Weisendanger Falls, Oregon

Weisendanger Falls in September 2015

I first visited Multnomah Falls seven years ago or so. I visited the falls later in the day after visiting a number of other waterfalls in the area, and doing a number of hikes, some of them longer than I expected. I knew there were other waterfalls upstream from Multnomah Falls, and really wanted to see them. (I often try to hit many falls in a day.)

At that time, I don’t think I really understood what it meant to climb approximately 600′ or so in a matter of 1 mile. It is truly an uphill battle. I’m not really sure there’s any point where it flattens out (for more than 2 or 3 feet). The first try, I got maybe 2/3 of the way up and gave up. I didn’t have enough energy to go the rest of the way. I was disappointed, but too tired to really significantly care.

I did visit Multnomah Falls a few years later, but didn’t even think of going up. So when I arrived in Portland about two weeks ago, I had some time during the evening. I didn’t want to drive extremely far to see a waterfall, so I figured I might try the hike to Weisendanger Falls again. I hadn’t done much during the day except sit on a plane.

This time, I was successful. It was still difficult, I was panting much of the way up, and my legs did feel sore after. I think one of the things that helped this time were the markers indicating which switchback I was on. I don’t remember these being there last time… There are 11 switchbacks. It may help to know that you’ve reached the top at switchback 9. The other two are downhill toward Weisendanger Falls (or the other viewpoint for Multnomah Falls). The final portion of the hike to Weisendanger Falls is actually very enjoyable. It was rather warm for this early September day (in the mid-to-upper 80’s), and the downhill portion was much cooler as it was isolated, keeping some of the heat out. It was definitely worth the hike to see the falls!

Directions:

  1. Take the exit off of I-84 toward the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Trail, and follow the road. It’s pretty hard to miss Multnomah Falls. The parking for the falls is actually right in the middle of the road.
  2. From the parking area, start heading toward the bridge that crosses Multnomah Creek. This is a uphill climb to begin.
  3. After crossing the bridge, you’ll have a 1 mile uphill hike. This is the part that’s tough. Once you reach switchback 9, you’ll head downhill.
  4. After reaching that switchback and heading downhill, you’ll reach a split. If you head right (indicated by a sign), you’ll reach the Multnomah Falls upper viewpoint. If you head left along trail 441, that will lead toward Weisendanger Falls. Even if you miss this first left, there’s a left later on.
  5. It’s about 0.4 miles further from the switchback to Weisendanger Falls. If you continue uphill beyond that, you’ll reach Ecola Falls.

Accessibility: 2/10 (strenuous)
Length of Hike: 2.8 miles round-trip
Height: 50′

Where in the World is Weisendanger Falls?

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Fairy Falls, Oregon

Fairy Falls in May 2010

One of the main attractions along the Columbia River Gorge is Wahkeena Falls. The 242′ falls is really stunning. What is not widely as advertised is Fairy Falls, which is upstream from Wahkeena Falls. Now let’s think about this…You start at the main road, the Historic Columbia River Highway. There’s a steady hike uphill to get to the most photogenic portion of Wahkeena Falls. If you continue along this trail, you’ll at some point find yourself at Fairy Falls. But this requires more steady hiking uphill. In just over a mile, you will have hiked up almost 500′ of elevation, so your legs are little to feel a little burn!

But it’s well worth it! The hike is not so impossibly difficult, and the falls are wildly photogenic. Most of the waterfalls in Oregon are surrounded by GREEN, and this waterfall is no exception. The ferns really do create an almost fairy-like setting.

Directions:

  1. From I-84, get onto the Historic Columbia River Highway.
  2. Look for the Wahkeena Falls parking lot as you’re driving along the highway. It will be to the west of the Multnomah Falls parking area.
  3. Start hiking up the paved trail to the viewpoint of Wahkeena Falls.
  4. You’ll cross the bridge over Wahkeena Creek, and continue along this path to Fairy Falls. It may seem like a long distance while you’re hiking uphill, but the way back down is easier!

Accessibility: 3/10 (moderate/strenuous)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: 1.6 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Fairy Falls?

Latourell Falls, Oregon

View of Latourell Falls from the trail leading to Upper Latourell Falls (April 2008)

The Columbia River Gorge is widely known for its spectacular set of waterfalls. Multnomah Falls is the most visited of the falls, and Latourell Falls is probably up there also. Latourell Falls is at the western edge of the set of widely known waterfalls.

I have to admit I like Latourell Falls more than the taller Multnomah Falls. Multnomah Falls is powerful, and you are very close to the falls, but with Latourell Falls, you can get very close.  That doesn’t necessarily mean I’d want to stand under a 250′ waterfall, but you’re only a hundred or so feet from the falls. You can also climb up to the crest of the falls, though the hike is pretty steep (logically). The photo in this picture is taken from the trail leading to the top of the falls. That trail continues onto Upper Latourell Falls.

Directions:

  1. Take the exit off of I-84 toward the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Trail, and head west along the highway. Latourell Falls is west of Bridal Veil Falls. If you’re heading west, the parking area will be on your left.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)

Height: 249′

Length of Hike: Roadside, though you can hike to the base

View of falls from the base

Where in the World is Latourell Falls?

