A large canyon and river valley on the Columbia River, the Columbia River Gorge is bisects the Cascade Mountain Range and creates the modern day border between the states of Oregon and Washington in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Known for its beauty, recreation and lush forests, the area is also home to a series of stunning waterfalls that cascade from the heights of the mountains and into the river valley.
The gorge follows the river’s path for over 80 miles and creates a vacation wonderland for visitors to the area. The Columbia River Gorge Recreation Area is just 22 minutes outside of Portland, Oregon, making it a quick trip for residents and visitors to the Portland area. While there is a variety of attractions and recreational activities to do in the Columbia River Gorge area, today, we are going to be focusing on the various waterfalls you can explore.
Dropping in two major sections, Multnomah Falls is arguably the most famous of the waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge area. The upper set of falls takes a free-fall 542 feet before leveling off and falling another 620 feet. The iconic symbol of these falls is the Benson Foot Bridge that crosses the ravine in between the two sets of waterfalls. A stunning site all year long, the falls can freeze during harsh winter conditions and is even more impressive in its frozen state.
Upper McCord Creek Falls
One of the many creeks that creates beautiful waterfalls on its journey to meet the Columbia River, McCord Creek is a smaller tributary in the area, but the upper and lower McCord Creek Falls are spectacular sites. The hiking trail to see these falls is equally beautiful, and is a 4 mile trek that inclines 600 feet via switchbacks to reach the summit and the Upper McCord Creek Falls.
Featuring a short fall and mostly babbling over a long decline over river rocks, Wahkeena falls is impressive for its mossy surroundings and its Wahkeena Falls Foot Bridge. Wahkeena Trail #420 is a very easy hike, making it the second most popular hike in the area. The nice thing about Wahkeena falls is how closely it follows the cascade, and near the footbridge, you will be close enough to the small falls to feel the misty spray.
Bridal Veil Falls
A more torrential river and falls that the Wahkeena falls, Bridal Veil Falls gets its name from resembling the wispy white veils that brides traditionally wear on their wedding day. There are two trails to see the falls, the Upper Falls Trail and the Lower Falls Trail; both of which offer beautiful sights and scenery.
Dry Creek Falls
Another intriguing set of falls, the Dry Creek Falls stuns viewers all along the creek, and especially at its main waterfall, which lunges out over a crevice formed at almost a 90 degree angle. You can reach these falls by taking the Bridge of the Gods Trailhead, which is a fairly easy hike that only inclines gradually. Visit the falls in the Spring, when wildflowers are in bloom, covering the surrounding area with a blanket of rich colors.
Located withing the very steep Oneonta Gorge, the falls are medium in their heights, but at the river makes its way through the gorge, it creates a stairway of of misty-white falls and crystal clear landings. There are 4 sets of falls in the Oneonta Gorge, and you can find lush green moss covering the walls as they follow the falls toward the Columbia River Gorge.
A long cascade that runs down the side of a rounded rock hill, Horsetail Falls is known for having one of the most scenic hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest. Located very close to Oneonta Falls, the trailhead continues past the Horsetail Falls and connects with the Oneonta River and Falls, so visitors can get two great sets of falls in a fairly short hike.
Located above the Horsetail falls, Ponytail Falls is a smaller version of the Horsetail Falls. A small path leads visitors to the falls and behind them — offering visitors a photo opportunity from directly behind the falls. The falls are named for the shape that the water makes as it exits the cliff above, resembling a baby horse’s tail.
One of the four sets of waterfalls in the Oneonta Falls family, the Triple Falls are located in a more densely-forested area, and though the wilderness is beautiful and covered with ferns and lush bushes, it can be one of the more difficult hikes. The falls get there name from the way that the creek splits into three smaller flows just before spilling over a steep ledge, creating three twin cascades.