Take a Waterfall Tour along the Columbia River Gorge

Originally Posted: Sept. 4, 2019.
Updated: Sept. 8, 2022.
underneath Ponytail Falls.

TLC sings don’t go chasing waterfalls, but TLC has never been to the Oregon Gorge.

Because let’s be real, if they had, they wouldn’t have written that line.

There are few places in America like the Columbia River Gorge. Which is probably one of the reasons why I have yet to move away from this area, despite my hate for rain.

This post has everything you could want to know, including a tour. Which also means it’s long! Click on the sections listed below to jump ahead.

view of the Big River and a train in Cascade Locks, Oregon.

Highway “Acorns”

  • Start: in Troutdale, off exit 18
  • End: in Goldendale, Washington/Celilo Village, Oregon at exit 97
  • Total Mileage: 82 miles (75 drivable miles)
  • Nicknames: “The Gorge”, “King of the Roads”

More Highway “Acorns” below.

vintage multnomah map.jpg
old map of the original historic highway

The Beginning

The Gorge is so unique that Congress made it the first U.S. National Scenic Area in November 1986.

Fun little fact: They debated recognizing as a national park but decided against it.

It may not be a national park, but the 75-mile Historic Columbia River Highway is the oldest scenic byway in the country and was dubbed “King of the Roads.”

  • Sam Hill was the one who envisioned the highway, while Samuel Lancaster was the engineer behind him. Mr. Hill pitched his idea to Henry L. Pittock, John Yeon, Simon Benson, Julius Meier, C.S. Jackson and other Portland civic leaders. His pitched worked as construction began in 1913 and Portland was officially connected to The Dalles by a paved road in 1922.

Native Americans & The Gorge

Tribes recognized in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Treaty

  1. The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs and Yakima Nation
  2. Nez Perce Tribe
  3. Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation
  • Read about Celilo Falls, horseshoe shaped falls and Celilo Village. 14 miles from where The Dalles, Oregon is today.

Other Highway “Acorns”

  • First and only National Scenic Area in 1986
  • Highest point in The Gorge: Mt. Defiance @ 4,960’
  • Activities that can be enjoyed here:
    1. Birding
    2. Bouldering
    3. Camping
    4. Day Drives
    5. Fishing
    6. Hiking, Trail Running
    7. Mountain Biking
    8. Road Biking
    9. Rock Climbing
    10. Sightseeing, Heritage Markers, Viewpoints
    11. State Parks, City Parks, Natural Wildlife Refuges, etc.
    12. Water Sports
      • Boating (tubing, wakeboarding, wake surfing, etc.)
      • Kayaking
      • Kiteboarding
      • SUP
      • Windsurfing
    13. Wildflower + Wildlife Viewing
  • Vanport City was a city that was lost to a major flood from a failed dike.

back to top.

Numbers in the Gorge

  • Canyon Length: approx. 82 miles
  • Average number of visitors per year: 3 million (from 2019-2021 Regional Cooperative Tourism Program)
  • Protected Land: 292,500 acres
  • Total number of wilderness acres: 25,000 acres
  • Total Waterfalls: 53 (although many of them are inaccessible due to the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire)
    • 40 in Oregon
    • 13 in Washington
  • Average height of walls (in Oregon): 1,500 – 3,000 feet
  • Number of state parks: 13
    • 9 in Oregon
    • 4 in Washington
  • Number of dams in the Gorge: 4
    1. Bonneville Lock & Dam (Cascade Locks)
    2. The Dalles Lock & Dam (The Dalles)
    3. John Day Dam (Rufus)
  • Number of hiking trails in the scenic national area: 57 (many closed as of August 2019)
  • Number of historic buildings: 1,000+
  • Average annual rainfall: 75 to 100 inches
  • Number of counties: 4
    • 2 in Oregon
    • 2 in Washington
  • Number of cities on the Oregon side: 6
    1. Cascade Locks
    2. Corbett
    3. Hood River
    4. Mosier
    5. The Dalles
    6. Troutdale
AJG_8832
view down the Gorge from Catherine Creek Trail on the Washington side.

back to top.

Wildflower/Tree Facts in the Gorge

back to top.

Animal Facts in the Gorge

  • Number of species of fish: 44 (ish)
  • Endangered/Threatened species living in the Gorge: 1
    • Northern Spotted Owl (threatened)
  • Number of species of birds: 200 +
  • List of animals: here
Wachlella Falls from the trail.

back to top.

