The waterfalls in The Columbia River Gorge, home to the tallest and most photographed waterfall in Oregon, Multnomah Falls, are abundant and fairly easy to get to year round for photography.
There are so many waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge that I will be working on this part for a long time!
I'd like to preface that I am highlighting the waterfalls that are the easy ones to get too. These are just off the highway and a very short walk on good trails. There are many, many more that require some intensive hiking and from what I've heard are well worth the effort.
The Multnomah Falls are a must see. In the Columbia River Gorge, just a hop off the freeway, follow the signs and you are there!
"Amazing. Breathtaking. Enchanting" are all words you will see when reading comments about these falls. All are true.
We went on a day when we just need some breathing space and natural wonder to take our minds off some pending good/bad news. It was everything we had hoped for. Nature sure has a way of lightening the mood!
There is also a snack shop and a coffee bar here so double fantastic!
Beyond that there is a REALLY nice restaurant in the Multnomah Falls Lodge.
where dining rooms feature romantic fireside dining in the Great Room, beautiful falls view tables in the atrium style Falls Room, or dramatic falls view and sounds from the Patio in the summer months. Sadly, the “lodge” part is now in name only. There are no lodgings.
I’ve seen photographs of these falls when they are frozen and I am definitely making that trip this winter! I am thinking some nice frozen falls pictures and then a hot toddy by the fire at the lodge.
Multnomah Falls height is given as 620 feet and it is said at a sign at the site of the falls as the second tallest year-round waterfall in the United States but that claim is apparently up for debate among waterfall experts.
That cool bridge in the middle is named after Simon Benson, who had the bridge built in 1914. Benson also gave Portland land that included most of Multnomah Falls as well as nearby Wahkeena Falls. (Below)
There are a few nice hikes you can take from Multnomah Falls.
“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.”Oregon.com hiking guide".
In the fall the area lights up with great autumn color making for some spectacular photography (which I have none of yet...boo hoo.)
Really, I think you would have to fall over the rain into the pond, or drop your camera in the toilet to get a bad photograph here.
The next in line of the waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge right off the highway on the same road west of Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena Falls is a nice long waterfall that goes way back. I would like to make the time to hike that trail up to the bridge you can see in the distance.
This time though, there were a bunch of nuns playing in the water, penguin style nuns. You get the picture (and I should have…) it was oddly cool.
There was also a couple there with a giant Shmoo looking thing that they were taking on a travel tour.
Yes, definitely odd, but in a good way.
Next in line of waterfalls westbound in the Columbia River Gorge, Bridal Veil Falls is a lovely 100 ft long waterfall that has some really nice opportunities for those shots with lots of “river running over the rocks” in front that not only make for wonderful waterfall shots but also great HDR images.
There are some lovely pathways, benches and bridges along the 2/3 mile trip from the parking lot to the falls.
The images from the bridge are excellent opportunities, but be sure to actually go up to the viewing platform!
This was the last in my line here of waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge is Latourell Falls until I managed to go to Horsetail (next).
At 249ft this is a beautiful long waterfall. I was there right at noon so the sun was overhead which made for a lousy upward shot.
Originally when I drove by Latrouell Falls I saw that the whole parking area on the Historic Columbia River Highway is fenced off under construction with no entrance to them. Fortunately when I was at Bridal Veil Falls the camp hosts told me how to access Latourell Falls!
(I’m happy to share.)
To get to these falls you have to drop down into the town of Latourell, there are 12 homes in this town and I had a nice long chat with one of the residents, Daryl, about the town (which I will highlight on the small towns page when I get it finished!).
So, for now, turn down off the Historic Columbia River Highway where you see the sign for Guy W. Talbot State Park. Coming from the west that is BEFORE you get to the construction area.
As soon as you pass the big brown barn looking building (which is the old schoolhouse under renovation) turn right. Follow that street to the end where you see what appears to be a headstone at the entrance to the park (it’s a monument to pioneers.) Follow the unmarked trail up and then off to the left. You can hear the falls. The trail will take you down under the bridge, which is very photogenic, and eventually dead ends at the bridge in front of the falls.
This last time I managed in the rain to drop my lens hood for my big lens on the bridge. It bounced RIGHT IN TO THE RIVER and took off. I bet it was at the ocean before we got back to Bend.
Update: The access on the highway is back open and it is super easy to get to the base of the falls from there. The town is nice to go in to though but we found the bathrooms locked in the winter and had to make other arrangements. A squirrel sat there the whole time and chewed me out.
These waterfalls have some great patterns on the rocks behind the falls.
There’s a sign propped up at the foot of the bridge from there that says “Trail Closed”. No one pays any attention to it. If you feel the need to climb over to get the extra 50 ft to the best viewpoint for photos, I really think there is no problem. They just don’t want you hiking up to the construction.
Note: When I went in the winter the sign was gone :)
Horsetail Falls is the last in line heading east on the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway. It is right on the highway and accessible to all. In fact, without a wide angle lens, from the road it's hard to get a good image of the whole thing.
At 192 feet it is a beautiful fall shaped like.....a horsetail :)
In the summer kids play in the pool at the base of the falls.
I have only touched a few of the many waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. There are a lot more with varying degrees of difficulty to get to.
Many great hiking guides are available as well as online information. Below is a database of the waterfalls just to give you some idea.