The Best Waterfalls Near Portland, Oregon

Wahclella Falls in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is simply enchanting
Wahclella Falls in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is simply enchanting | © Terry Donnelly / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Kathryn Beeson
15 July 2020

Given its position on the majestic Columbia River and the jagged gorges it runs through, it’s no wonder Portland is within a stone’s throw of several dramatic waterfalls. Culture Trip’s local insiders share their favorite spots for a day out in Oregon.

North Falls

Natural Feature

Want to walk behind a waterfall, in a secret grotto below an ancient lava flow with water flowing above your head? Of course, you do (and if it sounds cool on paper, wait until you experience it in real life). North Falls is unique among Portland’s range of waterfalls in this respect and is just a 15-minute walk away from the North Falls parking area. It makes for an impressive sight as you approach, with the 136ft (41m) plunge at the head of a large canyon, providing plenty of photo opportunities for keen snappers. Recommended by local insider Jordan Singh

Wahclella Falls

Natural Feature

One of the crown jewels among the stunning scenery the Columbia River Gorge has to offer, Wahclella Falls really is something special. There’s a 2.5mi (4km) out-and-back path that takes in the 350ft (107m), two-tiered waterfall and attractive plunge pool, though keen walkers might want to explore the extensive network of hiking trails further. Fantastic for a day out with the family, a romantic escape from the city or some alone time in the great outdoors, Wahclella Falls is a must. Recommended by local insider Madeline Churm

Punch Bowl Falls

Natural Feature

Spend a day outside the city limits at Punch Bowl Falls, where Eagle Creek empties into the Columbia River. There are plenty of easy hiking options and the icy-blue plunge pool is a popular local swimming spot, although it can get busy at weekends. Take a picnic and make the most of the summer atmosphere. Alternatively, visit early on a weekday or in the off-season to experience the enchanting solitude that the dramatic gorge walls and old-growth forest provide. Recommended by local insider Madeline Churm

Bridal Veil Falls

Natural Feature

One for photographers, the two-tiered Bridal Veil Falls is an eye-catching waterfall in the state park of the same name. There’s a specially built accessible viewing platform from which to take in the spectacle and the roar of the water as it hits the plunge pool. There are also lots of gentle hiking trails for those who want to explore the area further. Cooling off after a hot summer’s afternoon with a quick, icy paddle is the ultimate way to end your visit. Recommended by local insider Madeline Churm

Latourell Falls

Natural Feature

A 35-minute drive from downtown Portland, in the Guy W Talbot State Park, Latourell Falls is unusual for its direct drop off an overhanging cliff into the pool below. It’s a popular spot, particularly on weekends, though the surrounding area is large enough to find some peace and quiet if that’s what you’re after. The waterfall is just a two-minute walk from the parking area, though it’s best to take the full scenic hike – a 2.2mi (3.5km) loop that takes in the top part of the falls – to make the most of your trip. Recommended by local insider Jordan Singh

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