Oregon’s Multnomah Falls is a glory hog. And for good reason. But if you’re visiting Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to take in this spectacular waterfall, don’t stop at the falls. Head over to the nearby Historic Columbia River Highway and Waterfall Corridor.
Located a short drive east of Portland off Highway 84, Waterfall Corridor meanders along the Historic Columbia River Highway 30 from Corbett to Dodson. The drive includes sweeping panoramas of the Gorge and surrounding countryside as well as some majorly awesome waterfalls. All are accessible by trails*.
Here are five northwest Oregon sights that you really don’t want to miss (all are free with the exception of Rooster Rock State Park):
- Portland Women’s Forum Overlook and Chanticler’s Point
No idea where the name came from. But this scenic viewpoint is worth the stop. A smallish parking lot and scenic overlook offer a spectacular bird’s eye view of the Columbia River and Gorge. Have your camera ready.
2. Crown Point Vista House
Perched on a craggy hill overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, the stone Crown Point Vista House lives up to its name. The views are regal. Don’t forget to go INSIDE Vista House. You’ll find all kinds of cool stuff including a gift shop, snack bar, vintage photos and a brief historical overview. Take the stairs to the House balcony for a 360-degree panorama of the Gorge.
Established in 1917. Seriously cool!
3. Latourell Falls
Located over an old, mossy stone bridge inside Guy W. Talbot State Park, Latourell Falls is a genuine “two-fer.” The .1 mile out-and-back hike down to the lower falls is beautiful and brief. It’s also all uphill on the way back. But don’t stop there. The lower falls is only half the package. For more of the same show – and even more water – take the trail to the upper falls.
Don’t let the steep incline near the base of the upper falls trail head discourage you. The upper falls is worth the effort of the moderate climb. It’s a loop trail of roughly two miles. Signage is terrible to non-existent.
Note the the loop trail to the upper falls can be rocky and slick when wet or muddy. Watch your step near the falls.
4. Bridal Veil Falls
This two-tiered gusher is about two thirds of a mile from the parking lot. Its a downhill jaunt through a splendid forest that includes some steep steps. A bridge crossing a stream makes for a good photo opp amid truck loads of ferns and other Northwest greenery. There’s a wooden viewing platform directly in front of the thundering falls that makes for great photo opps.
Do ‘t be an idiot and take the off-trail side spur down to the base of the falls. The boulders are coated with fine mist kicked up by the thundering falls. They’re slick as glass. Footing is treacherous at best.
5. Rooster Rock State Park
If you’re looking for a nice place to picnic, boat, fish, play a round of frisbee golf, or just soak up some solitude along the Columbia River, check out Rooster Rock State Park. Entrance fee required. A nice place to relax. Located off Highway 84 at exist 25.(Note that Benson Lake State Park off Highway 84 at exit 30 is closed as of this writing.)
Trails can be slick when wet or muddy. The loop trail around Upper Latourell Falls is rocky in places. Wear sturdy boots. Watch your step.
Some Portland area drivers are as rude as they are road hazards. They seem to think posted speed limits are suggestions. Stay alert.
- Cram-packed with beaucoup scenery, picnic areas, hiking trails and miles of lush forests, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is crowded on weekends after 10:00 a.m., esp. at Multnomah Falls. Parking is at a premium there. Plan ahead and arrive early.
- You can continue on Highway 30 past exit 38 toward Dodson for more falls and Ainsworth State Park. However, the access points were closed during our early May visit due to fire 2017 damage. We got back on Highway 84 W at exit 28, just past Bridal Veil Falls. May try to get to the eastern half of the corridor at a later date when roads and trails re-open.
- *Trails around Multnomah Falls remain closed as of this writing due to damage from last year’s wildfires.
- All of the falls areas have bathrooms on-site (some better than others.)
- With a few noteworthy exceptions, the Beaver State has the worst trail signage of any state we’ve ever hiked. As in, nil in many cases. BYO maps. A good old fashioned compass isn’t a bad idea, either.
- Finally, if Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area isn’t on your outdoors hit parade, it should be. Located in Northwest Oregon along Highway 84 east of Portland and Gresham.
From Gresham, take Exit 22 off the 84E toward Corbett. Look for Historic Columbia River Highway 30. Take the exit and head east. The road is windy but scenic viewpoints are well-marked. Just follow the signs. Note that Waterfall Corridor cannot be accessed off the westbound Highway 84 as of this writing. It’s closed due to damage from last year’s wildfires.