10 Best Waterfall Hikes near Portland, Oregon

best waterfall hikes near portland oregon

Whether you are looking for the best hikes with a waterfall or just any hiking trail that is simply worth exploring, look no further than Portland to satisfy your thirst for adventure.

Known for its amiable summers and cool, rainy winters, Portland is a great place for anyone who wants to spend some quality time outdoors. Bring in lush green pastures, picturesque landscapes, and various natural spots bedecked with waterfalls and the largest city in Oregon becomes the ideal place for hiking enthusiasts to have the time of their lives.

Here are the 10 best waterfall hikes near Portland, Oregon that should be at the top of your next hiking list.

1. Punch Bowl Falls

The rainy season of Portland often makes it difficult for hikers to visit some of the city’s most attractive places, but this gorgeous waterfall hike is accessible all round the year. Punch Bowl Falls is a relatively small waterfall on Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge. The trail starts at Eagle Creek Trailhead Road and cuts through the thriving green land before ending with a spectacular view of the water pouring out into an au naturel swimming pool set amidst large stone walls.

Punch Bowl Falls is one of the few hiking trails that are both safe and adventurous at the same time. It is a family-friendly hike, which means that you can easily bring along your young adventure-seekers (children aged 10 or above only) and let them witness the beauty of nature from up-close. You can enjoy a refreshing dip into the cool blue water, but do not dive off the cliff as the drop is more than 100 feet (although it does not seem so deep apparently).

Waterfall Height: 35 feet
Distance of Hike: 3.8 miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level: Easy

2. Oneonta Gorge

With a round trip of just a little over 1 mile, the hike to Oneonta Gorge might not sound so promising at first. But don’t be deceived by the short distance. What the trail lacks in length, it makes up for it in the stunning views that will simply take your breath away.

Despite the short length, this is considered to be one of the most difficult hiking trails in Oregon. You will have to climb over logs and rocks and depending on the season, walk or waddle through the water. If visiting during the winter or rainy season, be prepared to make your way through chest-deep water as well. Oh, and it will be ice-cold, just so you know.

When you come across the bridge overseeing the Gorge, look for the hidden path that leads to Lower Oneonta Falls. At one point, rocks and large logs block the entire path, but if you can manage to cross them, then a cool reward awaits on the other side.

Waterfall Height: 100 feet
Distance of Hike: 1.2 miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level: Fairly difficult

3. Wahclella Falls

Wahclella Falls is a two-tiered waterfall along a tributary called Tanner Creek in the Columbia River. A hike on the Wahclella Falls trail means crossing some Instagram-worthy wooden footbridges, dodging rocks and boulders and traveling through the rocky terrain to get an impressive view of the Wahclella waterfall.

The longest drop is 60 feet whereas the combined drop of the waterfall is about 350 feet, making it amongst the largest waterfalls in Portland. This must-do easy hike is suitable for young as well as senior hikers. Make sure to peek at the base of the falls because you are likely to find spawning salmon. If you are really lucky, you might even see water ouzels diving and bathing in the stream.

This trail is closed since the Eagle Creek Fire did a lot of damage in the Columbia River Gorge in 2017.

Waterfall Height: A total of 350 feet (tiered)
Distance of Hike: 2.0 miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level: Easy

4. Horsetail Falls

Hikers who choose the Horsetail Falls Trail are rewarded with a majestic view of a tall waterfall right at the trailhead. It is the last waterfall along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Horsetail Falls got the name because the stream of pure water pouring down from a cliff that rises 176 feet high in the air and somewhat looks like the tail of a white horse hanging down from the gigantic rocks. With crystal clear water gushing down against a backdrop of lively greens, this magnificent gem in nature is surely a head-turner, or rather a neck-craner.

To the east of the Horsetail Falls is an exclusive picnic spot where you can have lunch with your friends and family while marveling at the beauty of the surrounding area. What makes this trail such a favorite amongst hikers is the fact that it also caters to travelers of all age groups.

You can hike this trail only, or for a grander adventure, combine it with the Oneonta Trail going all the way up to the Oneonta Falls.

Waterfall Height: 176 feet
Distance of Hike: 2.6 miles loop
Difficulty Level: Easy to moderate

5. Bridal Veil Falls

With tons of water cascading down from colossal rocks and boulders adorned with dense moss and peat, the Bridal Veil Falls resemble just what their name suggests. This easy-to-hike trail is accessible to families with children above the age of 10 years.

The track begins at the Columbia River Highway and ends with a panoramic view of the Bridal Veil waterfall. The hike is not very challenging, even though the path winds through narrow openings in the forest and consists of several steep climbs. It suddenly opens into a wide platform that serves as the perfect vantage point for individuals to soak in the incredible view that the Falls provides.

