10 Best Waterfalls Near Portland, Oregon

categories: USA Travel

One of the best aspects of living in or visiting the Pacific Northwest is the number of stunning waterfall hikes throughout the region. Portland, Oregon is no exception. And the various waterfalls around the greater Portland area are as jaw-dropping as they are accessible. Most of the best waterfalls near Portland don’t require strenuous hikes or full-day adventures, they can often be found steps off the main roads.

Columbia River Gorge Waterfall Collage

Columbia River Gorge Waterfall Collage

The most popular area for waterfall hikes near Portland is the Columbia River Gorge. Because there is such a high volume of waterfalls in this region, I include a lot of Columbia River Gorge waterfalls in this guide. However, if you’re looking to explore lesser-known waterfall spots, I also include a few that are more secluded to explore outside the Columbia River Gorge area. These are my favorite waterfalls near Portland, Oregon after spending a good year and a half exploring as many as possible.

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Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls

Note: Remnants of the destructive 2017 Eagle Creek Fire can still be seen today in the Columbia River Gorge. Although there has been a lot of effort to clean up the trails in the aftermath, the fires left many trails inaccessible.

The following waterfalls were open and accessible at the time this article was published, but some trails close from time to time due to poor weather and landslides.

Make sure to always check conditions ahead of time before heading out on a waterfall hike in the Columbia River Gorge.

Multnomah Falls

When talking about waterfalls near Portland, you can’t miss Multnomah Falls. This is the most popular waterfall near Portland and by far the most touristy. Even with the crowds, this is one of the most impressive waterfalls you can visit in the Pacific Northwest. So, if you haven’t been to Multnomah Falls yet, make this the first stop on your waterfall excursion.

Most people who visit Multnomah Falls just view the 611-foot waterfall from below near the parking lot. If you’re short on time, this is the most majestic view of the falls. However, if you’re up for a short hike, it’s worth it to walk to the top of the waterfall and look at the water rushing over the edge of the rocks from high up. Just make sure you have a decent pair of travel shoes for the easy walk up and a camera to capture the view from above.

Multnomah Falls

Practical info

  • Drive from Portland: 35-45 minutes
  • Hike to waterfall: to see the most famous view of the falls from the base, it’s a five-minute walk from the parking lot. To get to the top of the falls, it’s a 2.2-mile hike.
  • Best time to visit: March-November

Wahkeena Falls and Fairy Falls

Just down the road from Multnomah Falls, you’ll find Wahkeena Falls. Wahkeena Falls is another popular and easy waterfall hike in the Columbia River Gorge, and the best part is that it’s a 2-for-1 if you hike to Fairy Falls as well. Unlike Multnomah Falls where you can see the full length of the waterfall from the parking lot, Wahkeena Falls is best seen from different viewpoints along the trail.

If you’re short on time, you can just walk to the stone arch bridge that is less than 0.5 miles from the parking lot and offers one of the better views of the falls. Otherwise, I’d recommend doing the three-mile hike to Fairy Falls and back for the full experience. For an even longer hike, you can tackle one of the most popular waterfall hikes near Portland, the 8-mile Wahkeena-Multnomah Loop.

If you’re looking for one hike that gives you the highlights in terms of the best waterfalls near Portland, this is the best hike to tackle. Waterfalls that you’ll discover along the trail include Wahkeena Falls, Fairy Falls, Ecola Falls, Weisendanger Falls, Dutchman Falls, and Multnomah Falls.

It’s a full day but well worth it if your goal is to chase as many waterfalls as possible.

Practical info

  • Drive from Portland: 35-45 minutes
  • Hike to waterfall: 3.4 miles roundtrip from Wahkeena Trailhead if you want to hike to Fairy Falls and back
  • Best time to visit: March-November

Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls

Of the many Columbia River Gorge waterfalls, Latourell Falls is the closest to Portland so it’s also a popular one with day-trippers from the city. It’s also one of the prettiest waterfalls to capture with the bright green lichen that pops on the basalt rock near the falling water. The two-tiered 200-foot waterfall is best seen in the fall and spring for optimal water levels and to avoid winter storms.

This is another waterfall that can be viewed not too far from the parking lot but is best experienced by doing a short hike if you have the time.

Practical info

  • Drive from Portland: 35-45 minutes
  • Hike to waterfall: 2 miles roundtrip
  • Best time to visit: March-May and Oct-Nov

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

As with many of the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls, Bridal Veil Falls is only a short walk from the road. The 0.5-mile path down to the falls is an easy and quick walk for all ages. Either admire the falls from the viewing deck or get the best view by scrambling on the large rocks near the base of the falls.

If you’re looking for more of a walk after viewing the falls, check out the upper interpretive trail and the historic site of a large milling operation from the early 1900s.

Practical info

  • Drive from Portland: 30-40 minutes
  • Hike to waterfall: 1-mile roundtrip
  • Best time to visit: March-November

Horsetail falls

Horsetail Falls

Horsetail Falls is located right off the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway, no hiking involved. The waterfall, which got its name due to its uncanny resemblance to a horse’s tail, drops into a large pool that only makes the waterfall scenery that much more dramatic. This is an ideal waterfall to stop at on your way out of the Columbia River Gorge since it can be as quick or as long a stop as you want.

It’s also a good place to bring a packed lunch to eat surrounded by waterfall scenery.

