Day 3 – Columbia Gorge Waterfalls & Mt. Hood

 

Just taking a drive through the Columbia River Gorge is an experience in itself as you will be in awe of this spectacular geological wonder. The Columbia River is the second largest river in North America, starting in northern Idaho and southeastern British Columbia, and traveling over 1,200 miles to the ocean. Through millenniums of geologic events, waterfalls have found their home in the Columbia River Gorge. In all, 90 major cascades flow here, and we only visited 5 of them. 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. A visit to the area is not complete without a visit to the breathtaking waterfalls.
Columbia River behind us. We are on the Oregon side, across the river is Washington.
 
 

Latourell Falls 

Usually the first falls that visitors encounter in the Columbia River Gorge.  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.

 


Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena means “most beautiful” in Yakama Indian. Wahkeena Falls tumbles 242 ft. down a mountain side. There is a short half-mile hike from the road up to a closer vantage point on a bridge crossing Wahkeena Creek. You will get so close to the falls here, you will get wet for sure. There is usually so much spray here, it is difficult, if not impossible, to photograph the waterfall (especially in the wet season).


Multnomah Falls

In a state where water regularly flows down from upon high, Multnomah Falls — all 620 feet (189 m) of it – stands above the rest as Oregon’s tallest waterfall. Located just 30 miles (48 km) east of downtown Portland along the Historic Columbia River Highway, the two-drop cascade attracts visitors of all types and ages, with both wheelchair-accessible viewing platforms and steep hiking trails that lead all the way to the top. Fed by rainwater and snowmelt, the falls’ steady stream runs year-round, making it a year-round attraction. The highest volume comes in winter and spring, and the falls sometimes freezes partially at the height of winter.

Many visitors make the 1/4-mile hike up to the Benson Bridge, a photogenic foot-crossing built in 1914 by lumber baron Simon Benson, which spans the falls’ second drop. Not just a great place to enjoy the view, it’s also perfect for catching your breath before forging ahead to the top, or returning to the Multnomah Falls Lodge below. Built in 1925, the lodge also has excellent views and is home to a restaurant, gift shop, espresso bar, and U.S. Forest Service interpretive center.

Whether you climb to the top, or peer up from the bottom, dress warmly and wear shoes with traction, because the waterfall’s spray makes the entire area cool and slick. Dressing for the water also means you’re already prepared for rainy weather, if storm clouds happen to roll into the Columbia River Gorge during your visit.

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Horsetail Falls

Immediately to the east, Horsetail Falls takes the distinct form of a tail as it drops 176 feet (54 m). Horsetail Falls is an easy to get to and very impressive horsetail-shaped waterfall (it is named well). There is a pool for swimming or wading, though it might be a bit on the cold side. But we saw some kids playing around in it

Proceed .4 miles (.6 km) east on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Also accessible via Exit 28 or 35 from I-84.

 


We only visited the 5 easy access waterfalls. Maybe there will still be a next time. Our next destination is Trillium Lake, drove about 60 miles to get a glimpse of Mt. Hood. Arriving at Trillium Lake, Mt. Hood’s peak is still covered with clouds. We waited a while until the snow capped mountain appeared. It was really Awesome!

 

Mt. Hood, Oregon 

Just before dark we head back to our hotel.
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