Many don’t expect much from the eastern end of the gorge. Most are content with the highly concentrated waterfall areas around Multnomah and Cascade Locks, then turn around to make a beeline back to Portland. Hidden treasures await those who dare to explore the canyons east of Cascade Locks, one of these being Gorton Creek Falls. Tucked away in a steep-walled basaltic canyon, Gorton Creek veils and plunges well over 100 feet amidst a pristine forest draped in moss. Below the falls, the stream continues its mad dash to the Columbia as it leaps and cascades around car-sized boulders, cloaked in thick moss. Although the hike to the falls involves a fair amount of scrambling, it isn’t too long and the falls are never crowded — a major relief from the overrun Multnomah Falls.
The journey up Gorton Creek begins at Wyeth Trailhead. Follow the wide trail up and along the stream, ignoring any junctions. The path is flat, easy and pleasant as it winds along the babbling creek. In about half a mile, the canyon squeezes tighter and dainty Emerald Falls comes into view. Here, the stream slides over a series of small, yet pretty ten foot cascades. Although the official trail ends here, the real falls still lies another half mile or so upstream. From here on out, pick the most feasible route and rock hop upstream. Some sections are steep and would be challenging at high water but the overall climb isn’t too difficult.
Gorton Creek Falls can be heard before it can be seen. Its deep roar can be heard above the gurgling creek as one turns the corner to catch a first glimpse of it’s mesmerizing veil. Upon reaching the falls, a rocky beach allows one to stand directly in front of the towering plunge. Vertical cliffs prevent any exploration further upstream. After savoring some rare solitude in the gorge, backtrack to the trailhead.
Driving Directions: From Portland, take I-84 E for 52.4 miles to exit 51 signed for Wyeth. At the stop sign upon exiting, turn right and then right again onto Herman Creek Road. Continue for 0.2 miles and turn left into Wyeth Campground. Keep right and follow hiking signs to the trailhead.