the tedious drive and the start of the short trail where we were greeted by a lone daffodil.

To find the correct path down to the falls we needed to walk back up the road a short way passing a first clear path that leads to a grassy clearing to a second worn trail marked by a white sign.

The trail down to Abiqua Creek was fairly steep in places but there were several sections of rope secured along the trail to assist with the climb.

The trail then heads up the creek in a narrow canyon toward the unseen falls.

Just as the trail began to curve out and around a rocky outcrop we got our first views of Abiqua Falls.

The canyon walls opened up to reveal a large circular bowl lined with columnar basalt colored with mosses and lichens with the falls as its centerpiece.

We spent some time exploring the rocky beach looking at the various rock cairns stacked about.

There was also a path around to the left side of the falls which I followed to see how far I could go.

We could have stayed there for hours if it had been warmer but it wasn’t so we headed out just as sunlight began to arrive inside the canyon walls.

Other than the Ouzels and a few other birds we had had the area all to ourselves.

We made it back up to the car (with some assistance from the ropes) just as another group of hikers arrived having survived the drive down. It was their turn to visit this special place. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157651119420415/