Wahtum Lake, in the rainforest of Oregon's Columbia River Gorge, lies halfway through an ideal 33-mile loop (link the Eagle Creek and Herman Creek Trails). Designated sites along this gem's south shore are perfectly placed between the water and the flower-carpeted hillsides.
Plus, as local resident Craig Romano notes, "Wahtum is a great basecamp for a hike up to the grassy summit of 4,673-foot Chinidere Mountain, with views of five volcanoes." Hike counterclockwise and start on the Eagle Creek Trail, with more falls than any other trail in the gorge and acres of never-logged Douglas firs.
MAP: Green Trails Bonneville Dam ($6, greentrailsmaps.com)
CONTACT: (503) 668-1700, fs.fed.us/r6/mthood
-Mapped by Eli Boschetto (Bosco Mountain Photo) and Galen Williams
- Distance: 40.5
Location: 45.636941, -121.919641
From the Eagle Creek Trailhead, follow Eagle Creek Trail through lush forest.
Location: 45.627688, -121.897195
Optional: Follow the spur trail to the left to access the Metlako Falls viewpoint (spur on the right is blocked by a deadfall).
Location: 45.624761, -121.896003
Pass the spur to Lower Punchbowl Falls, a popular dayhike destination; there's a deep pool below the falls.
Location: 45.612764, -121.886167
A short spur trail leads down to a campsite on a small wooded bluff above Eagle Creek.
Location: 45.608258, -121.882582
Cross High Bridge over a deep slot cut by Eagle Creek.
Location: 45.591075, -121.862842
Continue straight past a 3-way junction with a faint, overgrown connector to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
Location: 45.585071, -121.852538
The trail reaches Tunnel Falls. A steep spur leads to the base of the falls.
Location: 45.582162, -121.85197
Stop for a minute to watch the multi-tiered Twister Falls.
Location: 45.564214, -121.854708
Turn hard left at 3-way, heading northeast.
Location: 45.577853, -121.840997
Bear left at Y-junction.
Location: 45.580887, -121.800871
The trail reaches the western edge of Wahtum Lake, a small lake flanked by dense evergreens.
Location: 45.578649, -121.791987
Look through the trees for views of Wahtum Lake.
Location: 45.57744, -121.792985
Pass the parking area for Wahtum Lake. Cross the road and pick up the trail heading northeast.
Location: 45.596414, -121.796118
Turn right at T-junction on Herman Creek Trail.
Location: 45.623417, -121.788726
Stay left at Y-junction.
Location: 45.639743, -121.79806
Cross Whisky Creek. Ahead, cross 4 more creeks.
Location: 45.656093, -121.813059
Stay left at Y-junction.
Location: 45.668585, -121.815076
Continue straight at the Camp Creek crossing.
Location: 45.671854, -121.820354
This creeklet dive-bombs 100 feet into a deeply cut, moss- and fern-covered side canyon.
Location: 45.68013, -121.829195
Pass primitive campsites at Herman Creek Camp (no permit required). Keep straight at 3-way. Chanterelle mushrooms grow in forest duff.
Location: 45.679771, -121.840301
Keep straight (southwest) at 3-way; descend switchbacks.
Location: 45.678758, -121.843271
Bear right @ 3-way; Herman Creek rages below.
Location: 45.681232, -121.84267
Turn left onto needle-covered trail past monster Douglas firs and big-leaf maples; orange tiger lilies bloom under power lines.
Location: 45.68396, -121.841136
Turn left past seasonal bathrooms.
Location: 45.682723, -121.844516
Pick up shuttle car from Herman Creek Campground to return to Waypoint 1.
Cascades along Eagle Creek
Location: 45.616236, -121.886916
Several side creeks and streams empty into Eagle Creek
Eagle Creek Trail
Location: 45.636209, -121.916742
The hike climbs a lush, forested trail.
Location: 45.627132, -121.897463
The first waterfall along Eagle Creek, viewed from a lookout on a short side spur.
Location: 45.622284, -121.894544
Punchbowl Falls, viewed right off the Eagle Creek Trail.
Location: 45.609242, -121.883579
Loowit Falls seen from the Eagle Creek Trail.
Location: 45.585152, -121.852112
Hiker exiting the tunnel behind Tunnel Falls.
Location: 45.582171, -121.851833
The upper section of this multi-tiered waterfall can be seen from a high section of trail.
Location: 45.578754, -121.791773