Hike the Devil's Rest-Wahkeena Falls Loop

9 miles 2100 ft gain  - Loop Trail

Added by Michael Graw

Catch multiple Columbia River Gorge highlights - including Angel's Rest, Devil's Rest, Fairy Falls, and Wahkeena Falls - on this spectacular loop hike.

This loop takes advantage of the western Columbia River Gorge's vast network of trails - hidden behind the roadside waterfalls - to allow you to visit several popular attractions without fighting traffic along the historic highway. All told, the loop hits 3 named waterfalls (Coopey Falls, Fairy Falls, and Wahkeena Falls) and 2 spectacular viewpoints (Angel's Rest and Devil's Rest). The only downside is that, without a shuttle car, closing the loop requires a 2.5 mile road walk along the historic highway (which is a relatively scenic stretch of road in itself).

Start at the Angel's Rest Trailhead, which can be accessed immediately off eastbound I-84 via Exit 28. From westbound I-84, get off at Exit 35 and follow the historic highway (US 30) for 7 miles. Be sure to get to the trailhead early, since this is an extremely popular trailhead even on weekdays during the winter.

The Angel's Rest trail climbs approximately 1500 feet for 2.4 miles up to the overlook, passing through a mix of heavily forested terrain and rocky cliffsides with stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge. While the grade is never too steep, do expect a workout. Also, keep an eye out for a side trail on your left to Upper Coopey Falls, about 0.5 miles into the trail. If you are willing to brave a short stretch of steep and slick mud, this side trail allows you to get right up next to the falls. Once you reach Angel's Rest, venture out onto the point itself via a well-used side trail for an amazing panorama of the Columbia River.

Once you've taken in the views from Angel's Rest, continue to follow the trail as it leads to the right - away from the point. You'll reach a trail junction in 0.1 miles, at which you should head straight. You're now off the Angel's Rest trail, and human traffic drops off dramatically. This trail is noticeably more overgrown than the Angel's Rest trail, but is still easy to follow and doesn't present any significant obstacles. There are signs for Devil's Rest scattered along the trail, but if you simply stay on the main trail for 1.5 miles you will reach it. Rather than head to the summit point itself, however - it's entirely surrounded in trees - follow the trail as it curves right and downhill. After 0.25 miles of descent, look for a small side trail on the left - this leads out to a viewpoint that is even better than Angel's Rest, with visibility extending as far as Mount Rainier in Washington on clear days. If you have trouble finding the side trail, look for a conspicuous survey marker sign; the side trail is about 20 feet before this sign.

From Devil's Rest, continue following the trail as it traverses the top of the ridge for the next mile or so. Just before you reach a creek ahead, the trail will switchback steeply downhill. At the bottom of these switchbacks is a trail junction - continue straight ahead. You'll reach another trail junction in 0.1 miles; here, bear slightly left to head towards Fairy and Wahkeena Falls. The trail then continues downhill, and you'll reach one more junction in about a half mile - continue downhill. From there, simply follow the trail as it switchbacks downhill along Wahkeena Creek until you reach Fairy Falls. There are numerous other unnamed waterfalls and cascades in this area, so do leave some time to explore!

Below Fairy Falls, hiker traffic starts to increase once again as you descend towards Wahkeena Falls. Taking this route is worthwhile though, as the gorge you descend to is amazing - it's effectively a moss-covered slot canyon with a creek rushing through it. Finally, the trail exits the gorge via a series of steep switchbacks, at the bottom of which sits Wahclella Falls. This is another tremendous waterfall, although it is also fairly popular since it is accessible from the road.

Once you reach the Wahkeena Falls parking lot, simply follow the historic highway for 2.5 miles back to the Angel's Rest Trailhead. Cars have a moderately slow speed limit along this stretch of road, but be careful as many people are looking at the scenery rather than paying complete attention to who else is on the road. Once you reach your car, head 20 minutes east into Cascade Locks (passing even more waterfalls on the way) to visit Thunder Island Brewing Company for a celebratory drink.

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Be Prepared

We went the last week of January and weren't expecting snow and ice. So we were very under prepared with a grumpy six-year old. The hike itself was great though. The kid managed the icy cliff side pretty well. I highly recommend extra foot traction (i.e. YakTraks) and walking sticks. We had neither and managed, but it would of been a lot easier/safer if we had. Other hikers had that equipment and were flying past us (we even saw a trail runner).

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