Facts about the entire Columbia River

  • Longest river in the Pacific Northwest
  • Length of the Columbia River: 1,243 miles (7th longest in the US)
  • Miles of river in Canada: 498
  • Flows through 6 major cities
    1. Astoria (WA)
    2. Longview (WA)
    3. Vancouver (WA)
    4. Portland (OR)
    5. Tri-Cities (WA)
    6. Revelstoke (BC)
  • Number of states that the Columbia River drains to: 7
    1. Oregon
    2. Washington
    3. Idaho
    4. Nevada
    5. Montana
    6. Wyoming
    7. Utah
  • Largest hydroelectric power producing river in North America with 14 hydroelectric dams (as of 2017).
    • Grand Coulee is the largest
  • Columbia River is the largest river by discharge flowing into the Pacific from North America
  • Average flow: 265,000 cubic feet per second,(4th largest by volume in the US)
  • Starts in the British Columbia Rocky Mountains, through Washington and then forms a border between Washington and Oregon
  • Average width of river: 1 mile
  • Most northern edge of the mouth of the Columbia River: Cape Disappointment
  • 60 Significant tributaries in the Columbia River: 60 +
  • Total dams in entire river: 14
    • 3 in Canada
    • 11 in the US
      • 3 in the Gorge
  • Provides habitat for 609 (ish) known fish and wildlife species, and many more before European colonization
columbia-river-basin
the entire Columbia River and the all the river that stem from it.

back to top.

Eagle Creek Fire, 2017

  • The Eagle Creek Fire burned up to 50,000 acres and for three months
  • Cascade Locks (OR) was on mandatory evacuation
  • Salmon hatcheries were forced to release 600,000 fish six months earlier than planned
  • 153 people were trapped on a trail and had to spend the night out there
  • Had it not been for wildfire firefighters, the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge would have been destroyed
  • The fire jumped the Big River over to the Washington state side and merged with the Indian Creek Fire
  • By the end of November, the fire was fully detained, but not out

Trails started to reopen in November 2018, but some still remain closed due to fire damage in 2022. The fire scars are still clearly visible, but there is much life along the river and the earth gets more green every year.

  • People who do hike on the trails that are now open must be aware of the dangers that come with hiking in burned zones.

“The gorge still looks like the gorge… It’s not a wasteland. It’s not a blackened, destroyed no-man’s land. There are trees everywhere and they look good… That’s not to say there isn’t damage to some of those trees… But, it’s still a beautiful drive through there and it still looks good.”

— Lt. Damon Simmons,
Spokesperson, Oregon State Fire Marshall, 
OregonLive.com

IMG_8729
from my personal Instagram account @lexxgetslost on 9/6/2017.

Closed Hiking Trails (as of August 2019)

28, 4 indefinitely closed & 1 partially closed : List of trails

Also check out their Eagle Creek Fire Response page for fire story & data, ongoing work information, how to stay safe, and fire ecology.

Accessible Areas

There are waterfalls, overlooks, parks and paved trails that are accessible.

Hiking In A Burned Zone

The Eagle Creek 2017 fire has unfortunately affected a majority of our hiking trails.

AJG_5561
fire scars along the Dry Creek Falls Trail on the Oregon side.
  • Please keep in mind that the places listed below are on the Oregon state side of the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area (Columbia Gorge N.S.A). Washington side of the Gorge will be available soon.

back to top.

Visitor Centers

  • Bonneville Lock & Dam Center
    Cascade Locks, OR 97014
  • Hood River Gorge National Scenic Area admin office
    Hood River, OR 97031
    *not a true visitor center, but has brochures, maps and recreation passes. Open M – F 8AM – 4:30PM
  • Multnomah Falls Lodge Visitor Center 
    Corbett, OR 97019
  • The Dalles Lock & Dam Center
    The Dalles, OR 97058
AJG_6374 copy
Vista House on a grey day.

back to top.

Parks & Fees

The day fees at the park range anywhere from $3 to $7, with most being $5.

  • Ainsworth State Park (fee)
    *camping March – October 31
  • Benson Lake State Park (fee)
    *no motorized boats or dogs in water, fishing
  • Bridal Veil Falls State Park (no fee)
  • Cascade Locks Marine Park (no fee
    *camping May – September
  • Dabney State Recreation Area (fee)
    *no animals allowed, disc golf course
  • Eagle Creek Overlook – closed
  • Eagle Creek Day Use Area – open
  • Guy W. Talbot Park (no fee)
  • Hood River Waterfront Park (no fee)
    *swimming beach
  • Koberg Beach State Recreation Site (no fee)
    *swimming, fishing
  • Lewis & Clark State Park (no fee)
    *swimming beach, off-leash dog area behind restrooms
  • Mayer State Park (fee)
    *swimming, lake, fishing
  • Memaloose State Park (fee)
    *camping March – October 31, camping, playground
  • Rooster Rock State Park (fee)
    *swimming area, two nude beaches, one clothing-required beach, no dogs allowed on beach
  • Starvation Creek State Park (no fee)
    *one-mile walk to Viento State Park, 4.6 miles west to Wyeth State Park, waterfall
  • Viento State Park (fee)
    *camping April – October 31
  • Wahkeena Falls Day Use (fee)

back to top.

Rowena Crest Overlook in Mosier, Oregon.

