If you plan a trip to Oregon, don’t miss some of the best waterfall hikes near Portland, Oregon. Put together a day of exploring the waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge or plan some day trips to explore some of the longer hikes and waterfalls further away.
You’ll find there are quite a few options for waterfalls near Portland. Whether you are just passing through or staying in Portland to explore the area, you’ll want to add at least a few of these waterfalls to your Oregon itinerary.
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Table of Contents
Best Time to See Waterfalls Near Portland
We spent the month of May visiting Oregon and Washington and found that the waterfalls were flowing strongly with the spring runoff. However, some of the roads in higher elevations were still closed for snow which limited some of our options.
Generally, summer and fall have less rain, more hours of sunshine, warmer weather, and less snow. That makes June through early October a good time to visit this area.
In the fall, you can see the leaves change, painting these waterfall hikes with oranges, reds, and yellows instead of the bright greens of summer. It’s also a great time to experience the Hood River Fruit Loop.
From April to June, wildflowers are blooming in the Columbia River Gorge and the waterfalls are at their strongest thanks to the melting snow. If you want to see the waterfalls at their most powerful, this is the time to visit.
Winter can bring icy conditions. As long as you are prepared for the winter trail conditions, you are less likely to find these waterfalls crowded in the winter.
Tips for Visiting Oregon Waterfalls
Download AllTrails to use for all of your hikes even outside of Oregon. I like to download the map before I arrive at the trailhead to make sure I have the route.
Some of the most popular waterfalls on this list have easy trails to follow and are short and easy hikes. Others I was glad to have my AllTrails map to see where we were on the trail, where to find the different viewpoints, and how much more elevation we had to go (we are Florida flatlanders!).
Bring plenty of water and snacks for the hikes that are more than just a quick and easy walk. As always, practice Leave No Trace principles and pack out everything you bring with you.
To photograph the waterfalls, I found I switched out my lenses fairly often. For some of the waterfalls like Multnomah Falls, I needed a wider lens to fit the whole waterfall in the frame. For others, I wanted my telephoto lens to get closer images from viewpoints that were further from the falls.
On some of the hikes like the Trail of Ten Falls, I needed to dry off my camera after hiking behind the waterfalls and getting the mist all over it. Bring a microfiber travel towel with you just in case.
Portland Waterfalls Map
My Google Map for the Pacific Northwest is covered in pins for the places we wanted to see. I’ve narrowed down this map to be just a map of the waterfalls near Portland to help you plan your trip.
Best Waterfalls Near Portland – One Hour Away or Less
Portland is a common place to use as a base to explore Oregon. If you want to get out of the city and explore some nearby waterfalls though, there are plenty to choose from in the Portland area.
Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls
The Columbia River Gorge is a beautiful part of Oregon to explore no matter the season, and its proximity to Portland makes it perfect for a day trip from the city. You’ll find waterfalls in both Oregon and Washington along the river, and it’s a beautiful drive even without stopping for the falls.
No list of Oregon waterfalls is complete without listing Multnomah Falls, the famous waterfall outside Portland. It is just a 30-minute drive from Portland and one of the most recognizable waterfalls in Portland.
Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon at 611 feet and is best known for the picturesque bridge across the waterfall.
Since it is the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll want to visit earlier in the morning to avoid the crowds at this popular Columbia Gorge waterfall. In the midday and in the summer, parking may not be available as you fight the other 2 million people who visit the site annually.
We visited in May and went at 7:00 a.m. Only one other family was there, and we were able to hike up to the bridge and enjoy the falls with no one else around. By the time we left at 7:45, several more groups were visiting. One man was upset he couldn’t get a picture of the bridge empty and was even yelling at people to get off the bridge.
Take the time to complete the hike up to the bridge across this waterfall (it’s less than .25 miles/400 meters). From there, you can see the full power of the upper falls (542 feet tall) while looking down over the 69-foot drop of the lower falls. You can hike another mile to the top of the falls from there, but we had a flight to catch that morning to come home.
Located at the bottom of the falls is a large viewing platform that is accessible, and the walkway up to the bridge is paved but uphill. Nearby is Multnomah Falls Lodge which offers a gift shop, restaurant, and restrooms.
Bridal Veil Falls
This is one of the many waterfalls located near Multnomah Falls along the Historic Columbia River Highway. It makes an easy addition to a trip to the famous falls.
Bridal Veil Falls is a short hike and easy hike but has enough elevation change to get your heart pumping if you keep up your pace (at least for our Florida legs).
Enjoy the view from the viewing platform at the end of the hike or take the social trail down to the base of the falls for a closer view. Even in the middle of the day, this one wasn’t very crowded.
Upper Latourell Falls
Another waterfall near Multnomah, Latourell Falls is a very short paved trail to get close enough to feel the mist of the snow melt in May. You can do a shorter hike to see it from a distance, but it is worth the still short walk to get closer to the falls.
