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Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Multnomah Falls to Larch Mountain – 10/10/2022

With Heather still sidelined with a bum knee and a Monday holiday that most of the rest of Oregon didn’t have off I decided to tackle the climb from Multnomah Falls to Larch Mountain. Starting at the Multnomah Falls Trailhead the hike to Sherrard Point is roughly 14.5 miles out-and-back with just over 4000′ of elevation gain. If I was feeling up to it, my plan was to extend the hike just a bit by detouring on the way back to visit Fairy and Wahkeena Falls adding another 1.7 miles and 500′ of elevation to the days total.

We had hiked to Multnomah Falls on a big loop in 2012 starting at Oneonta Trailhead (post), Larch Mountain in 2020 from Road 315 Trailhead (post), and Wahkeena Falls in 2013 from the Angels Rest Trailhead (post). Even though we had visited all of these main attractions before, this route would provide several miles of trail that I had yet to be on. Two of those trips also occurred prior to the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire which burned most of the forest along the lower portion of this hike.

I arrived at the Multnomah Falls parking lot a little before 7am and was pleased to find that I was just the fourth car.
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It was still a bit before sunrise but there was enough light once I had gotten everything together to set off towards the falls.
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The lack of light did nothing for my point and shoot camera but that was a small price to pay to have the falls to myself (save for a few staff preparing the grounds for the day).
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IMG_3043Multnomah Falls

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IMG_3049The Benson Bridge.

IMG_3051View from the bridge.

IMG_3052Multnomah Falls from the bridge.

Beyond the bridge the paved trail climbs steeply via 11 switchbacks. (I’m pretty sure they squeezed a very short 12th in there.)
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IMG_3065The Moon beyond the Columbia River and Multnomah Falls Lodge.

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IMG_3068Beacon Rock (post) to the east on the Washington side of the Columbia.

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IMG_3072The second switchback.

IMG_3073Another view of the falls. I passed a pair of hikers along this stretch then didn’t see another person for another couple of hours.

After climbing above the falls via the switchbacks I took my first detour to visit the Multnomah Falls Viewpoint.
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IMG_3079Viewpoint trail.

This trail descends a tenth a mile to a viewpoint above the falls.
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IMG_3084Small fall just upstream from Multnomah Falls.

IMG_3085Cape Horn (post) to the right across the Columbia.

I returned to the Larch Mountain Trail and continued towards Larch Mountain. After a brief descent to cross Multnomah Creek the trail began a long gradual climb along the creek.
IMG_3087Bridge over Multnomah Creek.

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IMG_3092Approaching Middle Dutchman Falls.

IMG_3095Middle Dutchman Falls

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IMG_3098Upper Dutchman Falls

IMG_3102Dutchman Tunnel

IMG_3106Wiesendanger Falls is located just beyond Dutchman Tunnel.

IMG_3110A short distance beyond Wiesendanger Falls is Ecola Falls.

IMG_3111Ecola Falls

A quarter mile beyond Ecola Falls (and 2 miles from the trailhead) I arrived at the Wahkeena Trail junction.
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IMG_3120Good signage at nearly all trail junctions, especially those closest to the trailheads.

I stayed on the Larch Mountain Trail which crossed the creek on a newer (2018) steel bridge that replaced the one burnt in the Eagle Creek Fire.
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IMG_3126Looking down the creek at sunlight starting to hit the hillside.

IMG_3129A few bleeding heart were still in bloom.

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IMG_3132Penstemon

IMG_3136This section is flooded in late Winter/Spring. The signed High Water Trail leads up and around it for those high water times.

IMG_3138Sign for the High Water Trail at its southern end.

IMG_3139The southern end of the High Water Trail heading uphill to the right.

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IMG_3141I couldn’t find a name for this creek but it had a good flow, in fact it was more water than what was in Multnomah Creek upstream from their confluence.

IMG_3144Multnomah Creek upstream from the unnamed creek.

