Waterfalls Near Portland

Are you looking for the best waterfalls near Portland, Oregon? Surrounded by the verdant beauty of the Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon, is a haven for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty. The region is renowned for its stunning landscapes, characterized by dense forests, rugged mountains, and, most notably, its breathtaking waterfalls. These natural wonders are not just a feast for the eyes but also serve as a sanctuary for the soul, offering a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

Among the myriad of attractions, waterfalls near Portland hold a special place, drawing visitors from all corners of the globe. In this article, we’ll explore the mesmerizing waterfalls near Portland, delving into their historical significance, ecological importance, and the sheer beauty that attracts visitors from all over the world.

Why Visit Waterfalls Near Portland?

The Allure of Waterfalls

There’s something inherently magical about waterfalls—their natural beauty, the soothing sound of cascading water, and the mesmerizing experience of witnessing nature’s power up close. These features make waterfalls a must-visit natural attraction for anyone looking to connect with nature.

Proximity to Portland

One of the best things about Portland’s waterfalls is their proximity to the city. Many of these natural wonders are just a short drive away, making them perfect for easy day trips or relaxing weekend getaways. This accessibility allows both locals and tourists to spontaneously decide to immerse themselves in nature without the need for extensive planning.

Opportunity for Outdoor Activities

Visiting these waterfalls isn’t just about taking in the views. The areas surrounding Portland’s waterfalls offer a plethora of outdoor activities, including hiking, photography, and picnicking. Whether you’re an avid hiker looking for challenging trails or a family seeking a scenic spot for lunch, the waterfalls near Portland cater to all.

Related Read: Stunning Waterfalls in Northern California

15 Waterfalls Near Portland Oregon

Oregon is home to 238 waterfalls, with nearly 100 of them conveniently located within easy reach of Portland. Our list features the 15 most stunning and fascinating waterfalls near Portland, ensuring you experience the best the area has to offer.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls stands out as a spectacular natural feature within the Gorge, enchanting visitors with its picturesque setting reminiscent of a scene from Fern Gully. The water dramatically falls off a cliff, gathering in a serene pool below, before flowing over another ledge and making its way toward the Columbia River.

At the site of a former lumber mill, the Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Viewpoint offers visitors two accessible trails. The shorter, lower trail spans 0.3 miles on a primarily paved path leading directly to Bridal Veil Falls, allowing guests to admire the falls from below and then ascend stairs to a constructed viewing platform.

Nearby, starting from the parking area, an interpretive trail offers splendid views of the Columbia River. Amenities at the site include a picnic space, restrooms, and the conveniently situated Bridal Veil Lodge right across the street.

Latourell Falls

Located nearest to Portland among the Columbia Gorge waterfalls, Latourell Falls has become a favored spot for waterfall treks in the Gorge, attracting a wide array of visitors who have all admired and shared their experiences of its beauty. It serves as an exemplary introduction to the Gorge’s finest waterfalls.

Latourell Falls spectacularly drops 220 feet from the edge of a stunning columnar basalt formation, creating a breathtaking sight. While the falls are visible from the parking area, the real adventure begins on the trail. A straightforward 2.4-mile hike takes explorers to the initial viewpoint and continues on a dirt path uphill for a closer look at Upper Latourell Falls, offering substantial rewards for minimal effort and highlighting why it’s regarded as one of the top beginner-friendly waterfall hikes in the Columbia Gorge.

Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls

Adjacent to the highly frequented Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena Falls remains a somewhat hidden treasure for those less familiar with the area. However, it’s well-known among enthusiasts, drawing significant crowds during the sunny months of summer.

Visitors can enjoy Wahkeena Falls in two ways: either from a conveniently located viewing platform just off the highway or by embarking on a hike to witness the full grandeur of this three-tiered cascade. It’s highly recommended to take the trail and experience the waterfall’s splendor up close. The path offers several stunning viewpoints of the falls.