Practical info

  • Drive from Portland: 35-45 minutes
  • Hike to waterfall: You can view the waterfall right next to the parking lot. There is a Horsetail Falls trail that offers a good hike, but at the time of publication, it was still closed due to the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.
  • Best time to visit: March-November

Waterfalls that are Closed

The following waterfalls are currently closed due to the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, but if they open in the future, they are three additional waterfalls that shouldn’t be missed in the Columbia River Gorge:

  • Shepherd’s Dell
  • Oneonta Gorge and Falls
  • Triple Falls

Other Waterfalls Near Portland (That Aren’t in the Columbia River Gorge)

Lacamas Park Waterfalls

Just over the border in Washington, you’ll find an under-the-radar urban waterfall spot near Portland called Lacamas Park. This is the place to get your waterfall fix if you’re short on time and you don’t want to drive super far. It only takes around 30-40 minutes to get to the park from downtown Portland. Besides the short drive, the main loop trail at Lacamas Park takes you to the park’s three waterfalls in under four miles – Pothole Falls, Lower Falls, and Woodburn Falls.

Practical info

  • Drive from Portland: 30-40 minutes (assuming it’s not rush hour)
  • Hike to waterfall: 3.5-mile loop
  • Best time to visit: year-round

Ramona Falls

The most popular waterfall hike in the Mt. Hood region, Ramona Falls involves an eight-mile hike that takes you past vibrant scenery covered in green moss. Once you reach Ramona Falls, you’ll find an ethereal-looking waterfall that gracefully cascades over rocks.

There was once a log bridge that helped hikers walk over Ramona Creek near the falls, but it has since been washed away. Because of this, be prepared to use stray logs and branches to get across the stream now.

Also, note that wilderness permits are required from May 15th to October 15th.

Practical info

  • Drive from Portland: 1.5 hours
  • Hike to waterfall: 8-mile loop
  • Best time to visit: June-September

Silver Falls State Park Waterfalls

Head over to Silver Falls State Park for a full day of exploring waterfalls that are less crowded and mostly hiked by Oregon locals. Tackle the Trail of Ten Falls to see 10 waterfalls in the park, including the 177-foot South Falls that you can walk behind. The trail passes through mossy landscapes and rocky canyons to lead you to the 10 different waterfalls – five of which tower over 100 feet tall. The full hike will take you the better part of a day, but this is one of the best nature spots outside the Columbia River Gorge to see a high volume of waterfalls.

Practical info

  • Drive from Portland: 1.5 hours
  • Hike to waterfall: 8-mile loop
  • Best time to visit: March-May for full water levels and wildflowers

Tamanawas Falls

One of the most underrated waterfalls near Portland, Tamanawas Falls is nestled near the eastern side of Mount Hood. The best part about this waterfall, besides its scenic and secluded nature, is that you can get a different perspective of the falls by walking behind it into a large cave. And the waterfall hike itself is worth the journey. Expect Douglas firs, Engelmann spruce, and western red cedars, as well as rushing streams, and rocky cliff faces.

Practical info

  • Drive from Portland: 1.5 hours
  • Hike to waterfall: 3.4 miles out and back
  • Best time to visit: May-October

Falls Creek Falls

Another lesser-known waterfall just across the border in Washington State, Falls Creek Falls is an impressive 220-foot three-tiered waterfall located in Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Along the hike to the falls, you’ll pass through old-growth cedar and fir trees, a suspension bridge, and scenic forested views.

Once you reach the falls, you’ll find yourself in front of a stunning view of the middle and lower tiers of the falls. Nearby, there are various side trails that allow you to see different perspectives and tiers of the falls.

The fact that this is such an unknown and less touristy waterfall spot only adds to the allure of Falls Creek Falls.

  • Drive from Portland: 1.5 hours
  • Hike to waterfall: 6.2 miles roundtrip
  • Best time to visit: April-December
Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls

What to Pack for Waterfalls Hikes Near Portland

The Pacific Northwest is notorious for damp and wet weather year-round, and Oregon is no different. It’s worth it to pack appropriately for waterfall chasing.

This is what I would recommend packing for exploring the waterfalls near Portland.

  • Rain jacket
  • Waterproof hiking boots
  • Reusable water bottle / water filter
  • Daypack
  • Beanie and gloves
  • Thermal undershirt
  • Fleece leggings
  • Wool / wicking socks
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Snacks
  • Insect repellent
  • Paper map / GPS device
  • First aid kit

Columbia River Gorge

How to Get to the Waterfalls Near Portland

The easiest way to get to the waterfalls near Portland is to rent a car and drive yourself, this is especially the case for the waterfalls that aren’t in the Columbia River Gorge.

If you don’t want to drive yourself and you’re fine with focusing on the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls, another option is to hop on a tour from Portland. There are quite a few Columbia River Gorge tours that leave from the city, but one of my favorite waterfall tours is through Pedal Bike Tours. They take you through all the major highlights of the Columbia River Gorge from the back of a bike, and you get a decent workout in the process. It’s a full day of biking through the Gorge, but it’s a good tour to start with to give you a good overview of how much there is to see in the area.

A third option to explore the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls is by public transit. Columbia Area Transit (CAT) offers a $10 shuttle called the Columbia Gorge Express. The shuttle leaves from the Gateway Transit Center in East Portland and stops at a few different highlights along the historic gorge, as well as Hood River and The Dalles.

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by Mimi McFadden

Mimi McFadden is a travel blogger, avid yogi, and paneer enthusiast. Originally from California, Mimi has been slow traveling the world since 2013. After living abroad for five years in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Greece, and Portugal she has finally found a home in San Francisco, California. You can find her on her blog, The Atlas Heart.

2 Responses to “10 Best Waterfalls Near Portland, Oregon”

Dick Jordan

Says:

It you want to go a bit farther afield from Portland, head south 2-3 hours into the Cascades and visit Sahalie Falls on the McKenzie River (https://www.eugenecascadescoast.org/outdoor-adventures/natural-wonders/waterfalls/sahalie-and-koosah/) and Salt Creek Falls (https://www.eugenecascadescoast.org/outdoor-adventures/natural-wonders/waterfalls/salt-creek/).

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