Other Scenic Stops & Views

  • Bonneville Dam
  • Bridge of the Gods
    not on typical waterfall tour
  • Rowena Crest Viewpoint
    not on typical waterfall tour
  • Mitchell Point Overlook
    not on typical waterfall tour
  • Hood River Bridge
    not on typical waterfall tour
  • Mosier Twin Tunnels – closed
    not on typical waterfall tour
  • Mosier Plateau
    not on typical waterfall tour
  • Memaloose Overlook
    not on typical waterfall tour
  • Portland Women’s Forum Viewpoint
  • The Dalles Dam
    not on typical waterfall tour
  • Tom McCall Preserve
    not on typical waterfall tour, trails
  • Vista House at Crown Point
AJG_8837
view down the Gorge from Catherine Creek Trail on the Washington side.

back to top.

Museums

  • The Barn Museum (King of Roads exhibit)
    Troutdale, OR 97060
    Website
  • Cascade Locks Historical Museum
    Cascade Locks, OR 97014
    Website
  • Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Wasco County Historical Museum
    The Dalles, OR 97085
    Website
  • The Depot Rail Museum
    Troutdale, OR 97060
    Website
  • Fort Dalles Museum
    The Dalles, OR 97085
    Website
  • Harlow House
    Troutdale, OR 97060
    Website
  • Hood River County Museum
    Hood River, OR 97031
    Website
  • Hutson Museum
    Mt Hood-Parkdale, OR 97041
    Website
Multnomah Falls during the fall season.

back to top.

Weather

Do not forget to check the temperature and wind mph before heading out. It can get very windy out in the Gorge, especially during the spring.

Alerts & Service Notices

Fires and landslides do occur in this area. Be sure to check for alerts and closures.

types of waterfalls

back to top.

Multnomah Falls during the winter season.

Waterfalls on the Scenic Highway in order from West to East

I left out the waterfalls that are inaccessible, as you cannot get to them.

Latourell Falls
Length: 249 feet
Type: Plunge
Access: paved trail, TH

Upper Latourell Falls
Length: 120 feet
Type: Plunge
Access: trail, 1 mile from the TH
on “tour” if hiking

Shepperds Dell Falls
Length: 220 feet
Type: top fall is a plunge, lower fall is a horsetail
Access: car, must stand on bridge
trail to the bottom of the falls is closed

Bridal Veils Falls
Length: 118 feet
Type: tiered horsetails
Access: paved trail, 0.2 – 0.3 miles from TH

Wahkeena Falls
Length: 242 feet
Type: tiered horsetails
Access: paved trail, 0.2 miles from TH

Fairy Falls
Length: 30 feet
Type: fan
Access: hike, 1.1 miles up from TH
on “tour” if hiking

Multnomah Falls
Length: 635 feet
Type: tiered plunges
Access: paved path and trail

Horsetail Falls
Length: 227 feet
Type: horsetail
Access: car

Ponytail Falls
Length: 75 feet
Type: plunge
Access: hike, 0.4 miles up from TH
on “tour” if hiking

Wahclella Falls
Length: 127-ish feet
Type: tiered
Access: hike, 1 mile from TH
on “tour” if hiking

Starvation Creek Falls
Length: 227 feet (upper- 141 feet, lower- 86 feet)
Type: tiered horsetail
Access: paved path in Starvation Creek State Park
not on typical “tour”—further down I-84

Cabin Creek Falls
Length: 220’
Type: tiered
Access: paved path, 0.3 miles from TH
not on typical “tour”—further down I-84

Hole In The Wall Falls
Length: 100 feet
Type: tiered
Access: hike, 0.7 miles up from TH
not on typical “tour”—further down I-84

  • WATERFALLS ON MULTNOMAH-WAHKEENA LOOP & LARCH MTN HIKING TRAIL

Dutchman Falls
Length: 35 feet
Type: block
Access: hike (1.2 miles up from Larch Mtn Trail at Multnomah Lodge)
on “tour” if hiking the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop

Ecola Falls
Length: 55 feet
Type: vertical curtain
Access: hike (1.6 miles up from Larch Mtn Trail at Multnomah Lodge)
on “tour” if hiking the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop

Weisendanger Falls
Length: 50 feet
Type: plunge
Access: hike (1.4 miles up from Larch Mtn Trail at Multnomah Lodge)
on “tour” if hiking Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop

  • WATERFALLS NOT ON TOUR, BUT IN THE AREA

Dry Creek Falls
Length: 230 feet, only 74 feet is visible
Type: Plunge
Access: hike (4.8 miles RT)
not on typical “tour”—further down I-84

AJG_5541
Dry Creek Falls in Cascade Locks, Oregon.

back to top.