Continuing on the trail for three miles brings you to Fairy Falls, a delightful bonus on this hike. Completing the round trip to see both waterfalls amounts to a six-mile trek, an ideal distance, and an effort to justify a visit to a favorite Portland brewery afterward.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls, towering at 620 feet, is the tallest waterfall in the Columbia Gorge and a visible landmark from the I-84 highway. Despite its visibility, it’s definitely worth exploring up close. Entry is complimentary, and the site features several easy walking trails for a leisurely exploration.

The parking area is uniquely situated in the median of the freeway and tends to fill up quickly, especially on weekends. From May through September, visitors can use a free shuttle service from Rooster Rock State Park to the falls to avoid parking hassles.

Originating from underground springs on Larch Mountain, the water at Multnomah Falls cascades down a rocky crevice, offering a powerful display in the spring due to melting snow. Winter visits might reward you with the sight of the falls framed by snow and ice, adding to its enchantment.

The historic Multnomah Falls Lodge, established in 1925 at the waterfall’s base, offers amenities such as a restaurant, restrooms, snack bar, and information center. It holds the distinction of being America’s first National Historic Landmark.

Read More: Biggest Waterfalls in the World

Trail of Ten Falls

Trail of Ten Falls

Among the captivating sights along the Trail of Ten Falls, South Falls stands out as the most photographed, and for good reason. Dropping a dramatic 175 feet, this waterfall offers hikers the unique experience of walking behind its powerful cascade, making for a truly memorable adventure.

Silver Falls State Park, sprawling over 9,000 acres, is Oregon’s largest state park and a highlight of the state’s park system, boasting numerous waterfalls. The best way to experience this natural wonder is by hiking the Trail of Ten Falls, which allows you to encounter 10 different waterfalls on a route less than 8 miles long.

While each waterfall along the trail has its own appeal, South Falls steals the spotlight with its breathtaking beauty and the opportunity to walk behind the waterfall’s veil. This experience offers an exhilarating sensation and an unforgettable memory, making the Trail of Ten Falls a must-visit for those searching for the top waterfall hikes near Portland, Oregon.

Horsetail Falls

During our exploration of the Columbia River Gorge, Horsetail Falls emerged as an unexpected favorite. This site features two distinct waterfalls: the upper section, known as Ponytail Falls, and the lower Horsetail Falls. Their unique shape, reminiscent of a horse’s tail, makes them among the most tranquil falls in the gorge. The spacious area around the base of the falls provides excellent opportunities for capturing stunning photographs.

Punch Bowl Falls

Situated at the culmination of a 1.9-mile trek along Eagle Creek, Punch Bowl Falls descends 33 feet into a basin that’s popular as a swimming spot. A second cascade, known as Lower Punch Bowl Falls, drops another 12 feet into an adjacent pool. However, the journey to the falls features its own challenges, including a narrow path carved from sheer cliffs, which at points reaches elevations of 600 feet with steep drop-offs, making it unsuitable for young children or pets.

Despite being affected by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, parts of the 4.2-mile trail meander through regenerating forested areas, drawing comparisons to the enchanting landscapes seen in the “Lord of the Rings” movies.

Tamanawas Falls

Tamanawas Falls

Tamanawas Falls is a year-round attraction located on the eastern slopes of Mount Hood, a region known for its eternally snow-capped peaks. The falls, which span 40 feet across and rise to a height of 100 feet, are the highlight at the end of a 3.4-mile round-trip hike along Cold Spring Creek. The trail offers views of cedars, Douglas firs, and Engelmann spruce trees, leading to a serene spot dotted with boulders at the base of the waterfall.

Visitors can enjoy Tamanawas Falls throughout the year, equipped with the right gear. Summer explorers are advised to wear sturdy footwear, while winter adventurers may find snowshoes beneficial.

