BlogMay 2024

Hiking Along the Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls

Hiking Along the Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls

By Jeff Bogle

May 27, 2024

Check out the most specular Columbia River Gorge waterfalls and discover the best family-friendly hiking waterfalls in Oregon along the way!

The best waterfalls near Portland are the famous Columbia River Gorge waterfalls, and they are remarkable to see and experience up close with family and friends! Whether you are looking for family-friendly hikes in Washington, Columbia River Gorge waterfall hikes, or just want to get moving in the Great Outdoors, you don’t have to drive far from the fun in downtown Portland before reaching an outdoor adventure paradise along the Historic Columbia River Highway. If you are planning to do some spring camping or just want to find hiking waterfalls for a beautiful summer afternoon, let’s take a look at these Pacific Northwest waterfalls and discover the best Columbia River Gorge hikes along the way!

Multnomah Falls

It’s not the first waterfall you’ll come upon driving east from Portland, but it may be the first that takes your breath away! Multnomah Falls is the most famous and popular of all the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls, and for good reason. There’s a lower falls you can see from the parking lot but to feel the power of nature, take the hike to the upper falls to stand on the Multnomah Creek Bridge that was built in 1914 and before the mighty falls that rise up 620 feet above the highway. These falls are estimated to be about 15,000 years old and were noted by the explorers Lewis and Clark early in the 19th-century. For hiking waterfalls pick up the trail along the footpaths ascending to the Multnomah Falls' obser-vation deck, and gain access to a 5.4-mile loop trail that will take you to other nearby Columbia River Gorge waterfalls.

Bridal Veil

Just before you reach the ghost town of the same name, you will find the impressive Bridal Veil falls just 30 minutes from Portland. This two-tiered waterfall tumbles down 118 feet over mossy rocks, providing amazing photography and easy hiking opportunities. You’ll need to traverse a 2/3-mile trail (round-trip) to see the falls but the hike is gentle with almost no elevation. It’s also pet-friendly (on a leash)! For more robust Columbia River Gorge hikes, go a few minutes further up the road to the small parking lot for Angel’s Rest trailhead. This hike will take you up 1,500 feet through a lush rainforest with views of the Columbia River, smaller waterfalls, bridges, and wildflowers along the way to a stunning view of the gorge from the top.

Wahclella Falls Trail

For Columbia River Gorge waterfall hikes that are family-friendly, ideal for running, and pet-friendly, there’s the 1.9-mile out-and-back trail that is rated easy and great for birding, too. You’ll see a lot of other hikers and of course, waterfalls! For scenic drives Washington, cruise along the Columbia River with your hiking boots in the trunk, to the Wahclella Falls Trail for views of some of the prettiest Oregon waterfalls. Need some new boots or hiking gear for your kids before heading to the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls? Check out these outdoor gifts for everyone on your list.

Latourell Falls

The closest of the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls to Portland, Latourell Falls is also one of the best hiking waterfalls thanks to a loop trail that is rated easy and is family-friendly. You’ll see the 224-foot, single-plunge waterfall, wildlife, birds, a creek, moss, and tall cedar and Douglas fir trees as you spy views of mountains in the distance. If you are searching for family friendly hikes Washington, this one right across the Columbia River is hard to beat (but as of late 2023, also hard to find parking for due to some construction).


Make sure you are prepared and have everything you need for your waterfall hikes in Oregon and Washington with these tips for summer hiking!

Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle
Jeff is a dad of teen daughters, avid traveler, photographer, and freelance writer. He’s penned stories on family travel, outdoor recreation, the environment, parenting, and more for Fodor’s, Reader’s Digest, Parents Magazine, Good Housekeeping, PBS, and Esquire, among other publications. Find him on his blog, and on Instagram @OWTK. Jeff is also the publisher of the quarterly literary zine, Stanchion