Hiking the Waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge

by Megan Hill

Jan 2, 2015

Columbia River Gorge, between Oregon and Washington © Jpldesigns | Dreamstime

Destination

The chiseled, mist-shrouded cliffs of the Columbia Gorge run along the border between Washington and Oregon. On the Oregon side, verdant side canyons choked with ferns and moss cradle scores of waterfalls, each slightly different in height, appearance and flow.

 

There are 90 waterfalls to explore along the Columbia River Highway. In fact, you’ll spot sign after sign for a pull-off, overlook, viewpoint or trailhead to these myriad falls. The options can be overwhelming, but with careful planning you can see the best of the Gorge’s many falls in just one day.

 

Starting from the west, the first waterfall you come to is Latourell Falls. This is an ideal first stop to whet your appetite for what’s to come. Latourell’s lower cataract is accessible via a short, paved path that brings you to the base of the thundering 224-foot drop.

 

Heading east, you’ll soon arrive at the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge, behind which sits the Gorge’s most iconic waterfall: two-tiered Multnomah Falls. This is a great place to recharge with a snack or cup of coffee.

 

Stretch your legs on the one-mile trail to Wahclella Falls, tucked in a steep box canyon accented by countless shades of green lichens, ferns and moss. And finally, stop at Lower Punchbowl Falls, which you’ll reach after an easy two-mile hike to a stunning emerald pool and 15-foot falls.

 

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