The scenic Columbia River Gorge is famous for wind sports and outdoor adventures, and it’s also one of the best places to see Oregon waterfalls near Portland.
While majestic Multnomah Falls is the best known, there are more than a dozen other sets of towering waterfalls and countless smaller ones along the stretch of road between Troutdale and Mosier.
The Columbia Gorge falls are also incredibly easy to access–in fact, many can be seen from the road without even leaving your car. Here are 10 of the best waterfalls near Portland Oregon.
Note: Be sure to check the USDA website before heading out, as trail closures due to wildfires or landslides may be in effect.
Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is one of the most impressive Gorge waterfalls, thanks to its scenic surroundings that look like something straight out of Fern Gully. Water plummets over a cliff side, cascades into a tranquil pool, then continues to pour over the edge before streaming out toward the Columbia River.
The Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Viewpoint is found at the site of an old lumber mill, and features two easy walking trails. The lower trail is a 0.3 mile long, mostly-paved pathway to the Bridal Veil waterfall, where visitors can view it from below before heading up a set of stairs to a built-in viewpoint.
There’s also an interpretive trail near the parking lot with great views of the Columbia River, a picnic area, washroom facilities and a B&B called Bridal Veil Lodge conveniently located right across the street.
Found in Guy W. Talbot State Park between Bridal Veil Falls and Vista House, the Latourell Falls Loop Trail is one of the closest hikes near Multnomah Falls. At only 2.4 miles round trip it’s a great pick for families, and you can see the main set of falls just a one minute walk from the parking lot
You’ll hear the 224-foot falls roaring as soon as you set off down the Latourell Falls trailhead, and single-plunge falls framed by green lichen and blackened basalt walls quickly come into view.
This spot is often referred to as Lower Latourell Falls, and visitors can walk right up to the water and feel the spray on their faces. Turn back here, or continue up to Latourell Creek to see Upper Latourell Falls for a new vantage point looking down at the water.
At just a 0.2 mile walk in to get to the viewing platform that overlooks Wahkeena Falls, this spot has a huge payoff for minimal effort.
Water cascades in all directions over the black rocks making this a favourite spot for photographers, and the easy access makes this a great option for families. If you’re up for it, follow the 1.4 mile long trail of switchbacks to Lemmons Viewpoint for a different vantage point.
At a staggering 620 feet high, Multnomah is the highest of the Columbia Gorge falls and can be seen from the I-84 highway. It’s worth getting out to tour the site though, since entrance is free and there are some nice, leisurely walking trails.
The parking lot is actually in the middle of the freeway, and can get quite busy particularly on weekends. From May to September a free Columbia Gorge Express shuttle connects the falls with Rooster Rock State Park, which is a good option for overflow parking.
Multnomah Falls is fed by underground springs from Larch Mountain, and water bursts out of the surrounding rocky crevasse. It’s particularly powerful in spring due to snow runoff, and if you’re visiting during winter you just might see it surrounded by fluffy white snow and dazzling ice crystals.
Multnomah Falls Lodge is at the base of the site, and has been welcoming visitors since 1925. There’s a restaurant, washrooms, snack bar and information centre, and was designated as America’s first National Historic Landmark.
Most guests are content to gaze at the falls from the first viewing platform, and there are also a few trails that head across Benson Bridge or up to Larch Mountain which has views of Mount Adams, Mt Hood, Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens and Mount Jefferson.
Book one of these day trips from Portland:
Horsetail Falls / Ponytail Falls/Upper Horsetail Falls
Horsetail Falls and Ponytail Falls in the Oneonta Natural Area has two sets of falls, starting with Horsetail which is at the beginning of the trailhead. It’s a short hike up to Ponytail Falls at just under a mile each way, though the narrow trail is steep which makes this one a bit tougher than some of the other hikes near Portland with waterfalls.
The switchbacks wind past basalt cliffs and old growth trees with views of the Oneonta wetlands, before arriving at the second set of falls which pour over a lava flow.
Elowah Falls and Upper McCord Creek Falls
If you time it just right as you head down I-84 and pass the McCord Creek sign, you’ll see spectacular Elowah Falls gushing out of the cliffside among the trees. To properly enjoy it, take Exit 37 and park at the John B. Yeon Trailhead, which marks the start of a number of waterfall hikes near Portland including Elowah and Upper McCord Creek Falls.
