The Ultimate Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls Road Trip

I came to the Columbia River Gorge for the first time about 4 years ago. I only had a few hours at this magnificent place, so I vowed to come back and explore it even more. I mean, the CRG has vineyards, green rolling hills, waterfalls, and tall, striking mountains. It has everything! So since I have moved to Washington, I now explore this area at least once a year. The Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls are what I love most about this area, so I have decided to pick my favorite ones! This post is a great way to start planning your ultimate Pacific Northwest Road trip. Enjoy and get ready for some serious waterfall chasing.

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Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls Map

How To Get To The Columbia River Gorge

Credit: Google Maps

The wonderful area that is the Columbia River Gorge is only an half-hour drive away from the Portland International Airport. Please note that I added the Vista House as the starting point of the road trip. If you are staying at Hood River, it is around an hour away from the airport.

Please Note: There was a fire in 2017 that closed many of the trails and waterfalls called the Eagle Creek Fire. I did not go to any of the closed areas, but some trails have opened up since.

What To Pack For The Columbia River Gorge If You Are Hiking

  1. Sunscreen: It might be extremely sunny!  >Buy Sunscreen
  2. Chapstick: This one has SPF so your lips won’t get burned! >Check Out This Chapstick
  3. Hiking Boots/Shoes: If you want to hike any of the trails (especially Spirit Falls) then you need some good quality hiking shoes. >Check Out My Hiking Shoes
  4. Hiking socks: Having the correct socks helps you prevent getting blisters. Smart Wool is probably my favorite brand out there. >Buy Hiking Socks
  5. Water Reservoir: Water reservoirs help prevent me from getting dehydrated while hiking. The great thing about this reservoir is that it doesn’t have a plastic taste. >Here Is My Water Reservoir
  6. Water: Stay nice and hydrated.
  7. Sunglasses: It can get sunny all year round, so make sure to pack some sunglasses. >Check Out These Sunglasses
  8. Snacks: The best snacks are jerky, nuts, and energy bars. >>>I Love These Bars
  9. Camera: The Sony A6000 was one of the first cameras I started traveling with. The Sony A6000 is an excellent camera for people that want to start improving at travel photography.  >Buy Sony Camera Here
  10. First Aid Kit: This is one of the first things I bought when I first started going on adventures. It is super portable. >Buy This Awesome First Aid Kit Here
  11. Day Pack: To carry all your gear, water, and food, you need a good backpack. Osprey is known to have some of the best backpacks in the market. >Buy This Great Quality Backpack
  12. Headlamp: A headlamp is an absolute must in case you get stranded in the dark! It is a lot more portable and easier to use than a flashlight. >Buy A Headlamp Now
  13. Leggings or Hiking Pants: I always wear leggings while hiking because it is what I feel most comfortable with! >Click For My Favorite Hiking Leggings
  14. Breathable sweat-wicking shirts: Cotton shirts soak up your sweat when hiking, so make sure to wear something breathable. >Check out this awesome breathable shirt here.
  15. Mid Base Layer: If you are hiking in the winter, this might be a great idea. >Check Out My Sweater Here
  16. Sports Bra: For women. >Check This One Here
  17. Jacket: I always have a jacket in my backpack, even if it is hot. I do it just in case of an emergency.  >Buy My Favorite Jacket
  18. Rain Jacket: The worst feeling in the world is being wet and cold while hiking. You can get hypothermia, so always carry a poncho or a rain jacket when you hike in Oregon. If you look closely at my pictures, it is raining in most pictures. >Check Out My Rain Jacket Here
  19. Tripod: This is an optional item, but it is excellent for getting the ideal silky waterfall pictures. >Check out this tripod
  20. Knife: I always carry a knife in my backpack just in case. >Check Out My Knife Here

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Where To Stay At The Columbia River Gorge

  • Hood River Hotel: Hood River Hotel is the oldest hotel in Hood River, Oregon, and has been updated with a cute modern style. There is a restaurant on-site, and it is pet friendly.>>>Book Here
  • Best Western Plus Columbia River Inn: This hotel is closer to many attractions and includes a free daily breakfast. >>>Book Here
  • Best Western Plus Hood River Inn: Beautiful hotel with fantastic views of the Gorge. The restaurant is amazing, and there is also a private beach area. >>>Book Here

Best Time To Visit Columbia River Waterfalls

Since most people stay at Hood River when visiting this area, I listed the average temperatures of the town.

  • Spring: This is a fantastic time to visit. Rain is rare, the flowers are blooming, and the green rolling hills are stunning to witness. This is the second busiest time to visit.
  • Summer: These months see the least amount of rain, but it is the busiest. The temperatures are also pretty warm.
  • Fall: If you are on a budget, this is a great time to visit as the hotel prices are low due to low visitation. But it is rainier than Spring and Summer.
  • Winter: Expect snow and rain during these months. The crowds are low, but this is a great time to visit if you are into winter adventures. I came during Christmas in December, and I was able to see most of the waterfalls on this list.

Where To Eat While Visiting Columbia Gorge Waterfalls

Clark & Lewie’s Travelers Rest Saloon & Grill

Due to the Pandemic, there were not many restaurants for me to try out while I was there, but here are the restaurants I did try:

  • Clark & Lewie’s Travelers Rest Saloon & Grill: I loved this restaurant and came back twice! Once in June and once in December. The views of the patio were fantastic, and the food was great. >>>Check Out The Website
  • Riverside: I ate brunch on a beautiful summer day, and the views and food were fantastic. >>>Check Out The Website Here

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls Road Trip

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls Oregon

Vista House

I know this is technically not a waterfall, but I had to include the Vista House. It is one of the most iconic buildings of the Columbia River Gorge, and it is freaking stunning to witness. It is the first stop on the Historic Columbia River Highway.