One point two miles from the Wahkeena Trail junction I came to the Multnomah Basin Road where the Larch Mountain Trail jogged slightly left before continuing on and entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness.
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The forest around the wilderness boundary had mostly been spared by the fire but I quickly reentered the burn before arriving at a junction with the Franklin Ridge Trail.
IMG_3154Reentering the fire scar.

IMG_3155The Franklin Ridge Trail on the left.

A tenth of a mile from the junction the trail crossed the nearly dry East Fork Multnomah Creek on a small footbridge.
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The trail continued briefly through a patch of green trees up a ridge between the East and West Forks of the creek then reentered the fire scar. Four tenths of a mile from the East Fork crossing I came to a second footbridge, this one crossing the West Fork.
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Beyond this second footbridge the trail crossed a large scree field where I was taunted by the distinctive “meep” of pikas. They were seemingly all around but I wasn’t ever able to spot any of the little rock rabbits this time.
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IMG_3171Maple changing colors

IMG_3172I’m sure there is at least one pika in this photo somewhere.

IMG_3174Looking back toward Franklin Ridge.

A short distance beyond the scree field the trail left the fire scar for good arriving at a junction with the Multnomah Creek Way Trail 1.8 miles from the Multnomah Basin Road crossing.
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IMG_3180Arriving at the junction.

I stayed left at this junction on the Larch Mountain Trail and climbed 0.4 more miles to a road crossing of gated FR 315 (Where we had started our previous Larch Mountain hike).
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I crossed the road and continued climbing. The trail steepened noticeably at first but quickly relented and resumed a more gradual grade.
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IMG_3192I was hoping for less smoke in the air but these sunbeams told me that there was still a fair amount lingering around much as it had been for the last several days.

IMG_3194After 1.25 miles I passed a pair of old campsites with picnic tables on the right. I stayed right at an unsigned junction with a trail that led uphill to the left. We had come down that way on our previous trip skipping a short section of the actual Larch Mountain Trail.

Another quarter mile brought me to the Larch Mountain Trailhead
IMG_3198There were four cars at this trailhead.

I’d passed one person with a dog followed by a pair of ladies with another dog between FR 315 and the trailhead. I turned onto the paved Sherrard Point Trail expecting to see the other car owners along this 0.3 mile path but was pleasantly surprised to find that I had Sherrard Point all to myself.
IMG_3200Vine maple near the Sherrard Point Trail.

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One of the factors that had led me to choose this hike for the day was due to the forecast calling for clear sky at this viewpoint whereas the other hikes I had considered were expected to have widespread haze. Technically I think the forecast was correct because if I looked straight up it looked like a blue bird day. Looking out was a different story though with smoke in every direction.
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IMG_3221Mt. St. Helens in the smoke to the left and Mt. Adams a bit above it to the right.

IMG_3218Mt. Hood

IMG_3208Mt. Adams

IMG_3228Mt. St. Helens

IMG_3229Silver Star Mountain (post)

Unbeknownst to me at the time a new fire, the Nakia Creek Fire, had started near the Larch Mountain in Clark County, WA to the SW of Silver Star less than 24 hours earlier contributing to the smokey conditions.

It wasn’t the view I’d hoped for but it was something, at least I could see parts of several mountains. I didn’t spend much time at the viewpoint given the conditions and made my way back to the old picnic tables by crossing over Larch Mountain. I took a short break at one of the tables to drink a Gatorade I had been hauling around and put on a clean pair of socks for my return hike.
IMG_3230Heading down.

From the picnic table I returned to the way I’d come up to the Wahkeena Trail junction. Up to that point I had only encountered a total of eight other hikers. I had however seen dozens of woolly caterpillars.
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I heard fewer pikas on my way back through the scree field but saw the same number, zero. There was an encounter with a squirrel that came crashing through the brush, jumped across the trail, and climbed a snag so that it could give me a scolding.
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IMG_3266Lots of fungi on this tree.

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IMG_3273Hedgenettle

IMG_3278Ouzel

The solitude that I had been enjoying ended abruptly at the Wahkeena Trail junction where a number of hikers could be seen heading uphill on the trail ahead and a group was effectively blocking the trail at the junction as they attempted to make sense of the trail signs.
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I tried to align my photos with the hikers ahead passing behind trees.