At 249 feet tall, this single-drop waterfall is impressive. The viewing area close to it is small, but everyone was considerate of each other and got photos quickly before moving on.
Because it is close to Multnomah and a short hike, it is worth a stop on a drive through the Columbia River Gorge.
Spirit Falls (Washington)
Spirit Falls in Washington was one of our favorite waterfalls of the trip and one of the most stunning waterfalls we’ve ever seen. It is right at an hour from Portland but worth the drive.
If you don’t like steep hikes, this one may not be for you as it is steep and slippery. Shoes with good grip are a must, and even then we slipped and slid our way down to the falls.
The first part isn’t too bad, but there is a long steep section with not much to grab onto to keep from sliding down it that ends up being one of the most challenging spots. For a hike that is less than a mile, it offers a challenge, especially on the way back up to your car.
We had to cut this one due to running out of time. It’s high on my list for the next time we go since it is another waterfall you can walk behind.
It’s a longer hike, so we did not have time to squeeze it in the last two days of our trip. AllTrails puts it at 12 miles with Tunnel Falls at the 6-mile turnaround point.
It has some steep and narrow sections making it not great for kids (on top of the distance). Follow Eagle Creek Trail past Punch Bowl Falls to access this beautiful spot. You’ll see evidence of the Eagle Creek fire that closed the area for 3 years before it reopened in 2021.
Other Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls to See
We had these waterfalls on our list, but we ran out of time to see them all. They are still on my list for next time, and if you have more time, they are worth a visit. Some are in Columbia River Gorge and some are closer to Mount Hood.
- Horsetail Falls and Ponytail Falls
- Fairy Falls
- Wahkeena Falls
- Oneonta Gorge
- Dry Creek Falls
- Punch Bowl Falls
- Elowah Falls
- Wahclella Falls
Best Waterfall Hikes Near Portland – More Than One Hour Away
Driving more than an hour to see a waterfall might seem far, but these waterfalls are worth the drive. They can also easily be added to an Oregon road trip itinerary or be made into a day trip from Portland.
Silver Falls State Park Waterfalls
Silver Falls State Park offers a massive amount of waterfalls all on one hike. Take the Trail of Ten Falls to see a variety of waterfalls including several you can walk behind.
One thing to note about this hike is that AllTrails said it was about a 7-mile hike. My Garmin Fenix watch came in at 13 miles with a few offshoots and a little bit of backtracking. We took food and drinks for 7 miles and ran out of food about halfway through the hike and wished we brought more.
We also found several groups very unprepared for the hike. One family with two kids brought one 16 oz bottle of water to share and ran out quickly. We refilled it from our Camelbak.
Another group of four younger adults had two small dogs and were halfway around the loop when they realized they had gone too far. Even though AllTrails was not accurate for distance or elevation gain, it was still helpful to see where the waterfalls were and where we were on the trail.
All this to say, it’s a longer hike than you might expect. Many people just jump out and see South Falls which is one of the tallest and one with a large area to walk behind it. There is an easier loop from the South Falls parking area to just see this one.
You can also stop at the North Falls parking lot to get out and see North Falls and Upper North Falls. Upper North Falls is an offshoot of the main trail but worth the extra hiking.
The trail is paved and easy to follow. If you choose to do the full loop, you can go behind North Falls, Middle North Falls, Lower South Falls, and South Falls.
Other Waterfalls Near Portland That Are Worth the Drive
These are some other waterfalls we missed out on this trip but had on my PNW map to try to see. They are at the top of the list for the next trip. The first three are in Washington, and Ramona Falls is in the Hood National Forest.
- Panther Creek Falls
- Falls Creek Falls
- Lower Lewis River Falls
- Ramona Falls
Where to Stay in Portland
For both of our stays in Portland, we opted to stay just outside of the city at the Hyatt House Beaverton. We could use points to stay here and our Globalist status got us an upgrade to a great corner suite.
It’s also an easy walk to BG’s Food Cartel which we loved. With so many food truck options and plenty of seating, we enjoyed dinner here our first night.
To explore the Columbia River Gorge, you may want to stay on the east side of town. We considered the Hyatt Place Portland Airport/Cascade Station for the end of the trip when we were exploring the area but ultimately decided we loved the Beaverton location enough to stay there again.
Final Tips for the Best Portland Oregon Waterfall Hikes
The Pacific Northwest is known for overcast skies and rain, so a rain jacket is always wise, but you’ll want one for some of these hikes. The mist from the waterfalls reaches the trail for some of these, and the temperature drops when you get close to them.
While many of these trails are paved, hiking shoes that are waterproof and have good grip are still a good idea.
If you have any other Portland waterfall hikes we need to add to our list for next time, let me know in the comments!
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