Tips

  1. Go early or go later.
    • They close the parking lot in front of Multnomah Lodge off the Historic Highway. Please do not stop on the highway to wait to turn into the parking lot!!
    • If you go and the parking lot is full you will have to see the waterfall on the way back, which isn’t bad either.
    • During the summer months (June-September) there is a permit system in place.
  2. Overflow parking to Multnomah Lodge off I-84 (on the Historic Highway) is small and usually full.
    1. This is why it’s best to avoid this area in the middle of the day.
    2. If it is full, there is the CAT shuttle from the Gateway Transit Center to The Dalles. With a stop in Mosier, only by request.
  3. Bring sturdy shoes if you plan on hiking the trails! Most trails are not paved and get muddy.
  4. Bring a map or download a map of the trail.
    • People have gotten lost and there have been fatalities on these trails. These are not national park trails!
    • Some are not well signed and pose burned zone dangers
  5. Busiest seasons: summer + spring.
  6. Only travel during the winter if the roads are safe, and you have proper winter tires and/or chains. It can get icy and snowy out there.
  7. During the spring the snowmelt increases the waterfalls volumes.
  8. Multnomah Falls Lodge has a restaurant upstairs. I have only had their breakfast, but it was good.
    • They sell snacks and beverages outside.
    • There is a view of the top of Multnomah Falls seen from the dining room.
    • I recommend the giant cookie from the stand in the front.
  9. If you want a souvenir, grab it from the gift shop at Multnomah Falls Lodge.
  10. Learn more about the Eagle Creek fire, what the emergency responders had to do in order to save our beloved lodge or find a trail party to work with at the visitor center. Located on the ground level of Multnomah Lodge.
  11. Remember to be respectful of the wildlife and flora.
    • DO NOT THROW COINS OFF THE BRIDGE OVER MULTNOMAH FALLS.
  12. Check to see where you can and where you can’t fly drones.
    • No drone flying at Multnomah Falls Lodge and Vista House, for sure.
  13. Cascade Locks is a good stop for food and ice cream.
    • East Wind Drive-In sells deliciously huge ice cream cones. A small is the perfect size for two people.
  14. Hood River is a good town to visit if you are not from the area.
    • Our favorite place to eat: Full Sail. Although every spot is good.
    • Wine tasting: Evoke is perfect for outdoor adventurers. Seriously, you can show up in your hiking or athletic wear.
    • A “hip” scene: Whiskey Tango.
    • Watch wind surfers and kite boarders out on the Big River in this town.
  15. Find 3 more waterfalls at Starvation Creek State Park further down I-84 east.
  16. DO NOT LITTER!!
    • I recommend bringing a bag and glove for picking up the trash you see along your way.
  17. Only park in designated parking spots.
    • This means avoiding parking on the side of the historic highway
    • There are designated pull outs along the way
    • If the trail parking lot is full, you have to keep going. Do not stop or park in the middle of the road
    • Do not stop and wait to turn into the small parking lot in front of Multnomah Lodge. The Sheriffs sit there to make sure traffic flows during the busy seasons
  18. DO NOT WALK ALONG SIDE OF THE HISTORIC HIGHWAY. Stick to the trails, they connect.
    • You risk the chance of getting hit by a car.
    • There are signs that say do not walk along the highway.
IMG_0229
view from the Vista House.

back to top.

The Waterfall Tour

The Gorge has something to please everyone here.

  • If you want to take it easy, there are plenty of waterfalls only a few feet away from parking areas
  • If you’re looking for a little more adventure with some mileage involved, more waterfalls, views of the Columbia River Gorge and tons of foliage await you

This is the summary of the little tour I give to friends that are visiting from out of town!

  • We usually skip Troutdale (exit 17) because the viewpoints don’t start until Corbett.
    • You’ll find The Barn Museum and Lewis & Clark Recreation Site in Troutdale and the Dabney State Recreation Area up the highway
  • This tour usually takes me anywhere from 2.5 – 4 hours if we are just sightseeing.
  • If I’m taking them on the trails it can take anywhere from 3 – 5 hours.
  • If they’re really down to see the whole Gorge and explore all day we will go out to Starvation Creek State Park up to the insta-famous Rowena Crest.
  • This can easily be an all-day trip if you are visiting from out of town!

If you are interested in seeing what events are going on check out Gorge Current’s monthly event page

If taking exit 17 in Troutdale – 1A Stop

Lewis & Clark Recreation Site
Park, Sandy River access, Botanical Gardens trail, Lewis & Clark Trail, pets exercise area, restrooms, garbage & recycling cans

This is the first park on your left. The parking lot is rather large, but it does get full during the summer. You can find a trail here and information signs about the Botanical Garden. If you walk across the road you will be able to get to Sandy River’s shore.

Sugar Pine Drive-In
Coffee, ice cream, beverages, snacks, open Thursday – Monday: 11AM – 7PM, Closed Tuesday & Wednesday. Across the green, narrow bridge on your right over the Sandy River at the stop sign in Glen Otto Park.