I had made the decision to take the longer way back past Wahkeena Falls since I had been making good time and I was still feeling pretty energetic. I hadn’t really paid attention to the fact that the Wahkeena Trail gains over 300′ in the first mile as it traverses up the hillside to a junction on a ridge top.
IMG_3284Looking back down at Multnomah Creek.

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IMG_3288Cape Horn again across the Columbia.

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IMG_3291I couldn’t recall seeing these before on a hike, not this color anyway.

IMG_3295The Devil’s Rest Trail on the left at the ridge top.

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I wound up getting distracted by the different hikers coming and going atop the ridge and turned right onto the Vista Point Trail instead of staying straight on the Wahkeena Trail which had been my planned route. In the end I was glad I did. It was only about a tenth of a mile longer to take this detour which was a bit overgrown but it also passed a viewpoint that I detoured out to.
IMG_3297I should have followed the Wahkeena Trail Pointer here.

IMG_3298Instead I followed the pointer for Wahkeena 1.0.

IMG_3301Vista Point Trail

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I could see my car in the parking lot from the viewpoint.

IMG_3309There is the trail I had intended to be coming down arriving at the junction with the other end of the Vista Point Trail.

The Vista Point Trail was in pretty good shape (other than the overgrowth) save for the final 10-20 feet which was now part of a stream bed. The combination of slick wet rocks and it being downhill made for a tricky descent to the junction.
IMG_3316Looking back at the Vista Point Trail from the junction.

After successfully navigating the wet rocks I turned down the Wahkeena Trail. I immediately was glad that I’d chosen to come this way as I had forgotten how scenic Wahkeena Creek is flowing through the narrow gorge. Even after the fire it was still beautiful.
IMG_3320Lots of tight switchbacks to get down the gorge.

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IMG_3324Fairy Falls

IMG_3326Fairy Falls

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IMG_3332Looking out across the Columbia River.

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A half mile down this trail I took a short detour to Lemmons Viewpoint.
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IMG_3348Cape Horn (again)

IMG_3352The Wahkeena Trail from Lemmons Viewpoint.

Another half mile descent brought me to the base of Wahkeena Falls where I was happy to find only a small number of other hikers.
IMG_3354The poison oak was really colorful.

IMG_3355Approaching Wahkeena Falls.

IMG_3357Wahkeena Falls

IMG_3360Wahkeena Falls.

IMG_3362Looking back at Wahkeena Falls.

There were plenty of folks at the trailhead as I passed by before hopping onto the Multnomah Falls Return Trail.
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IMG_3370One last look at Wahkeena Falls through the trees.

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It was roughly half a mile back to the now busy lodge at Multnomah Falls and another tenth or so to my car.
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IMG_3378A line of cars on Historic Highway 30 in front of the lodge.

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This hike came to 16.2 miles with around 4500′ of elevation gain. A tough but scenic outing with highlights at the start, mid-point, and end to help take the mind off the body.

I was on my way home at 1:45pm and looking forward to spending some time with our new kittens. After losing Buddy in 2020 (post) and Hazel in 2021 (post) we’d been cat-less for over a year. With Heather unable to hike it seemed to the perfect time to open our home up again and on Monday the 3rd Heather picked up Merry and Pippin from the Humane Society.
20221005_114540Merry (black) is 3 mos. and Pippin is 2 mos. Both boys from separate litters.

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They have been keeping us plenty busy. Merry is a snuggler while Pippin is a ball of chaotic energy until he runs out, then he likes to snuggle too. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Multnomah Falls to Larch Mountain

Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Cape Horn

For our November hike we chose the Cape Horn trail. We had wanted a hike that was a little shorter than our normal trips since Heather had just run her first race in awhile. The 7+ mile loop around Cape Horn fit the bill perfectly and it was a good time for a visit given the full loop is closed from February 1st to July 15th due to nesting Falcons.

