5 Can’t-Miss Cascades 30 Minutes from Portland
As long-time New Yorkers we not only feel at home in lively and vibrant cities, we prefer them. And downtown Portland, Oregon, reminded us of the best of our hometown — only smaller and with more bicycles and way more waterfalls.
Okay, so the waterfalls aren’t really in downtown, but they might as well be. In the amount of time it takes a New York subway to travel from City Hall to the Metropolitan Museum of Art you can drive from Portland’s bustling city center to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and its more than 77 waterfalls.
And getting there couldn’t be easier. A 30-minute drive east on I-84 out of Portland brings you to Exit 22 and the Historic Columbia River Highway. Drive another winding and scenic six miles north to reach your first waterfall.
Unique among this area’s largest waterfalls, Latourell plunges without interruption from its full 240-foot height. The lower falls, seen here, is visible a short walk from the parking area. A two-mile round trip hike leads to another 100-foot upper falls that visitors can see from underneath if they choose.
Bridal Veil Falls
A short but steep half-mile trail takes you through the woods, along a stream, and to the base of this two-tiered, 120-foot waterfall.
To find Bridal Veil from Latourell simply drive two miles north on Historic Columbia River Highway and look for the large signs, and often large crowds, that identify these scenic locations.
From the road, Wahkeena looks to be nothing more than a trickle. Another short half-mile hike into the woods (this time climbing a couple hundred feet) leads to another fantastic double waterfall.
Wahkeena is found three miles north of Bridal Veil on Historic Columbia River Highway.
Certainly Oregon’s tallest, and arguably its most stunning, Multnomah Falls cascades 611 feet behind a single-arch stone bridge in a picture-perfect display of everything a waterfall should be.
Visitors can admire its full height and magnificence from an easily accessible viewing platform at the base, or use this as a starting point for a number of hikes. The most common is the steep, switchback-laden ascent to the top of the falls, which also includes a trip across the Benson Bridge. From the top, a network of trails leads intrepid hikers to several other waterfalls.
Multnomah Falls is just one mile north of Wahkeena on the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Another drive-up waterfall awaits just three miles further north. A hiking trail leads away from the road and toward more waterfalls, including Upper Horsetail and Oneonta.
Where to Find Them
(Note. At the time we took this trip we found Exit 22 closed. Alternatively you can use Exit 28 which leads immediately to Bridal Veil Falls.)