Glen Otto Park
Renowned natural recreation area

Dabney State Park
Fee, no animals, no alcohol, boat launch area, river access, 3 parking lots, charcoal grills, picnic tables, paved paths, restrooms, reservable covered picnic area, disc golf course, open 6AM – 6PM

  • Keep an eye out for baby waterfalls on the left side of the highway along the rock walls
  • There are pull outs along this section
  • Tad’s Chicken ‘n Dumplings restaurant is on the right
  • Mr. Yoshida’s old house is across the tan bridge on the right
  • Will drive through Springdale then Corbett
    • Convenience store and Cabin Coffee stand in Springdale
    • Corbett Country Market in Corbett

First Stop (or 1B Stop)

Portland Women’s Forum Overlook
Viewpoint, trail, open from 6AM – 10PM

  • Take Exit 22 off of I-84 (heading east). It’s about a 5 to 10-minute drive through Corbett on the Historic Columbia River Hwy.
  • The entrance will be on your left. Map
  • If coming from Exit 17, continue down the Historic Highway through Corbett.

You’ll get your first view of the Columbia River and the Gorge here. Across to the east, the Vista House will be a tiny dot.

  • This area is only about 7.6 acres
  • Find an information sign overlooking the Vista House

History: This is a vista that inspired Sam Hill to create this highway. Originally this spot was named Chanticleer Point by the people who purchased the property in 1912. The property owners ended up building an inn here as well, known as Chanticleer Inn. The inn ended up having a fire, then the Women’s Forum purchased it in 1956, then donated it to the State of Oregon in 1963.

Trail: There is a trail here that allows you to walk down the original road that led up to this area. It’s 4.8 miles roundtrip with views of the Vista House, Columbia River, train tracks, Larch Mountain, Rooster Rock, and Beacon Rock. The trailhead is past the white fence at the turnaround. Oregon Hikers field guide

  • Portland Women’s Forum, History
  • According to the Oregon State Park there is an annual day-use attendance of 383,794 people

AJG_6372

Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 8.00.48 PM.png
IMG-1.jpg
view over to Vista House from the Portland Women’s Forum Outlook.

back to top.

Second Stop

Larch Mountain Viewpoint
Picnic area, paved trail to viewpoint, road is closed during the winter

Oregon Hikers field guide

  • A bit down the road on your right will be E Larch Mountain Road. Take a right here and drive for 14.1 miles until you reach the parking lot on Larch Mountain.
  • Follow the road back to the Historic Highway to get back.

Fun fact: this road is also the highest one in Multnomah County ending at 4,055’. It takes about 30 minutes or so. Map

Despite the name, there is no larch trees here!

Trail: To reach the viewpoint takes 0.6-mile round trip on a paved trail to Sherrard Point. There are views of Loowit (Mount St. Helens), Tahoma (Mount Rainier), Pahto/Klickitat (Mount Adams), Wy’east (Mount Hood), and Seekseeksqua (Mount Jefferson).

larch mtn oregon hikers
Larch Mountain viewpoint from Oregon Hikers

back to top.

Third Stop

Vista House / Crown Point Overlook
Viewpoint, gift shop, snacks, information desk, open 9AM – 6PM (7 days a week unless winds are over 50+mph, weather, National Landmark (2000), listed in the National Register of Historic Places (1974), Crown Point Natural Landmark (1971)

  • Once you reach the Historic Highway, take a right and continue the tour
  • It’s only 1 mile or so until you reach the famous Vista House

*This is one of my favorite stops… but before I get too ahead of myself, they’re all my favorite in their own way.

  • The exterior is made up of sandstone, which is gives it that tan appearance. The beautiful colors you see in the windows are from the opalescent art glass. While the shiny floors on the inside are made up of Alaskan tokeen marble and kasota limestone. Eight pillars are on the inside that all have some history to them. On the second panel you’ll find “The Building of Vista House.”

Up the stairs there is a platform that wraps around half of the building. Out here the views get even better. While there isn’t much of a scenery change, being higher up makes you feel like you’re getting a new perspective.

Downstairs in the basement is where you’ll find the espresso and gift shop and the restrooms. More displays with information about the history can also been seen down here.

  • The area is about 305.75 acres
  • Here you have an expansive view of the Columbia River from 733 feet above

History: These views are also another reason why Sam Hill wanted to build a structure here. It was originally a rest stop observatory to lure travelers. Before the Vista House, Crown Point Chalet was built in 1915. It was built from 1915 to 1918. This chalet was catered to the rich and famous (go figure) and had a legendary country fried steak. Guest books show over 73,000 signatures with one of them being Henry Ford. The inn sold in 1927 when the owner Margaret E. Henderson.

  • In August 2001 a 5-year renovation project began to update and restore many features that had been weathered over the years. The architect of the Vista House described it as “a temple to the natural beauty of the Gorge”
  • Click here for more history
  • According to the Oregon State Park there is an annual day-use attendance of 584,832 people
aWzNfWVMRHmfonIwx25m5g.jpg
Vista House during a summer sunset.

back to top.

