Columbia River Gorge from Vista House

Columbia River Gorge & Waterfalls

Andy Travel United States, Oregon, Portland Leave a Comment

Before our weekend trip to Seattle and Portland we got some tips of things to see and do from Lynn’s friend that used to live in Portland. One of the places we were told to check out was the Columbia River Gorge, which is just east of Portland. It’s actually not even that far from downtown Portland… a quick 40 minute drive on I-84 along the Columbia River. With our limited time during this trip it was nice that this scenic area was so close to where we were staying. This ended up being a nice little half day trip and we were able to see some nice waterfalls and some beautiful scenic views of the Columbia River Gorge.

A Quick Stop for Breakfast

That morning before we left downtown Portland, we actually stopped at Pine State Biscuits to get some breakfast. This was another recommendation of a place we should stop to eat. There were a lot of unique options, but since we were there during breakfast I wasn’t really craving some of the more lunch and dinner style biscuit sandwiches. I ended up getting a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit sandwich, which was good (mainly because the biscuits are really good), but I think if I were to go again I would probably get one of the other more unique sandwiches. Maybe something to think about if we find ourselves in Portland again…

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls was actually one of the main reasons why we were heading out to the Columbia River Gorge. We heard that Multnomah Falls can get pretty crowded with tourists in the late morning and early afternoon, so we wanted to make sure that it was our first stop that day. It makes sense though, because it is a beautiful waterfall with an upper and lower falls. The water from the upper falls drops a total of 542 feet and the lower falls is about 69 feet. The total drop from top to bottom is about 620 feet. I would have to say that Multnomah Falls is probably one of my favorite waterfalls that we’ve visited. That’s quite a statement, but I really think it has to do with the setting… it reminds me of something out of a fairytale or a fantasy novel. Anyway, here are some things to note:

  • Get there early. We got there around 9:30am and there were quite a few people there… but not nearly as many as when we came back from our short hike. I was glad I got some pictures before the hike because it would have been nearly impossible after.
  • The hike to the top is not really worth it. The best views are from the bottom of the falls, which is about 500 feet from the parking lot. There is a 1.25 mile hike to the top, but all you can really see is the parking lot below and the water falling off the edge.
  • There are a few other waterfalls within a couple miles of this one that are easy to see as well. Some are just a short hike (.25 miles or less). This is just a great area for hiking and photography. If you go into the gift shop below the falls, there are maps and pictures of all the waterfalls in the area. The staff was very helpful and pointed out exactly where all the waterfalls were on the map. Best of all… that information was free!

Other Waterfalls in the Area

If you look at a map you’ll see that there are actually numerous waterfalls in the area. From Multnomah Falls we decided to take the Historic Columbia River Highway back towards Portland and stop at the Vista House on our way, for some amazing views of the Columbia River Gorge. Since we had time, we also stopped at a couple more waterfalls along the way.

We ended up stopping at Wahkeena Falls, which was a quick hike to another multi-tiered waterfall. Not quite as impressive as Multnomah Falls, but definitely worth seeing. One thing that we noticed during our hike to this waterfall were these really large slugs; some of them the size of my index finger (I’ve included a picture of one of them below in the photos).

Parking was a little crazy at some of the waterfalls, so we ended up missing a couple of them that we normally would have stopped at. Those two waterfalls were Bridal Veil Falls and Shepperd’s Dell Falls.

The last waterfall that we stopped at was Latourell Falls. It was another falls with a high drop; almost 250 feet from top to bottom. There was a short hike to a viewing point where we took our pictures, and a longer hike that brought you closer to the bottom of the falls. We decided to take our pictures and continue on our way.

Views of the Columbia River Gorge from Vista House

The Vista House at Crown Point was our last stop of the day. It was also crowded, but we were able to find a parking spot on the road above the scenic point and just walked down to the Vista House after parking. The Vista House offers pretty much 180° views of the Columbia River Gorge. We walked around a little bit, took some pictures and enjoyed the panoramic views for a little while.

Overview

The Columbia River Gorge is a great area to visit and one of the best parts about it is that there are so many things to do and see in this small area. We saw quite a bit, but we feel like we didn’t even scratch the surface of things to see in the area. I know if we head back to Portland at some point I will definitely want to take a trip back to the Columbia River Gorge to see some of the things we didn’t have time to see and also some of the places that are better to visit in the summer when the weather is a little warmer.

Photos from the Columbia River Gorge Area

  • Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Wahkeena Falls in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Large Slug Near Wahkeena Falls
  • View of the Columbia River Gorge from the Vista House
  • Latourell Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

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About the Author

Andy

Born with a sense of wanderlust, it's only natural that Andy would be traveling and writing about it. He has traveled extensively throughout the U.S., even golfing in each of the 50 states. When he's not updating this blog, you can probably find him riding his bicycle, baking desserts, or working on his goal of attaining the "best credit ever."