It only takes an hour to do both hikes, which have views of Beacon Rock and Hamilton Mountain across the river in Washington, and two different vantage points of the 213-foot-tall Elowah Falls.
Start by heading to Upper McCord Creek Falls, making the 400 foot climb up a narrow trail carved into the cliff face. It flattens out at the top, and just behind the guardrails you can look straight down on Elowah. Just a few minutes later, Upper McCord Creek Falls comes into view.
Heading back down to the fork in the trail, hang a right to head to Elowah Falls. Feel the spray on your face as you approach the falls, which cascade into a pool below.
One of the most incredible Columbia Gorge waterfalls hikes is up to the two-tiered, 350-foot-tall Wahclella Falls.
This easy, 2.4 mile out-and-back trail has breathtaking views all along the route, which features huge boulders brought down by landslides, river crossings over picturesque wooden bridges, and dramatic rock faces framing the narrow slot canyon.
There are actually a few smaller sets of falls before Wahclella comes into view and plunges over the cliffside. Surrounded by a natural amphitheatre, the horsetail-style falls plummet into the gem-toned pool below and are a great place to cool off on a hot summer day.
Dry Creek Falls
Part of this trail that starts at the iconic Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks intersects with the famous Pacific Crest Trail, winding along Dry Creek to arrive at a 74 foot waterfall.
The out-and-back hike up to Dry Creek Falls is 4.4 miles roundtrip, but you can save a bunch of time by driving to the end of Dry Creek Road and connecting with the trail from there. The hike is mostly treed-in and tranquil thanks to the bubbling creek, and the waterfall itself is spectacular.
Starvation Creek State Park
Starvation Creek State Park is home to four different Columbia River Gorge falls, which makes a trip here a great day trip from Portland. It takes about 30 minutes each way to walk along the mile-long path linking all four, and this is also a popular cycling path.
The four waterfalls are:
- Starvation Creek Falls
- Cabin Creek Falls
- Hole-in-the-Wall Falls
- Lancaster Falls
Two-tiered Starvation Creek Falls is the most impressive, and reaches 190-feet-high. Incredibly, it’s accessed right from the parking lot, and visitors can explore behind it by climbing up the rocky cliffs on each side.
Hole-in-the-Wall is the best picnic spot, and the base of the 220-foot-high Cabin Creek Falls can be accessed by a trail leading to a shallow pool.
Mosier Creek Falls
Another great waterfall that’s a bit more off the beaten path is found along the Mosier Plateau Trail in the community of Mosier, about 15 minutes east of Hood River.
Mosier Creek Falls is only about a five minute walk from the trailhead, accessed just off the Historic Columbia River Highway (Hwy 30) beside the Mosier Creek Bridge. There are a few viewpoints on the pathway where you can see the multi-tiered, 100-foot high waterfalls pouring through the narrow canyon.
During summer, there’s a tranquil pool behind the falls that’s a popular swimming hole, and you can also continue up the 2.7 mile out-and-back trail for incredible views of Mosier and the surrounding Gorge.
Accommodation near the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls
A trip out to the Gorge is one of the most popular weekend getaways from Portland, and most people base themselves in Hood River. Some good places to stay include:
- Best Western Plus Hood River Inn: The waterfront pool and hot tubs are rightfully popular at this hotel, which also has a gym, great restaurant, lounge and beach with plenty of water activities. Many of the rooms have balconies with views of the Hood River bridge and river, and there’s a large variety of room types to accommodate all group sizes. Click here to book
- Columbia Gorge Hotel: This hotel on the west end of Hood River has jaw-dropping views of the water, and is a great place to watch sunset. There are plenty of outdoor spaces, gardens and overlooks, a restaurant and spa, and the guestrooms have an old world charm. Click here to book
- Best Western Plus Columbia River Inn: Cascade Locks is one of the closest towns to Multnomah Falls, and has easy access to the famed Bridge of the Gods and fantastic hiking trails. Amenities include a pool, hot tub, restaurant and kayak rentals for paddling in the Columbia River. Click here to book
Campsites are also available in Wyeth, Ainsworth State Park, the Benson State Recreation Area and the Eagle Creek Overlook Group Campground.
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