Fourth Stop

Latourell Falls
Guy W. Talbot State Park, first waterfall on the historic highway, information board, multiple viewpoints, trail to Upper Latourell Falls

The historic highway gently climbs down the Gorge about 600 feet. You’ll pass stone guard walls with arches, views of the river, tall basalt walls, and eventually be surrounded by trees.

  • This waterfall is 2.5 miles down the highway from the Vista House, and about a 10-minute drive. Map
  • Latourell Falls and the parking lot will be on your right
  • If that area is full there is additional parking on the left side of the road
  • If both parking areas are full, you must be keep driving

You can take the paved up to the left to a higher viewpoint or go to the paved trail by the highway. The higher viewpoint gives you a distant view.

While the paved path leads you right to the bottom of the falls. You are able to explore around the falls and there is a bridge as well.

Bright yellow-green lichen line the cliffs around the top of the waterfall. This is actually the feature that makes this fall so recognizable in photos!

  • I think the best spots for photos is on the wooden bridge, underneath the bridge and at the upper viewpoint

History: These falls were named after the first postmaster for the first post office in the area. Originally Guy W. Talbot a huge business titan in Portland owned the falls. He donated them to the Oregon State Parks System in 1929. The Guy W. Talbot State Park is also here.

Trail: Latourell Falls Trail starts here and is 2.1 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 650 feet. This trail leads up to Upper Latourell Falls which is 120 feet. This is my favorite hike to do during the evening weekday. 

  • According to the Oregon State Park there is an annual day-use attendance of 408,990 people
AJG_3751-2.jpg
view of L.atourell Falls from the upper viewpoint.
AJG_2129
Upper Latourell Falls on the Latourell Falls Trail.

back to top.

Fifth Stop

Shepperd’s Dell Falls
Can only be seen from the road, two- tiered waterfall, very small pull off area to the right

  • From Latourell Falls, continue east for 1.2 miles to reach the next stop. It’s about 5 minutes down the road
  • A green Shepperd’s Dell Falls sign on the right where the fall is located. Map

History: There isn’t any information board here and no trail, so it is a rather quick stop. This area was donated to the Oregon State Parks in 1915 by George G. Shepperd as a memorial to his wife (wait, Nick… where is your waterfall dedicated to me?! Ha-ha).

  • The area is about 11 acres

Trail: The path down to the falls is still closed due to fire damage, but you can see this from the road. You can find a small pull out area on the right side of the road. However, if there are already cars parked there it is not safe to pull off. It is actually HIGHLY discouraged. Just don’t do it, please.

Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 10.47.34 PM.png

back to top.

Sixth Stop

Bridal Veil Falls
Seen from a 0.6-mile roundtrip paved path, picnic tables, Bridal Veil Falls State Park, two different trails

  • Drive about 1 mile east from Shepperd’s Dell Falls to reach Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Viewpoint
  • The entrance to your parking lot will be on the left. Map

The quaint, brown cabin with tree lights on the right is the Bridal Veil Lodge Bed & Breakfast.

  • The total acreage of the area is 15.5 acres

History: This area was named Bridal Veil because Baily Gatzert (a passenger on the sternwheeler) and commented that it looked like a bride’s veil. The first post office opened around 1886 along with a small railroad station. In 1990, Bridal Veil was acquired by the Trust for Public Land over the Crown Point Country Historical Society (who was trying to preserve the mill houses and buildings). The Trust ended up demolishing all of them in 2001.

The Bridal Veil Community Church was demolished in 2011, leaving only the post office and the cemetery. Everything else from the town has disappeared. The cemetery is special to the Historical Society because it holds people who have passed from small pox and diphtheria epidemics.

Today, many brides mail their wedding invitations from hereWhich if I ever get married, I will also be doing, ha-ha.

Trail: There are two trails here, one leads to the cliffs of the Gorge with interpretative signs. These signs have information about the wildflowers in the area and a view of the Pillars of Hercules (120-foot basalt tower). The lower trail leads to Bridal Veil Falls (118’) and is a 0.6-mile, 70’ elevation gain walk on a paved path (although it is not ADA accessible). There is a viewing platform that overlooks the falls and a bridge that crosses a creek. The trail is pretty shaded and well-maintained.

  • According to the Oregon State Park there is an annual day-use attendance of 231,632 people
AJG_9303.jpg
Bridal Veil Falls on Bridal Veil Falls trail. 2019.

back to top.