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Multnomah Falls in April 2008

I have mixed feelings about Multnomah Falls. At 600+ feet tall, the waterfall is one amazing sight. The scenery around the waterfall is just as amazing. Even the pedestrian bridge adds a charming feeling. Surprisingly, crossing the bridge is not as bad as I thought it would be, especially for somebody not fond of heights :).

On the other hand, this is one busy waterfall. It’s a tall waterfall and it requires finding just the right place to take a picture of most of the waterfall. And that’s the problem…there are so many people there that everybody’s standing in your way. I’m sure I was standing in somebody’s way at some point. It’s unavoidable. There are just so many other waterfalls in the area that aren’t as busy. When hiking to Elowah Falls and Upper Latourell Falls, I was the only one on the trail. I do enjoy a certain amount of quiet when hiking to falls.

There are other waterfalls above Multnomah Falls, but beware. The trailhead is accessed by crossing the bridge and then heading up the left side of the falls. Think about it, though…You’ll be climbing 600+ feet in about a mile. This means rather steep switchbacks. I probably got 4/5 of the way there, and just gave up. (A few years later, I did succeed on my second visit/attempt at seeing Weisendanger Falls.) My suggestion would be that if you want to try seeing those other waterfalls, start early in the day before you’ve visited multiple other waterfalls. Dress in layers also, as you’re likely to get very warm while hiking up, even if it’s not that warm out.

Directions:

  1. Take the exit off of I-84 toward the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Trail, and follow the road. It’s pretty hard to miss Multnomah Falls. The parking for the falls is actually right in the middle of the road. Don’t forget to check out the numerous other waterfalls in the area.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 620′
Length of Hike: Roadside

A smaller waterfall near Multnomah Falls

Where in the World is Multnomah Falls?

Horsetail Falls, Oregon

Horsetail Falls in April 2008

It’s sorta hard to miss Horsetail Falls! It’s only a few feet from the road. It was so close that it was hard to avoid getting the stop sign in the picture!

Besides being one of the most accessible waterfalls you could possibly imagine, it’s also a very pretty waterfall. It’s not the tallest or the most spectacular in the Columbia River Gorge, but you’ve still gotta check it out! While you’re there, you can check out another waterfall, Ponytail Falls, which is on the same creek.

Directions:

  1. As long as you’re driving along the Columbia River Scenic Byway, you’ll find this falls. I think it’s to the west of Multnomah Falls, the most famous of the falls here. It’s to the east of the parking area for Elowah Falls.
  2. The parking area for the falls is across the street.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 214′
Length of Hike: Roadside

Where in the World is Horsetail Falls?

Upper Latourell Falls, Oregon

Upper Latourell Falls in April 2008

Many of the waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge are visible from the road or require extremely short hikes to get to them. Others require much longer hikes. Upper Latourell Falls is right square in the middle. It cannot be directly viewed from the road, but the hike is not terribly long either.

Even so, parts of the hike to the falls are steep. Just think…as you’re on the trail to Upper Latourell Falls, you’ve got to hike right up near the top of Latourell Falls, which is 200+ feet. After you’ve climbed this rather steep section, it does get easier. The hike on the way up is the hard part. Coming back down, not as much. Along the way, you may enjoy many different wildflowers if they’re in season. Corydalis and Bleeding Hearts were blooming profusely when in visited in late April 2008.

Directions:

  1. The trail to Latourell Falls and Upper Latourell Falls is found on the western-most portion of the Columbia Gorge Scenic Road (off of I-84 east of Portland). The parking lot for Latourell Falls is very easy to find.
  2. From here, if you want to access the Upper Falls, take the left trail, which starts heading up instead of down. From this trail, you will get some great views of Latourell Falls.
  3. Once you reach Upper Latourell Falls, it appears that you can continue looping on this trail. I tried, but gave up after a while and connecting back onto the original trail by crossing the river on a tree (which was easier than it sounds).

Accessibility: 4/10 (moderate/strenuous)
Height: 125′
Length of Hike: 2.25 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Upper Latourell Falls?

Ponytail Falls, Oregon

Ponytail Falls is one of the “hidden” waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, considering that you can not directly view Ponytail Falls from the road. There’s a moderately steep hike involved with visiting this waterfall.

Ponytail Falls is on the same creek as Horsetail Falls, and is sometimes called Upper Horsetail Falls. Horsetail Falls is directly viewed from the road. If you’re in the Horsetail Falls area, visit Ponytail Falls also, though the hike is somewhat steep. I don’t think it was awful, but I had already tired myself out hiking or trying to hike to other “hidden” falls. Of the falls not visible from the road, this is one of the more accessible ones. Everything’s relative, though!

Directions:

  1. From I-84, get onto the Columbia Gorge scenic highway.
  2. Head west on the highway to Horsetail Falls, which is west of Multnomah Falls.
  3. From the parking lot where you view Horsetail Falls, take the trail that leads to Ponytail Falls.
  4. I think the trail is about 0.4 miles one-way, but it is steep, so it does seem longer.

Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate)
Height: 80′
Length of Hike: 0.8 miles round-trip

Ponytail Falls in late April 2008

Where in the World is Ponytail Falls?