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The Columbia River Gorge is a waterfall lover’s dream.
As you drive east from Portland on I-84, the scenery begins to change. The cityscape dissipates, making way for lush greenery and jutting cliffs as the road parallels the Columbia River, snaking through the steep rocks. You’re in the Columbia River Gorge.
Unfortunately, in September 2017, the disastrous Eagle Creek Fire burned 49,000 acres of the beloved Gorge, causing the closure of numerous hiking trails, including Wahclella Falls, Tunnel Falls, Elowah Falls, Dry Creek Falls, Horsetail Falls, and Wahkeena Falls. Though some of these are viewable by car, here are the four must-see waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge that weren’t affected by the fire.
As you drive east from Portland, Latourell Falls is the first major waterfall you’ll see. Composed of a lower and upper falls, Latourell cascades 224 feet. The lower falls are viewable by car; however, a 2.1 mile loop trail hike is required for visitors who’d like to scope out the upper falls.
The most popular of the Columbia River Gorge falls, Multnomah Falls, plunges 635 feet in two tiers, crossing under the iconic Benson bridge on its way down. The Oregon treasure is viewable by car and easily accessible with a lodge and vista point that requires little walking. Visitors can trek up to the bridge for a spectacular view, but unfortunately, the rest of the hiking trail has been damaged by the fire and is currently closed.
Bridal Veil Falls is full, lush, and extremely easy to get to. If you keep going east through the Gorge on the Historic Columbia River Highway, you’ll stumble upon this beauty, and when there’s enough water flowing, it truly looks like its namesake. The highway passes over the falls on a bridge, and a short .3 mile jaunt from the parking lot leads to a nice view of the waterfall as it plunges 118 feet.
Don’t let the name fool you—Starvation Creek Falls is anything but famished. In fact, it’s a great place to stop for lunch while you cruise along the Gorge. Accessible from the popular rest area of the same name, follow the signs to the waterfall and have a picnic at one of the tables at the base of the falls.