Ring in spring with an awesome adventure filled with dense woodlands, volcanic ridges, and a rushing cascade (or two) this spring. From the Columbia River Gorge to the Cascade Mountain foothills, here are six of our favorite waterfall hikes, all located within sixty miles of the Portland area. Whether you’re looking for a level, stroller-friendly path or a dazzling misty payoff, these trails do not disappoint. Read on for all the details.
For a quick hike in the metro area, head to 312-acre Lacamas Lake Park. At the play area, follow the gravel path circling the lake through the trees. Nestled a short distance off the main trail is the falls, named for the round holes punched into the rock. An unexpected highlight is the fish screen and dam, located on the south side of the lake. With several sections of moderately steep terrain, this walk isn’t suitable for strollers. Make a day of it with visits the park’s other two waterfalls, also located off the main loop.
Round-trip distance: 1.2 mile (Round Lake Loop)
When You Go: Free. The park is located 15 miles east of Vancouver, WA off Highway 14. Spots in front fill up fast, so look for the large overflow lot at the north end.
This elegant, 224-foot cascade is one of the most picturesque in the Gorge, its rocky shelf splashed with green and orange lichen. And bonus – concealed in the trees above is Upper Latourell Falls, reached via a loop leaving from the Historic Columbia River Highway. You’ll find the main trail to the left of the main viewpoint. Climb steadily along Latourell Creek, staying on the path to avoid several cliff ledges. This hike is best suited for experienced young trailblazers.
Round-trip distance: 2.4-miles
When You Go: Free. From Portland, take I-84 east to Bridal Veil (exit 28) and turn right on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Go 2.8 miles until you see the Latourell parking lot on your left.
Tucked away in a protective cove at the end of an easy, 0.3-mile descent is this two-tier, 118-foot cascade. After cooling off in the shade, enjoy a picnic near the surrounding fields, known for colorful displays of wildflowers. If time permits, check out the paved upper path, perfect for strollers and wheelchairs, and wide-angle views of the Gorge. Both are great options for families with young children.
Round-trip distance: 0.6 miles out and back
When You Go: Free. From Portland, take I-84 east to Bridal Veil, exit 28. Turn right on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Drive less than a mile, until you see the parking lot on your right.
The short, winding path – perfect for little legs – follows along the creek to an impressive 319-foot tumbler, the tallest in the Coast Range. The protected site, located south of Tillamook, is a 62-acre timber-turned-natural area, so be sure to enjoy the old-growth western red cedar, moss-draped maples, wildflowers, and other flora and fauna along the way. In late fall and winter, the waters are home to spawning salmon.
Round-trip distance: 0.6 miles, out and back
When You Go: Free. From Portland, take Highway 26 west approximately 77 miles. Turn left on Munson Creek Road. Note: Parking is limited and no restrooms are available.
Peek behind a 177-foot torrent of water at this 9,200-acre Oregon park, situated in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Of the ten waterfalls sprinkled throughout the park, South Falls is one of the most accessible – and dramatic – for families. From the South Falls lot, follow the main path (and the sound of rushing water) past the lodge to a viewpoint above. From there, descend 400 feet to explore a cave behind the falls. For the full 2.6-mile loop, continue on to Lower South Falls. Or, for a shorter 1-mile walk, return via the scenic bridge.
Round-trip distance: 2.6-mile (Maple Ridge Loop)
When You Go: $5/vehicle. Head south some 55 miles to Silverton. From Silverton, take Highway 214 almost 16 miles south until you reach the park. Follow the signs to the South Falls Day Use Area.
Horsetail Falls Trail
Plunging 176 feet, Horsetail Falls is an easy stop for families with young ones, located within view of the Historic Columbia River Highway. For more behind-the-falls thrills, continue on to Ponytail Falls (aka Upper Horsetail Falls), a 0.4-mile ascent that allows you to walk behind a 75-foot waterfall. Just follow Trail #438 from the Horsetail Falls Trailhead and plan to bask in the cool mist that awaits at the top. As of spring 2019, the trail continuing on to Oneonta Canyon is closed due to the Eagle Creek Fire. For more information, click here.
Round-trip distance: 0.8 miles out and back
When You Go: Free. From Portland, take I-84 east to Exit 28 for Bridal Veil. Follow the Historic Columbia River Highway east about 6 miles until you see the parking lot on your left.