Read Also: Clear Water Beaches in Florida

Ramona Falls

Visiting Ramona Falls is akin to witnessing a natural light spectacle. Nestled in a forest, this 100-foot waterfall cascades widely over a rocky façade, with the water’s interaction with the rocks creating a luminous effect. This is further enhanced by sunlight filtering through the trees, casting numerous spotlights across the waterfall. The 7-mile round-trip trail to Ramona Falls is favored for its gentle ascent, scenic surroundings, close vicinity to Mount Hood, and the striking beauty of the falls themselves.

Travelers should note that a footbridge over the Sandy River encountered about a mile into the hike, was swept away in the 1990s and has not been rebuilt. For river crossing safety tips, it’s advisable to check the US Forest Service’s guidelines related to the trail.

Wahclella Falls

The hike to Wahclella Falls, with its double cascade totaling 350 feet in height, ranks as one of the most stunning experiences in the Columbia Gorge.

The easy, 2.4-mile round-trip journey is laden with spectacular views, encompassing massive boulders deposited by ancient landslides, charming river crossings over wooden bridges, and imposing rock faces that border the narrow canyon. Leading up to Wahclella Falls, hikers will encounter several smaller waterfalls before being greeted by the main attraction, which dramatically falls into a vividly colored pool, nestled within a natural amphitheater. This spot provides a refreshing retreat during the summer heat.

Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek Falls

The journey to Dry Creek Falls starts at the renowned Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks and intersects with the celebrated Pacific Crest Trail. Following Dry Creek, the path leads to a 74-foot waterfall. The round-trip distance to Dry Creek Falls is 4.4 miles, but a shortcut can be taken by driving to the end of Dry Creek Road and joining the trail from there. The hike offers a serene ambiance, shaded by the canopy and accompanied by the gentle sounds of the creek, culminating at the impressive waterfall.

Elowah Falls

The journey to Elowah Falls is often celebrated as one of the most picturesque yet accessible treks in the Columbia Gorge. Standing at 213 feet, Elowah Falls ranks among the tallest waterfalls within the Gorge, making it a compelling destination on its own.

There are suggestions that Elowah Falls could extend beyond 300 feet when considering its multiple tiers. However, my expertise lies more in contemplation than in the specifics of waterfalls, so I’ll leave the exact measurements to the experts.

What’s undeniable, though, is that Elowah Falls represents one of the premier waterfall hikes in the Columbia Gorge. While the area boasts numerous striking waterfalls, Elowah Falls stands out for its vast basaltic amphitheater adorned with luminous green lichen, creating a breathtaking spectacle. For those who find the 0.8-mile stroll to the waterfall only heightens their appetite for exploration, an extended hike to Upper McCord Creek Falls offers the allure of a dual cascade.

Read Also: Best Glass Pebble Beach Florida

Woodburn Falls

For those looking to escape the need for reservations and the bustling crowds typical of the Columbia River Gorge, consider a trip just over the Washington State border to Lacamas Regional Park, a short journey of less than thirty minutes northeast of Portland. The waterfalls within this park may not rival the size of those farther east, but they offer their own beauty, are readily accessible, and rank among the top waterfalls near Portland for those interested in trail running or mountain biking, both permitted activities in the park.

Embarking on the park’s trail connecting Woodburn Falls and Round Lake via the Lake to Lake Trail leads you past two distinct waterfalls—Woodburn Falls and Pothole Falls—over approximately three miles. The latter serves as a refreshing stop for a mid-hike break, especially during the height of summer. Given the trail’s tendency to become muddy and slick, sturdy footwear is advisable, as is caution when navigating any rockfalls or steeper sections of the path.

South Falls

Among the highlights of the Trail of Ten Falls, a 7.2-mile loop within Silver Falls State Park, South Falls stands out as both the most accessible and the most striking waterfall. With a drop of 177 feet, South Falls is the highest among them, cascading from a ledge to create a mesmerizing water curtain. A 1.1-mile loop trail allows visitors to descend 200 feet and walk behind this natural curtain, providing exceptional views of South Falls from various perspectives along the brief journey. For those taking on the entire loop, which features an 800-foot elevation change, be prepared for a path dotted with large rocks and tree roots, necessitating sturdy hiking footwear.