Seventh Stop

Wahkeena Falls
0.2 mile walk on a paved path to Wahkeena Falls, partial view of falls from the parking area, restrooms, picnic area, trail to Multnomah Falls where you can see Fairy Falls, Ecola Falls, Weisendanger Falls, and Dutchman Falls

  • From Bridal Veil it is 3.1 miles east to reach the Wahkeena Falls Day Use Area. It’s about a 5-minute drive. Map
  • Parking is on the right and left side of the road
  • Picnic area is also on the right side of the road
  • If both parking areas are both full, you must keep driving
  • This area is a total of about 400 acres
    • Given to the city in 1915 from Simon Benson

To see Wahkeena Falls, follow the paved path on the right and walk 0.2 miles. You’ll notice a trail to the left, but it closed due to fire damage.

History: Originally this fall was called Gordon Falls for pioneer landowner F.E. Gordon. However, there were two Gordon Creeks in the area. In 1915, the Mazamas renamed it to Wahkeena Falls to clear up the confusion. Penny Postcards were all the rage in the early 1900s and Wahkeena Falls were featured on many of them.

Trail: If you want, you can hike the 5-mile trail to Multnomah Falls and back beyond Wahkeena Falls. On this trail you will come across Fairy Falls (20’) a mile up the trail. This is a great small hike to do if you don’t want to walk the full 5 miles because you could walk up to Dutchman Falls, Wiesendanger Falls, and Ecola Falls from Multnomah Lodge as well.

Wahkeena Fall
Wahkeena Falls on the Wahkeena-Multnomah Loop Trail.
Fairy Falls
Fairy Falls on the Wahkeena-Multnomah Loop Trail.

back to top.

Eighth Stop

Multnomah Falls
most iconic waterfall in Oregon, snack bar, restaurant, gift shop, Multnomah Falls Lodge Visitor Center, viewing platforms, interpretive signs, paved path to Benson Bridge

  • 0.6 miles down the historic highway is the jewel of this highway. It’s less than a 5-minute drive if there isn’t any traffic.
  • There is a small parking lot on the left
  • You’ll most likely have to skip this and hit it on the way back. Do not stop in the middle of the road to wait to go into the parking lot on the left

Everyone knows about this waterfall, considering it is the second tallest waterfall in the US. Not to mention busiest spot in the Gorge… but for good reason.

Standing at 635 feet with multiple tiers, it’s no wonder why it’s Oregon’s most beloved treasure.

Locals may despise the hordes of crowds, but we still loveeeee the waterfall. No amount of people can take away from its beauty.

History: The famous Benson Bridge was built in 1914 and the lodge was constructed in 1925. Simon Benson also owned this area and donated it along with Wahkeena in 1915. The US Forest Service ended up with ownership in 1943 and still does today.

Before all of this, the waterfall was formed by cataclysmic Missoula Floods beginning 15,000 years ago.

The reason why Multnomah Lodge was built though? Because the travelers on the highway wanted more stopping points! Can we blame them? Sunday dinners were provided at the Chanticleer Inn, Crown Point Chalet, Latourell Falls Chalet, Falls Villa, Bridal Veil Lodge, and Forrest Hall. Dang, they must have been hungry travelers. Multnomah Falls Lodge was constructed for a total of $40,000 back then and provided meals and rooms for travelers. The lodge was added on to in 1927 and have gone several renovations since.

Trail: It is a ¼ mile of a walk up a paved path to reach Benson Bridge and 1.1-mile trek to the very top. This isn’t an easy gain though, so be prepared. If you have time though, it is worth it. If you didn’t do the Wahkeena-Multnomah Loop Trail you can see those other falls here. Dutchman Falls is about a 10-minute walk up the trail, Wiesendanger Falls 1.4 miles up, and Ecola Falls is 1.6 miles up.

  • According to Multnomah Falls Lodge 2.5 million people visit every year.
    • This means that this area gets filled quickly in the morning. If the small parking lot is full and closed, you will have to park in the parking lot right off of I-84 on the way back. If you do have to skip it just go straight to Horsetail Falls.
AJG_9373.JPG
Multnomah Falls from the base.

back to top.

Ninth Stop

Horsetail Falls / Ponytail Falls
Horsetail Falls can be seen from the viewing area, hike up to Ponytail Falls, closed past Ponytail Falls due to Eagle Creek Fire

  • You will find two waterfalls at the next stop 2.7 miles down the road. Map
  • Find a small parking lot on the left
  • Avoid parking on the road, no matter how tempted you are—it’s NOT safe
  • Horsetail Falls is right off the historic highway and on the right side of the road.

Horsetail Falls creates a pool that some people swim in during the hot summer days.

History: This waterfall was named because of its shape. The Oregon Historical Society has a photo of this waterfall with people and dog in front of it (anywhere from 1902 – 1924).

Trail: You can go see Ponytail Falls with a 0.8-mile roundtrip, 360’ elevation gain hike. The trail is to the left of the Horsetail Falls. The trail is closed past Ponytail Falls, but it is still worth the trek. This is the only waterfall that you can walk behind on the trail (that’s open) in the area.

Even though this trail is easy, there was a fatality in 2016.

