Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

nullThe Columbia River Gorge was formed eons ago by catastrophic events. After the ice glaciers started to melt, huge quantities of water were held back by natural ice dams. When the dams broke, torrents of water and boulders came rushing down to carve this beautiful gorge. But you don’t need to know the history of this natural wonder to enjoy its beauty.

The scenic and historic Columbia River Highway will take you from the town of Troutdale, close to Portland, to the town of Dalles 75-miles away and passes by high overlooks and plentiful waterfalls. See the full article about Portland, Oregon here.

nullThe first stop on the road to the waterfalls is a place jokingly called the Million Dollar Outhouse. The rest stop and vista point was supposed to be built on a budget but ended up costing too much.

Interesting Facts: The Gorge starts from British Columbia and ends at Astoria on the Oregon Coast. It spans 260,000 square miles in 7 states.

The building sits on a promontory with a great view of the river and hills on the Oregon and Washington sides. On a windy or rainy day, the indoors viewing gallery with its floor to ceiling windows provides shelter while you are enjoying the views. Downstairs you can find restrooms and a coffee shop.

Waterfalls

The Gorge has 26 waterfalls, some on the Washington side. There isn’t enough time in one day to explore all of them, but here are the most popular ones.

Multnomah Falls

nullThis is the most iconic fall in Oregon and the most visited and photographed. It also has the highest plunge of 620 feet – with a beautiful bridge that brings visitors closer to the roaring water and the mist.

Interesting Facts: Multnomah is considered the tallest waterfall in Oregon. The water mainly comes from underground springs and snow melt.

There is a short trail that takes you to the bridge. This is an easy and accessible hike that anyone can make. But if you are up to the challenge, you should continue on the steep trail that takes you to the top of the falls where you can find another small waterfall. Tip: If you go on the bridge and continue on the trail

Tip: If you go on the bridge and continue on the trail past the bridge be ready to get wet. The mist from the fall is very strong in this area.

Multnomah Falls area has a visitor center, café and a nice restaurant with a view. The food here is very good, but the view is even better. I enjoyed my pancake breakfast will watching the amazing waterfall.

Wahkeena Falls

nullWahkeena drops from a height of 242 feet, but it flows down from this height gently. Like Multnomah, it has a bridge that you need to hike to for best views of the fall.

Interesting Facts: The word Wahkeena in the Yakima Indian language means “Most Beautiful” – a very fitting name.

The fall is close to Multnomah and connected by a hiking trail. The hike between the 2 falls is easy with surprising small waterfalls and cascades along the way.

Tip: The parking lot at Multnomah is usually full on the weekends, so park at Wahkeena instead, enjoy this waterfall, then hike to Multnomah.

Bridal Veil Falls

Another great waterfall with two cascades of water plunging from a height of 160 feet. The gushing water flows under the Historic Highway. Although you can view the falls from the viewing platform next to the road, for

Although you can view the falls from the viewing platform next to the road, for the best view you should try the 1-mile round trip hike. It is steep with a lot of switchbacks, but it is worth the effort.

Other Falls at the Gorge

nullSome of the other falls worth mentioning are:

  • Latourell Falls (249 feet): Visible from the road, but requires a hike for a better view
  • Horsetail Falls (176 feet): A nice waterfall that you can walk behind
  • Punch Bowl Falls: (35 feet): A smaller fall that runs into a punch bowl shaped pool.

Hiking through the Gorge

This is my favorite way to enjoy the gorge and its waterfalls. Take one of the many trails that connect the falls and get close to nature. The “Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop Hike” connects Multnomah with Wahkeena falls and is considered a moderate hike.

You can start this hike from either waterfall. The trail is about 5 miles long and your elevation gain is only about 1600 feet. Along the way, you will see 8 named waterfalls, plenty of unnamed water cascades and verdant moss and trees. Some of the falls will require a short side detour to get to.

Tip: Although it is not a difficult trail, it can be rough at times. Take special care during wet or icy conditions. It could be very slippery.

nullI did this hike on a rainy day in April. I parked my car at Wahkeena and walked to Multnomah. After the exceptional rains of 2017, everything was so vibrant and water was running everywhere.

Biking through the Gorge

Yes, it is possible to bike all the way from Portland to the waterfalls at the Gorge. It is not all easy going, but it can be done. Here is a very detailed map of the bike trails through the Gorge

Easy Ride

The Easy CLIMB Trail is a 2-mile loop at the Cascade Locks Port and offers an easy intro to biking the gorge.

This is a mostly flat trail that winds through river beaches and meadows.

Moderate Ride

This trail goes along the Historic Columbia River Highway from the town of Troutdale to Cascade Locks. The bikes share the road with cars for most of the way. This trail passes by many of the most popular waterfalls at the Gorge., including Multnomah Falls.

Guided Tours

Before I went exploring on my own, I decided to try a guided tour through the Gorge. This was a great decision. I went with Hub World Tours on a full day tour of the Gorge and Mt Hood. The tour was very well organized and informative. It was a good way to get introduced to a new place. Read the full story here …

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