Where it rains, it pours — waterfalls, that is. A great side effect of the Portland area’s wet winter weather is a steady stream of cascades running throughout the region. (Many of these breathtaking sites are only a short shuttle bus or scenic bike ride away, to boot.) Get your fill of natural wonders at these waterfalls near Portland.
Columbia River Gorge waterfalls
Fed by glaciers and swollen by snowmelt and prodigious winter rains, the waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area — an 80-mile-long (129 km) swath carved out by ancient floodwaters — plunge from sheer cliffs, hidden slot canyons and rock grottos rimmed by massive trees and moss in a thousand shades of emerald and jade. In all, 90 major cascades flow here, alongside countless other smaller falls. Luckily for visitors, many of these misty gems are accessible year-round, either by short hikes or from roadside pullouts on the Historic Columbia River Highway, which parallels Interstate 84.
Usually the first falls that visitors encounter in the Columbia River Gorge, Latourell Falls is just east of the must-see views of Crown Point, and along a 2.1-mile (3.4 km) loop where hikers can watch it drop straight down, 224 feet (68 m). It’s just a short walk to the lower falls, but a tougher uphill hike brings more daring explorers closer to the upper falls. Flowing strongest in winter and spring, Latourell gets a bit of sun in the summer, making for photos that are just as stunning.
Take Exit 22 from I-84 to the Historic Columbia River Highway, stopping first at the Vista House at Crown Point, then proceeding 2.4 miles (3.9 km) to Latourell Falls.
Bridal Veil Falls
Located 27 miles (43 km) east of Portland just off Interstate 84, the misty, white Bridal Veil Falls consists of a pair of quick cascades that are well worth the short but steep half-mile hike to the viewing platform. An upper trail also leads to cliffs that reveal great views of the Columbia River Gorge.
Proceed another mile (1.6 km) east on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Also accessible via Exit 28 from I-84.
Waterfalls in other areas
Tucked away in Mount Hood National Forest, Ramona Falls drapes like a 120-foot (37 m), near-sheer curtain over the basalt rock face beneath, a gorgeous midpoint for a seven-mile (11 km) round-trip hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Keep in mind, wilderness restrictions apply in this area, and to reach it, permits are required from mid-May to mid-October. The waterfall is located 57 miles (92 km) from Portland, attracting campers and day-trippers alike.
A 60-mile (97 km) drive south of Portland in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Silver Falls State Park is a popular spot for hikers because of its Trail of Ten Falls. An 8.7-mile (14 km) loop, the trail is only moderately difficult, and though it can get crowded (especially in the spring when flows are heaviest), it provides 12 months of waterfall watching. The park has plenty of campgrounds, picnic spots and a historic lodge that’s open 365 days per year. There are also four waterfalls that you can walk behind, so be sure to dress for warmth and wet. Full article on Silver Falls State Park >>