  • Please be aware of the risks that come along with hiking, even in very popular areas.
Ponytail
Ponytail Falls seen from the trail.
AJG_9409
Horsetail Falls seen from the historic highway.

back to top.

Tenth Stop

Wahclella Falls
Recently opened as of August 27, 2019. 2-mile roundtrip trek to a 127-ish foot waterfall, three-tiered waterfall. Footbridges, Tanner Creek, Munra Falls, and lots of moss/ferns can be found on this trail

Wahclella Falls is one of my favorites, and the easiest hike along the tour.

There is a $5-day fee, or you need a NW Forest Pass to park here. It is worth it though.

Trail: The path is a one-mile walk to the waterfall with a couple footbridges, with a gradual gain. This is another trail that was blazed by the Eagle Creek Fire, so be sure to hike with caution and watch for landslides.

IMG_8730
Wahclella Falls at the end of the trail.

This is where my tour usually stops. This part of The Gorge is known as the waterfall area, and where most people end their day.

  • Places to stop on the way back on I-84 west are below the eleventh stop description
  • However, if we have time, we’ll continue down the highway to explore two more waterfalls at one stop! Which I highly recommend doing if you have time

back to top.

Eleventh Stop
The tour continued…

Starvation Creek Falls / Hole in the Wall Falls / Cabin Creek Falls
Starvation Creek, Cabin Creek Falls and Hole in the Wall Falls, information signs. These waterfalls are located a couple hundred yards up the paved path to almost half a mile up. You also need to pay a fee or have a pass to park here.

  • Get back onto I-84 and continue east for 14 miles to Starvation Creek State Park, exit 55 . Map

Starvation Creek Falls is located in the Starvation Creek State Park. If you follow the paved path past the restrooms to the left, you’ll see a creek and an area that goes back to your right. You’ll find the waterfall back here. You can get to the base of the fall, but it requires a little “scramble” up the side.

Cabin Creek Falls is a couple hundred yards on the paved path towards Mount Defiance Trail (heading to the right). It will be on your left and back a bit.

Hole in the Wall Falls is going to on the paved trail that goes west (to your right) from the parking lot on the other end. This trail follows the road for a bit, but eventually leaves the side of the road (there is a barrier here). Once you see the small green Mt. Defiance 413 Trail sign take a left on the paved path. There will be a circular stone area before the waterfall comes into view. You can also get to the base of this waterfall.

AJG_0003
Hole in the Wall waterfall.

Trail: Be sure not to continue past the wooden footbridge for this trail leads to highest point and is also the hardest hike in the Gorge.

  • This is where I stop as we are officially out of the waterfall area in the Gorge at this point
  • If you are from out of town and have an entire day Hood River is 9 miles down the highway. You can find lots of food, shopping and other activities in Hood River
  • The insta-famous Rowena Crest is 16 miles from Hood River and 24 miles from Starvation Creek State Park if you want to see that

back to top.

On The Way Back

  • Stop in Cascade Locks and get a cheap, huge ice cream cone. A small feeds two people, no problem. There are two kinds, a good old regular ice cream or a flavor burst ice cream. Which I’m pretty sure is a fun flavor added, but I’ve never had it. You can also see the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks.
  • If you didn’t get a chance to see Multnomah Falls before now is your chance. It is Exit 31 and will be on the left side of the highway.
  • Rooster Rock State Park is exit 25. There is a fee. Be aware that there are two nude beaches here.
  • If the sun is setting on your way back I would take exit 28 in Bridal Veil and drive to the Vista House. I know you’ve already seen it, but it is a treat during sunset. Expect a lot of local teenagers during the summer months.
  • If you are hungry stop at McMenamins Edgefield.
    • This is our favorite McMenamins location (seriously, we’ll come here just about every other week during the summer) and I personally think it puts the other locations to shame—food and property wise
    • It is on a 74-acre farmland so there are a good amount of activities offered
    • Activities: You can wine taste in their winery, eat at one of their seven restaurants/bars, visit their distillery or brewery, drink some tea from their teahouse, listen to free music on Thursday nights in the summer, golf, watch a movie at their theater… the list goes on
      • My favorite thing is to do though is drink a glass of wine and roam their gardens. Our favorite spot to eat on the property is the Loading Dock Grill.
    • You can usually find live music in the wine tasting room most summer evenings
    • You can also take a tour of the property during the day Tuesday through Saturday, if that is something that you’re interested in

* Here is a Self-Guided Tour of the Geology of the Columbia River Gorge—Portland Airport to Skamania Lodge, Stevenson, Washington from the Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources.

If you have any questions or need more recommendations for places to stop at let me know! This area gets rather busy during the summer months, but I always think it’s worth the visit. If you need a buddy, please reach out- I’d love to tag along and I have more fun information about each stop!

latourell falls bridge
Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 10.43.34 PM

SOURCES

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s