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Multnomah Falls, Larch Mountain & Wahkeena Falls

September 3, 2011

For Saturday, September 3, 2011, I just wanted to do a little exploring above Multnomah Falls.  On the drive to the trailhead I noticed that leaves are just starting to fall.  A season change is near.

The plan was to go up via Multnomah Falls to the Larch Mountain  Trail, No. 441.  From there I would go up to the Franklin Ridge Trail, No. 427, follow 427 to the Oneonta Gorge Trail, No. 424, then return.  It was going to be a simple out-and-back.

Plans don’t always work out.  Not long after starting down the Franklin Ridge trail it got pretty overgrown.  Since I didn’t feel like fighting bushes for several miles out and back I back-tracked to the Larch Mountain Trail.  But I couldn’t go back to the car so soon.  That just would not do.  So I went left, up toward Larch Mountain.  This is a well-used trail that follows up Multnomah Creek most of the way.  There is plenty of scenery along the creek, even though it is probably relatively low at this time of the year.  You cross three times on footbridges –  well one bridge and two logs hewn flat on the top side.

Footbridge - Larch Mountain Trail, Multnomah Creek

Multnomah Creek starts somewhere up near Sherrard Point  at around 4,000 ft. elevation.  As you go up the Larch Mountain Trail two tributary creeks flow into the Multnomah.  The smaller of the two, which is comes in from across the ravine,  has a sharp fall and, at least for today, wasn’t that obvious.  The other is a more substantial but flows gently into the Multnomah.  This is where the more substantial flow joins Multnomah Creek — a very pretty area.  After the third creek crossing (the second log) the trail winds up and to the left, heading more or less south.  It is forest most of the way but there is a talus slope to be crossed.  Rocky footing.

Talus slope on Larch Mountain Trail

Beyond the talus slope, and after more forest hiking uphill, you reach the intersection of trails 441 and 444.  The signage here is a little confusing.  As it happened, a mountain biker came down the trail and stopped to figure out where he was.   If you look behind you as you face this sign you will see a smaller sign that says “Multnomah Spur, Tr. 444”.  This junction appears to be at the northern base of the Larch Mountain Loop Trail.  If you take the Spur you go around the Loop clockwise (assuming the top of your map is North).  Continue on from this junction to Larch Mountain and you are on the Loop counter-clockwise.  At least that’s the way I see it.  Will have to verify this on another day.  Since I was about 5 miles above Multnomah Lodge at this point I headed back down 441..  I think the elevation change from Multnomah Lodge to this point is just a little less than 2800 feet.   I also knew the Larch Mountain Loop, starting from Multnomah Falls TH is 14.4 miles, and that was not in my plan.  The biker headed down the spur trail.  Note for mountain bikers:  there is a  posting for no bikes from this junction toward the highway.  Anyway you would not like riding a bike on  that talus slope.

On the way back down I stopped for lunch where the creeks come together.  Got some nice shots of fallen pine needles in the eddies of the creek.  Pine needles were falling like rain at times.

Back at the intersection of  trails 441 and 420, which goes west toward Devil’s Rest and Wahkeena Falls, I decided to avoid the crowds around Multnomah Falls by going back to the highway via Wahkeena.  I did this trail coming from the west a few weeks ago so wanted to see it from the other direction.  Not much new here.  Did get an interesting shot of Fairy Falls on Wahkeena Creek.

I don’t know how Fairy Falls got its name, but it sure seems to me that if you enlarge this image you can see a person standing in the Falls, wearing a black hooded cape, and raising the right had to wave.  Doesn’t remind me of a fairy, but then what do I know?

I figure this hike was between 11 and 12 miles (might as well have done the Larch Mountain Loop), with an elevation gain of around 2800 feet.  Six hours counting lunch and photos.  (You have to click on the photo 3 times to fully enlarge it.)

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