Best Waterfalls To See in Columbia River Gorge

Did you know that Oregon has 238 waterfalls in total? This makes Oregon the second state with the most waterfalls, after Washington. That’s insane! But, that is also why I was so eager to go down and visit beautiful and lush Oregon. Chasing waterfalls might just become my new hobby after this! Just kidding, but it made me want to keep looking for them no matter where I am. 

Looking for the most waterfalls in an area? Well, it’s also the place with the most falls in an area within the world and that is in Columbia River Gorge. The Columbia River Gorge, a 80+ mile long canyon that has the Columbia River run through it, is shared by Washington and Oregon. It has 90 waterfalls just from the Oregon side of it. 

I narrowed down some of those waterfalls that you should chase to just a few of the best (and iconic ones!) to visit as they are a must-see. No matter how famous the waterfall is already, let me tell you… it’s famous for a reason!

How the Columbia River Gorge formed its waterfalls

Had to squeeze in a bit of history here, of course. The Columbia River Gorge is truly a wondrous place. It was back in the last ice age when an ice sheet that blocked the valley of the Clark Fork River in Montana turned to water and it backed up the dam. That water melted more through the dam and those floodwaters then reached the Gorge. In the process it washed away loose rocks and also formed basalt cliffs. These waterfalls were formed from the creeks of where the water is flowing.

Above the Columbia River Gorge Highway

1. Multnomah Falls

I had to mention this first because it’s probably the most popular one you’ve heard about! The Multnomah Falls is also the tallest waterfall in the state at 620-feet. These gorgeous falls can already be seen on the Columbia River Highway and the state found a way to have the parking lot in the middle of the highway and connect you to walk under the highway to get to the waterfalls. 

The Multnomah Falls has three tiers to it: the upper falls, the main falls, and the lower falls. You can see the lower falls from the first moment you walk up to the falls. To get to the part where you see the bridge, you’d have to do a short hike up there and it gives you a pretty nice close-up perspective of the falls. You may even get sprayed up there! 

As you keep going up the trail past these main falls, you could overlook the Columbia River Highway. Keep going up this trail and it’ll lead you to the top tier of the Multnomah Falls, if you want more of a challenge. 

There’s a building adjacent to these falls called the Multnomah Falls Lodge and it contains the gift shop, a restaurant, and food services. Their gift shop is wonderful and has a lot of Oregon-themed trinkets and many more dedicated to the falls. You could also get a tasty snack around the corner.

2. Latourell Falls

One of my favorites, Latourell Falls stands at 249-feet and it is beautiful! Why do I like it a lot? Well, you can really have an opportunity to get close to the lower falls (it’s separated by the upper and lower) and get sprayed on! You can also be mesmerized by the green around it. To get to the upper falls, it is just a 2.4 mile hike.

There are basalt rocks here, therefore you can see the vertical column-like patterns by the falls. These are formed when a layer of lava is contracted as it cools. You can also see the green lichen all over them. This lava occurred 12 to 17 million years ago during a series of volcanic eruptions.⁣

3. Horsetail Falls

These falls are named “horsetail” because that’s what the form of the falls represents! Now if I compare it side by side to a real horsetail, I can see the resemblance! These falls are a bit shorter than the others listed here at 75-feet but you can get quite the feel of it as you stand under. It’s wonderful though and you can see how vividly clear the pool of water is from the falls. The Horsetail Falls is also close to Ponytail Falls, which you can see from doing a short steep hike that connects the two.

4. Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls means “most beautiful” from the Yakama Indian Tribe and one look at the falls, and you can certainly agree how beautiful they are. The Wahkeena Falls can be seen from above these small creek falls as you walk from the parking lot. To see the 242-feet waterfall from the upper falls, there is a hike you can do that includes a few switchbacks through the forest in the beginning. 

5. Bridal Veil Falls

You’ve probably heard of this one, but then again, there are other waterfalls with the same name in Colorado and in Yosemite National Park. Located in Corbett, Oregon perched along the Columbia River Gorge Highway, this easy shaded hike leads to some nice flowing falls. 

6. Punch Bowl Falls

These beautiful falls were closed for quite a while during the pandemic, but it has just reopened as of July 1, 2021. I really wanted to see them, but it was indeed closed at the time I visited Oregon. 

Located in Eagle Creek, one of the most visited recreational areas in the gorge, the Punch Bowl Falls are iconic waterfalls to see as it is used among calendars and postcards. They’re called “punch bowl” because these falls flow out in a deep circular basin and they’re not that tall either, standing at 35-feet! The lower falls is just 15-feet. Cliff jumping and diving is prohibited and can result in a heavy fine.

7. Fairy Falls

These magnificent falls flowing in so many different directions is a water sight to see! With vivid mosses and ferns around them, these falls are just 20-feet and it is located just upstream to Wahkeena Falls as you can see them doing the trail to Wahkeena Falls. It’s adored and captured by many photographers.

Would you want to see any of these waterfalls and see why the Columbia River Gorge is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the United States? Which of these falls would you visit first?

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