Shake off the summer heat with an awesome adventure filled with dense woodlands, volcanic ridges, and a rushing cascade (or two). From the Columbia River Gorge to the Cascade Mountain foothills, the following 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 will give you just the experience you need to shake off the COVID blues. Read on for all the details.

Pothole Falls by Carrie Uffindell
photo: Carrie Uffindell

Pothole Falls at Lacamas Lake Park

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.

Pandemic Status: Open
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..

Munson Creek Falls

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.

Pandemic status: Park is open dawn to dusk with reduced services.
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.

South Falls by Carrie Uffindell

Silver Falls State Park

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.

Pandemic status: Expect reduced services. No showers. Camping reservations required (no walk-ins). Day-use visitors should plan to turn around if parking lots are full.
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.

photo: Chi T. via yelp

Multnomah Falls

One of the the most popular waterfalls hikes in the Gorge. This 611-foot-tall roaring force of nature lets visitors get up close and personal with its power. According to Native American lore, Multnomah Falls was created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe. And this spot is magical. This hike can be made shorter or longer as there are multiple tiers that offer different views. Each is spectacular, but the lower hike is more appropriate for families with younger children or elderly grandparents.

Pandemic status: Open
Round-trip distance: A moderate, 2.2-mile hike with 700 feet of elevation gain to the top of Multnomah Falls, or a difficult 5.4-mile loop to Wahkeena Falls with 1,600 feet of elevation gain.

—Annette Benedetti

 

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