I will say that I visited on a terribly cold, windy, and rainy day, so my picture does not do it justice. Also, I was a bit scared to take a picture because it was extremely windy! To the point where I felt like I was going to fly off the cliff. I was also scared for my poor camera and phone. So be careful when you are here.

Latourell Falls

The lovely bridge next to the falls
One of my favorite Oregon waterfalls: Latourell Falls
  • Distance: 2 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 633 ft.
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Guide: Link

I really enjoyed Latourell Falls. The bridge in front of the falls is just uber-cute, and the moss surrounding the area really makes this a fun and colorful waterfall to capture, even on a dreary, rainy day (yes, it was raining in the pictures above).

To get to Latourell Falls, you need to walk down only for a minute, so experiencing this waterfall is doable for everyone as the path is paved and short. If you want more of a challenge, do the 2-mile loop to see Upper Latourell Falls.

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Bridal Veil Falls

  • Distance: 0.5 mile round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 78 ft.
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Guide: Link

Bridal Veil Falls is another easy stop. That is why I love the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, as you can see all these fantastic places without much work! I love hiking, but sometimes there are days that I want to relax and not work too hard to see some beauty. Bridal Veil Falls is a perfect example. Take an easy stroll to this lovely waterfall (around 0.25 miles one way) and enjoy this mystical place.

Wahkeena Falls and Fairy Falls

  • Distance: 4.7 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1591 ft.
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Guide: Link

Wahkeena Falls is pretty close to Multnomah Falls, so you can combine both trails and do the Wahkeena Falls Loop, which is 4.7-miles. If that is too much hiking for you, I still recommend hiking to the bridge right next to Wahkeena Falls. It is a fantastic spot to take family photos. You can also hike to Lemmons Viewpoint and Fairy Falls if you want to make the hike more challenging.

Multnomah Falls

One of the best waterfalls in Oregon: Multnomah Falls
  • Distance: 2 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 823 ft.
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Guide: Link

The world-famous Multnomah Falls is something from fairy tale books. This waterfall that I had been dying to see for years was finally right in front of me, and it really did take my breath away. Even my husband was impressed by it, and he really isn’t that impressed with waterfalls (he is more into mountain views).

You can witness part of the waterfall from the 84 highway. So make sure you park and walk on over to the waterfall. You will spot the cute Multnomah Falls Lodge, and behind it is the tallest waterfall in Oregon: Multnomah Falls. You don’t need to hike to see the waterfall, so even if you are not a hiker, you should definitely stop and witness this beauty.

There is an option of doing a 2-mile hike. However, it was closed due to covid at the time I was there.

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Horsetail Falls and Ponytail Falls

  • Distance: 0.9 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 331 ft.
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Guide: Link

Horsetail Falls is a great waterfall to stop at and take photos. No hiking necessary! If you want to see another beautiful waterfall hike to Pony Tail Falls. It is an extremely easy and short hike to do with the whole family. And the waterfall is stunning!

Dry Creek Falls

  • Distance: 4.9 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1059 ft.
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Guide: Link

I really enjoyed hiking to Dry Creek Falls. Not many people were on the trail when we did it, and so we had this waterfall all to ourselves. What I loved about Dry Creek Falls is how much greenery there was. The whole area is filled with lush moss, bushes, and trees. Simply lovely.

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls Washington

So I know that the most popular waterfalls are on the Oregon side of the CRG, but I still wanted to talk about a few of the waterfalls on the Washington side. The reason for that is because these waterfalls are freaking stunning and worth the drive across the border.

Spirit Falls

  • Distance: 0.8 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 505 ft.
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Trail Guide: Link

The first one on this list is Spirit Falls. Don’t let the mileage fool you. It is steep and difficult! Many people have gotten hurt on this hike, and it is not recommended for children, especially in the wintertime. When we went, we got a really cool show of kayakers going down on the waterfall. It was was amazing to witness!

Panther Creek Falls

  • Distance: 0.16 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 100 ft.
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Guide: Link

This waterfall is also on the Washington side, and it is technically not that close to the Columbia River Gorge. However, I still included it because it is so magnificent and pretty easy to get to. I mean, the mileage is only 0.16 miles round trip! I highly recommend coming to the Washington side to see this beauty.

Lower Falls Creek Trail

  • Distance: 3.4 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 600 ft.
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Guide: Link

Another waterfall on the Washington side and a bit out of the way is Fall Creek Falls. I still included it because it is my favorite waterfall in Washington State, and the drive isn’t too bad. I mean, look at the picture! So breathtaking! I also enjoyed the hike a lot. I feel like this is a great hike for the whole family.

Other Columbia River Gorge Hikes

Starvation Creek Falls

  • Distance: 0.2 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 104 ft.
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Guide: Link

Eagle Creek Trail/ Metlako Falls

  • Distance: 25.3 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 6256 ft.
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Guide: Link

Larch Mountain Trail

  • Distance: 15 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 3989 ft.
  • Route Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trail Guide: Link

Elowah Falls and Upper McCord Creek Falls Trail

  • Distance: 2.4 miles, roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 862 ft.
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Guide: Link

Final Thoughts On Columbia River Gorge Falls

Thanks for reading all about these awesome waterfalls near the Columbia River Gorge. Make sure to check out some of my other blog posts:

  • The Best Things To Do On The Oregon Coast
  • The Ultimate Road Trip Checklist
  • 25 Amazing Oregon Waterfalls You Need To See Today
  • The Perfect 10 Day Oregon Road Trip Itinerary
  • The Ultimate Pacific Northwest Road Trip Itinerary
  • 16 Fun Things To Do In Astoria Oregon

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