What makes the Bridal Veil waterfall different from many others is that it is a two-tier fall. Also, the speed with which it falls down creates a mist in the area that gives it a mystical feeling.

Waterfall Height: 118 feet
Distance of Hike: 1.4 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy

6. Wahkeena Falls

Depending on your preference, a hike to Wahkeena Falls can begin at the Wahkeena Trailhead or at the Multnomah Falls trailhead. If you wish to avoid the crowd, then it is recommended that you start at the second option.

On your way to the Wahkeena Falls, you will be treated to incredible views of the thriving woodland adorned with historic stonework and glimpses of the Columbia River. Follow the path up to a stone bridge after which begins a series of switchbacks. All through the steep ascents and descents, hikers are sprayed with light sprinkles from the nearby waterfall. And if it’s wintertime, adventure-loving souls will be exhilarated to hike the daunting landscape as it gets plastered in ice.

The upper tier of the trail, known as The Necktie, offers a hypnotic view of the wonderful waterfall. However, it must be noted that it is not open for children and pets.

Waterfall Height: 242 feet
Distance of Hike: 0.4 miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level: Moderate

7. Latourell Falls

Located right off the Historic Columbia River Highway, the walk to Latourell Falls is a short and easy one. But if you are up for a terrific adventure, then go for the 2.4-mile loop that will take you to equally, if not more promising avenues. Hiking to the Upper Latourell Falls means crossing the forest and getting a firsthand view of some amazing flora and fauna.

Moreover, there is a picnic area as well that serves as the prime spot for an outdoor lunch. This heavily trafficked trail also features a lake and offers a chance for hikers to socialize and make some new friends in the local area as well as the hikers’ community.

This grand waterfall that drops straight down from a protruding basalt cliff is visible from certain places along the road. So even if you don’t plan to hike the trail, you can witness the beauty from the comfort of your car.

Waterfall Height: 249 feet
Distance of Hike: 2.4 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy

8. Multnomah Falls

Attracting more than 2 million people each year, Multnomah Falls is, without a doubt, the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest. With a sheer drop of over 600 feet, it ranks as the highest waterfall in Oregon.

Beginning at Multnomah Falls Lodge, the hike will lead you through the historic building to the upper and lower tiers of the waterfall before giving a full-range view from the famous Benson Bridge.

This waterfall hike is perfect for people who want the rejuvenating feel from trekking the outdoors. If you want to steer clear of the crowds and enjoy the hike in solitude, it’s best to reach the spot early in the morning.

Note that the trail was affected by the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017. You can enter at your risk but be warned that the place is still susceptible to falling trees, loose rocks, debris flow, and similar hazardous conditions. However, certain parts of the trail might be completely blocked.

Waterfall Height: 620 feet
Distance of Hike: 2.4 miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level: Moderate

9. Trail of Ten Falls

Located in Silver Falls State Park, the Trail of Ten Falls is hands down one of the best (if not the best) hiking trail in Oregon. The 8.2-mile-long loop can take up to 6 hours to complete, but rest assured, you won’t be tired – the scenic views and otherworldly beauty is guaranteed to keep you going!

As is evident by the name, the Trail of Ten Falls will lead you through each of the ten mesmerizing waterfalls located in the park. From the small Drake Falls to the much larger South Falls, you will be treated to a range of water channels pouring down from steep cliffs and precipices.

While the series of waterfalls remain the main attraction, the trail has a lot more to offer; dense, old-growth forest, deep opal pools of water and panoramic views of the canyons. Despite the long distance, the hike is not challenging. Both novice and expert hikers can enjoy the Trail of Ten Falls.

You probably wouldn’t want to, but if you are short of time or cannot hike for so long, you can cut the track short to a 5.2-mile loop without compromising on most of the stunning views.

Park map: oregonstateparks.org

Waterfall Height: Series of waterfalls ranging from 27 to 177 feet
Distance of Hike: 8.2 miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level: Moderate

 

10. Falls Creek Falls

If you are looking for a short but beautiful waterfall hike, then the Falls Creek Falls is your best bet. The path initially twists through some very dramatic terrain. You will find narrow cracks and crevices in the canyon walls that are dripping with maidenhair ferns, moss, and cedar hanging over the top.

The trail then opens into a natural woodland dotted with cedar and fir trees that contribute stately beauty to the already exquisite area. And if it’s fall season, the trees look all the more imposing as maples and alders color the landscape with their vivid yellow, orange and even red foliage.

Needless to say, the path ends with a spectacular view of the gushing water. Accessible to excursionists all around the year, this track caters to hikers of all experience levels.

Waterfall Height: 256 feet
Distance of Hike: 6.2 miles roundtrip
Difficulty Level: Moderate

 

Related content: 10 Best National Park Day Hikes: Western U.S.

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