Just 30 minutes from the Portland airport the trailhead is located at the Skamania County Transit Park & Ride lot near milepost 26 along State Highway 14 at Salmon Falls Road. The all volunteer Cape Horn Conservancy works with the United States Forest Service (USFS), Washington Trails Association (WTA), and Friends of the Columbia Gorge (FOCG) to maintain and improve the trail here which was evident by the well maintained trail and abundant signage along the way which began at the trailhead.
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Almost immediately after crossing Salmon Falls Rd. and starting on the trail we faced the choice of going clockwise or counter-clockwise around the loop. We stayed to the right heading counter-clockwise and began climbing up toward the viewpoints on top of Cape Horn.
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Our first good views were to the north as the trail neared some power lines where several snow dusted peaks were visible.
Lookout Mountain
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Silver Star Mountain, Little Baldy, and Bluff Mountain
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The trail then crossed over to the Columbia Gorge side of Cape Horn for our first unobstructed views of the Columbia River. The Sun had just crested over Larch Mountain to the southeast and was creating some glare limiting the views. A cold wind was racing down the Gorge which made it a little too chilly to spend much time at any of the viewpoints which was too bad because they were nice enough to warrant a longer stay.
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A little bit of ice at the viewpoint.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The trail then dropped down away from the Gorge (and out of the wind) briefly joining an old roadbed and then climbing to a crossing of paved Strunk Rd. where the trail passes through grassy fields on a gravel road.
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The next viewpoint of the Columbia Gorge was the Nancy Russell Overlook which had recently undergone some repairs. A long stone bench in the overlook offered plenty of space for hikers to relax and soak in the view, but again the cold wind wasn’t going to allow us to enjoy it for long.
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Columbia River from the Cape Horn Trail//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The trail began to descend after the Nancy Russell Overlook switchbacking and passing yet another viewpoint on it’s way down to a tunnel beneath SR 14.
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Yet another viewpoint awaited on the other side of the highway.
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A nice waterfall cascaded down a grassy slope near the viewpoint.
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The section that is closed for the Falcons begins shortly after that viewpoint but that wasn’t an issue now so we continued on. After another series of switchbacks the trail began to head back leading us east parallel to the river. The wind was really whipping down closer to the river and we were blasted by it every time there was a break in the trees. We passed an unsigned side trail to the right and momentarily paused wondering where it might go. After continuing on for a minute or so it dawned on us that it had likely led to an overlook of the railroad tracks as they headed into the tunnel beneath Cape Horn. We began looking for the other end of that side trail to rejoin the main trail and spotted it at a set of trail signs. We turned right and headed out to check out this unsigned trail. It led to a series of grassy viewpoints and the view of the railroad tracks as we had suspected.
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Railroad entering the tunnel beneath Cape Horn//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The wind along here was so strong that we struggled to not be pushed around by it. It was a challenge to try and stand in one spot for anytime at all. We followed the side trail all the way back to the unmarked junction we had wondered about earlier and then resumed our hike on the main trail. Another windy viewpoint awaited not far ahead where three unique rock formations where visible. From this spot Cigar Rock, Beacon Rock, and Phoca Rock were all visible.
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Cigar Rock is the tall column of rock on the left, Beacon Rock is in the distance straight ahead, and Phoca Rock is in the middle of the Columbia to the right.
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After fighting with the wind attempting to take pictures of the rocks the trail turned uphill passing through an interesting rock field below some cliffs.
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As we crossed the rock field we got our first view of Cape Horn Falls.
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The falls were a delight. A small rainbow appeared and faded at the base of the falls as wind gusts blew the cascade from side to side. The footbridge below the falls was somewhat protected from the wind allowing us to spend some time watching the water dance in the wind.
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Rainbow beneath Cape Horn Falls//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Beyond Cape Horn Falls the trail continues through the trees below the cliffs until it finally drops down to Cape Horn Road.
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The paved road acts as the trail for the next 1 1/4 miles passing farmland below Cape Horn.
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The trail leaves the road just prior to reaching SR 14 leading to another tunnel and than a short climb to complete the loop.
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The hike was just what we were hoping for. Not too long (7.3 miles) but packed with views and diverse scenery. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157661488144815