Recently my daughter Maggie and I took a trip to Portland, Oregon. Our trips are always meant to be adventures! One thing we wanted to do while there was to explore the the Columbia River Gorge and the Multnomah and other waterfalls.
Even though there was a light rain most of the day, we still chose to make our trek to the Columbia River area. When planning a trip you never know what the weather will bring and you just have to make the best of it. I preferred to be a little moist over missing out on this adventure.
It was a pretty straight forward 40 minute drive on Hwy 84 to Exit 28. We simply followed the signs from there to the falls. Our navigation tools consisted of GPS on our phones, a road map (just in case) and our Scenic Byways Brochure which I had ordered online from Travel Oregon before our trip.
The Scenic Byways brochure was actually one of the best planning tools we used on this trip. Each section had road trips outlined with all the major points of interest outlined for you. We also used it for a day trip along the Pacific coast.
Once we arrived at the Falls, we entered the Information Office where I was able to get a Historic Columbia River Hwy map. The man at the Information Desk told me which areas were closed, the best trail options for us and circled points of interest that he thought we shouldn’t miss. There was also a gift shop at this location, and decent restrooms which we took advantage of before heading out to explore. As it turned out this was the only information area that we found during our stops, so even though we did some backtracking later, we were glad that it was our starting point.
The Multnomah Falls were located just behind the building that the Information desk is located in. These falls are probably the most impressive of any that we explored. We were able to view the falls from the ground level observation deck and again from a bridge about half way up. But the path to the top of the falls was closed that day due to rocks.
I would say that these falls were fairly easy to access (at least as far as the second level bridge) even for people with physical constraints. The slope was not as steep as some and the path had rails and benches at the turns if you needed to stop for a minute. I would imagine that the hike from the bridge to the top of the falls might be a little more challenging though.
From Multnomah Falls, we headed back the way we had come in. Within a few minutes, we reached Wahkeena Falls. This was my most challenging climb of the day because the trail is pretty steep. If you have bad hips or knees, the steep grade and lack of benches or hand rails may make it too difficult for you. I would also caution those with small children to keep them close due to the lack of handrails and barriers along the paths edge. I managed to make it to the top, but was pretty out of breath and needed to use my inhaler when we got back to the car (hmmm….should probably have taken that with me, but I don’t have to use it that often).
Once I made it to the top, it was beautiful. Even though there is a guard rail at the observation area, you can actually get very close to these falls. I found it very refreshing letting the spray mist over me. Since it was raining lightly, we were mindful of our footing on the paths. The weather also brought out tons of brown and green slugs that covered the trail. They were super cool and we were careful not to squish them.
From there we made our way to Hwy 30 otherwise known as the Historic Columbia River Highway. There are many waterfalls accessible from this road which runs parallel to Hwy 84.
The Latourell Falls were next for us and could be easily viewed from a few different vantage points. You can see them from the left side of the parking lot and also from an observation area at the right side of the parking lot. If you are up for it, you can also take a walking trail to get even closer. I would say this is path is only a medium slope, but there are still no hand rails.
Out last stop in this direction was at the Crown Point Overlook & Vista House. The gentleman at the Information Desk at Multnomah had said not to miss this as the view was amazing. Even though it was rainy and gray, it did offer a beautiful view point over the Columbia River and Washington state on the other side.
This was the end of the line for us in this direction so we doubled back toward Multnomah Falls and drove just beyond to Horsetail Falls. It was a beautiful waterfall narrow toward the top and splaying out wide at the bottom like a horsetail. We also wanted to see Ponytail Falls, where you can actually go behind the falls. Sadly, we were informed that trail was currently closed.
After that we decided to take our adventure out to the nearby Columbia River where we checked out the Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods on our way toward the Hood River area.
The Bridge of the Gods is a steel truss cantilever bridge that spans the Columbia River between Cascade Locks, Oregon, and Washington state.
We finished our days adventure with a little wine tasting at 2 Columbia Gorge Wineries (post to come). That was a lot to pack into just one day, but we were making the most of our precious time in Oregon.
A friend who would like to visit the falls had asked me to note the degree of difficulty in accessing each of the different falls. Her husband has bad knees and she wanted to make sure that it would be feasible for them to manage. I was glad to do a little scouting on their behalf and hope it is helpful to others as well.
I would highly recommend this area to anyone visiting Portland since it is less than an hour outside the city and there are so many things fairly close together you can explore. Oregon is a beautiful place to visit with so much to offer travelers from the Pacific coastline, to forests, mountains, waterfalls and the amazing city of Portland (which is an adventure of it’s own).
This is a great budget friendly trip because there was no entrance costs or parking fees for any of the Waterfalls or Landmarks that we visited. It was an even more economical day for us since our rental car (a little Ford Fiesta) got about 40 miles to the gallon!
Dream, Plan, Save, ADVENTURE!