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THE BEST WATERFALL HIKES NEAR PORTLAND

10 PLACES

UPDATED JUL 14, 2020

Waterfall hikes are life in the Northwest. You can swim in the summertime (if you can brave the chilly water, of course) and view their often-frozen cascades in the winter. So, slip on your best waterproof boots and head for one of these nearby cascades.

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SARAH GROTHJAN

FITT PORTLAND CONTRIBUTOR

Easily one of the most iconic waterfalls in Oregon, Multnomah Falls is a quick, 30-minute drive from the city. We recommend making a day trip of your visit by extending your drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway to enjoy views of the scenic Columbia River Gorge by car. On your return trip, stop at the waterfall to absorb views from the lower viewing platform (the only platform currently open after the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire). We recommend a visit in the fall, when the turning trees add a pop of color.

By now, you understand the allure of a Northwest waterfall — lush greenery, moss-painted rocks, a crashing waterfall (maybe a small pool fit for a swim if you’re lucky). Throw in a suspension bridge that provides a stellar viewpoint and you’ve got Falls Creek Falls, a modest yet unique waterfall tucked away on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. Fitt Tip: pair this trek with nearby Panther Creek Falls.

This waterfall hike is a rainy-day favorite. The 1.2-mile trail in the Columbia River Gorge is a moderate hike past towering Douglas firs and moss-trimmed maples. Latourell Falls spills from basalt rock painted in a bright green moss, making this a truly stunning sight. Our favorite thing to do here? Relax on a rock with a book and let the crashing waterfall be your backdrop (though, maybe save the reading for a sunny day).

Why visit one waterfall when you can visit ten? This nearly nine-mile loop in Silver Falls State Park (an hour south of Portland) passes ten stunning falls, including three you can walk behind (South Falls, Lower South Falls, and Middle North Falls). Fitt Tip: plan your visits in winter and spring. The falls slow to a trickle in late summer.

This is the perfect waterfall hike for young kids. The trail to this fall is easy and less than a mile round trip. The trail itself is paved, making it a good bet for less-mobile hikers. But just because it’s an easy hike doesn’t mean this fall should be overlooked by other hikers. Bridal Veil Falls is a tiered horsetail waterfall that winds through basalt formations made a fluffy green by—you guessed it—moss. Word of warning: pictures don’t do this place justice. You have to see it for yourself.

Though not often a destination all its own, Lancaster Falls shouldn’t be overlooked. This modest waterfall sits just off the trail to Mount Defiance. Grazing deer often can be spotted relaxing near the fall, which is a beautiful precursor to a difficult hike up Mount Defiance—a steep trail often used by climbers preparing for ascents up Mount Hood.

Tap into your wild side with a short (but steep) rope climb to the breathtaking Toketee Falls, a tiered waterfall about three hours from Portland (we promise it’s worth the drive). Perhaps one of the most photographed falls in Oregon, this stunning fall is surrounded by moss-covered basalt that has been carved into columns by the fall’s mist. We recommend tip-toeing your way across the rocks to get a close-up view of this stunning sight.

Much like Toketee Falls, Abiqua Falls is an Oregon gem. Sure, it’s about an hour from Portland, but this free-falling waterfall is not one to miss. Abiqua Falls is framed by a massive basalt amphitheater with dark green moss clinging to its geometric rock cutouts. Pop a squat on the pebbly “beach” or take a swim toward the thundering fall. Fitt Tip: pack a map for the trek to the trailhead. The path can be difficult to spot.

This is the waterfall hike every Portlander talks about come springtime, and for good reason. The through-hike hike to Lewis River Falls is a stunner year round (it winds through patches of lush old-growth forest in SW Washington) — it comes to life with even more color once the wildflowers begin to bloom. The cascades at the end—and the aqua pool they flow into—are really just a complement to an already beautiful hike. Fitt Tip: check road conditions before heading out. A deteriorating road closed this trail in early August 2018.

Explore the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge for a steep but easy climb to two tiered falls. Running through Beacon Rock State Park, the trail to the falls passes small creeks and modest falls before eventually leading you to the twin horsetail falls. Fitt Tip: pack some food for a mini picnic in the forest.

Editor’s Note, September 2018: Some of our favorites (like Elowah Falls) were left off this list due to closures resulting from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. Please consult the Forest Service website for updates.

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