With the greatest concentration of waterfalls in North America, the Columbia River Gorge is the perfect destination for those looking to gaze upon clear mountain water cascading down mountainsides and over cliffs and other dramatic scenery. Due to the geography, the Oregon side has many more waterfalls than the Washington side, so if you are looking for falls, you will definitely want to head out along the Historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon. With over 50 falls, there is no way to see them all at once.
Here is a short list of some of the most impressive Columbia River Gorge waterfalls accessible by both car or hiking.
Of course, Multnomah Falls tops the list. Even after the devastating fires in 2017, it’s still an incredible natural wonder that should not be missed. The falls has three drops, totaling 635 feet – an impressive size. It can be easily seen from I-84. For a closer look, you can also get out and see the falls up close as they’re easily accessible from the parking lot. Anyone can walk right up to the viewing platform, take a short hike up to the bridge at the center of the falls, or hike to the top of the falls for impressive views. Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s most popular public destination, with over 2 million people coming to see view it annually.
Finding Multnomah Falls is easy. Traveling east on I-84, you can take the Historic Columbia River Highway exit 28 (for those wanting to see the falls by car), or head to the parking lot at exit 35 for those who want to hike.
With an estimated height of 249 feet, Latourell Falls is the gateway to the Gorge falls, being the first one you will see on the Waterfall Tour Loop. It’s named after Joseph Latourell, an early settler in the area, and it’s known for the bright yellow-green lichen that grows on the rock face next to the waterfall. Located in Guy W. Talbot State Park, there is a picnic area a short walk away, but the falls are viewable by car as well.
Find Latourell Falls by taking exit 28 on I-84.
Bridal Veil Falls
Though smaller than Multnomah Falls or Latourell Falls at just 118 feet, Bridal Veil Falls is worth a visit because its exquisite. Bridal Veil Creek is one of the clearest creeks feeding into a Gorge waterfall, meaning that Bridal Veil Falls is one of the clearest falls of all. It’s frothy white water cascades between lush moss-covered rocks for a truly beautiful sight. The falls are accessible by car as well as two different trails – a walking trail and the lower hiking trail that does have some steep parts.
Find Bridal Veil Falls off exit 28 on 1-84.
Horsetail Falls is a personal favorite of many due to its spectacular form. It’s actually named after the type of waterfall it is – horsetail. Horsetails waterfalls flow against the rock, keeping contact as it pours down. While a common type, there is no deny that the Horsetail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge is a beautiful example. Its visible both on the Historic Columbia River Highway and from I-84, as long as the vegetation remains cut away. You can also go to the falls, where there is a day-use picnic area and two trailheads, one of which takes you to the Upper Horsetail Falls (nicknamed Ponytail Falls). The trail goes behind the base of the falls for a truly amazing experience. Bonus, Horsetail Falls is just a few minutes away via car from Multnomah Falls.
Find Horsetail Falls by taking exit 28 off I-28.
Starvation Creek Falls
Starvation Creek Falls is named after an incident in 1884 when two trains were stuck for two weeks in a blizzard. Though they believe no one actually starved to death, the name stuck. Despite that, it’s actually a popular picnic spot and one of the best falls for ADA access. The 227-foot drop is impressive as it cascades down large boulders with a narrow channel that spills dramatically into a large bowl. The final drops happens right by the picnic area. There are bathrooms at this fall and the pathway is paved.
Find Starvation Creek Falls by taking exit 55 on 1-84 eastbound. If you are driving west, you will have to take exit 51 and turnaround to take exit 55.
Want more? Print out this Waterfall Tour Loop brochure that will take you to 12 waterfalls on the Oregon side. If you are headed east, take exit 17 (eastbound) or exit 35 (westbound) off I-84 to access the beginning of the loop on the Historic Columbia River Highway.