Silver Falls State Park further enhances the visitor experience with amenities such as a campground, camping cabins, restrooms, multiple food vendors, a swimming area, and a gift shop, making it a comprehensive destination for nature lovers.

Mosier Creek Falls

Mosier Creek Falls

Mosier Creek Falls is a less frequented yet captivating waterfall located on the Mosier Plateau Trail in the Mosier community, just a 15-minute drive east of Hood River.

A brief five-minute stroll from the trailhead, which is accessible right off the Historic Columbia River Highway near the Mosier Creek Bridge, leads to the falls. Along the path, several vantage points offer views of the falls cascading down a narrow canyon in multiple tiers, reaching a height of 100 feet.

In the summertime, the falls create a serene swimming hole behind them, attracting visitors seeking to cool off. Additionally, by following the 2.7-mile round-trip trail, hikers can enjoy spectacular views of Mosier and the expansive Gorge.

Also Read: Shoshone Falls

Best Time to Visit Waterfalls Near Portland Oregon

There’s genuinely no incorrect time to visit Portland Oregon waterfalls, provided you come prepared! For witnessing the waterfalls at their most vigorous, aim for the period when snowmelt is at its zenith, usually in mid to late Spring. My own experiences in late April were met with excellent conditions, albeit some trails were a bit muddy, but there was no need for microspikes to combat ice.

No matter when you decide to go, arriving early at the trailhead is key to securing parking. Opting for a weekday visit can also make your experience more pleasant compared to the busier weekends.

Spring

The timeframe from late March through May offers the most robust water flow due to snowmelt. Heading into summer, expect a noticeable reduction in water levels. Early spring may still present some icy spots, so be prepared. This season also enjoys relatively moderate visitor numbers, increasing as summer approaches. An additional benefit is that permits for the waterfall corridor aren’t required until after May 25, allowing for unrestricted access to the waterfalls during this period. Don’t forget to bring your rain gear and waterproof footwear!

Summer

Expect the best weather, but also the largest crowds during summer. Parking has become a significant challenge due to the influx of visitors. If visiting in summer, make sure to book your timed-entry pass for the Waterfall Corridor well in advance. An early start to your hike is recommended, as is planning your visit on a weekday.

Starting in 2022, a new permit system is in place from May 26 to September 4, necessitating a timed-use permit for accessing the Waterfall Corridor, which includes popular sites like Wahkeena, Multnomah, and Horsetail Falls. You can reserve your permit online. Outside these dates, no permit is needed.

Fall

Autumn is another fantastic season for waterfall visits, thanks to lower visitor numbers and increased rainfall enhancing the waterfalls’ flow. Packing a rain jacket and waterproof boots is advisable, and consider microspikes if early frosts have occurred. Checking trail conditions on AllTrails is recommended.

Winter

Winter offers unique and serene views of the waterfalls, although caution is advised for longer hikes unless you’re experienced in winter trekking. Considerations for ice and potential avalanches are critical for safety. However, places like Multnomah Falls can be exceptionally beautiful in winter, with fewer visitors to contend with.

You Can Read: Lindeman Lake Hike

Conclusion

The waterfalls near Portland are more than just natural attractions; they are a testament to the area’s rich ecological diversity and natural beauty. As we explore these mesmerizing landscapes, let us do so with a sense of responsibility and sustainability, ensuring that they remain vibrant and accessible for generations to come. Whether you’re capturing the perfect photo, learning about the region’s ecology, or simply soaking in the sights and sounds of nature, your visit to Portland’s waterfalls can be a deeply fulfilling experience. Let us cherish and protect these natural wonders, exploring them in a way that respects their fragility and inherent beauty.