Rodney Falls (and Hardy Falls), Washington

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The upper portion of Rodney Falls in September 2017

When I visited Portland, Oregon, this past September, wildfires showed up in the Columbia River Gorge. They were intense enough that many of the waterfalls in that area were off limits. Some of them are just now coming back to life in late December. So I decided to head to the less-visited Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.

There are a number of waterfalls on the Washington side, though they’re not as well advertised or always as accessible. Woodburn Falls and Pothole Falls are both further west in the city of Camas. Rodney Falls and Hardy Falls are about 20 miles east in Beacon Rock State Park.

The hike to both falls is on the medium/moderate side. It’s about a 2.5 mile round-trip, but it is consistently uphill on the way to the falls. As I hiked along, there were remnants of ash from the other side of the gorge! It makes you realize how forest fires could travel even across a rather large river. The hike is not difficult to follow until you get very near the end. And then it’s just a bit confusing about where you should really focus your effort and attention.

I would usually separate posts about these two falls, but Hardy Falls isn’t worth a separate post. There is a spur that leads to an “overlook” of Hardy Falls, but it was almost impossible to see the falls due to plant growth. It might be a better view in the winter months when leaves aren’t on the trees. I’ve read that there is a way to get to the base of Hardy Falls, but it seems rather precarious to me. It’s a 90′ waterfall, and it wasn’t clear how you’d get to the base. I thought following some of the trails would lead me closer, but they didn’t.

If I were to go in the summer, I would instead focus most of my time and energy on Rodney Falls, which is a bit further upstream along the same stream. At 80′ overall, it’s not as tall as Hardy Falls, but it is much easier to view. The biggest drop is approximately 40′ if I understand correctly, and while you can’t get directly next to the falls, you can get very close. It’s actually a very cool view.

Directions:

  1. From Vancouver, WA, drive east along WA-14 to Beacon Rock State Park.
  2. Pass the ranger station to your left, and then take a left onto a road signed for camping/hiking. This road will climb uphill.
  3. You’ll want to go to the parking area for the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead. There is a fee to visit the park, and you can pay it at a self-service station.
  4. From there, start your hike along the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead. It’s about 1.25 miles to the waterfalls. The trail does continue on to Hamilton Mountain.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: Hardy Falls: 90′, Reagan Falls: 80′
Length of Hike: 2.5 miles roundtrip

Where in the World is Hardy Falls and Reagan Falls?

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Can you see Hardy Falls? It’s actually pretty tall!

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Woodburn Falls, Washington

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Woodburn Falls in October 2013

I visited Woodburn Falls over two years, so I had to try and remember where this waterfall was located and how to possibly arrive at the falls. Oddly enough, I did have a pretty clear recollection that the falls was on some spur trail at a park.

If you are in Portland, Oregon, there are many amazing waterfalls near the city. There are also a few waterfalls near Portland on the other side of the Columbia River in Washington. One park in Camas, Lacamas Lake Regional Park, has 3 smaller waterfalls in the park’s boundaries. I posted information about Pothole Falls previously. I honestly found that waterfall (and Lower Falls) by wandering next to Lacamas Creek (which is relatively easy to find). Woodburn Falls isn’t on the main creek, but instead on a different creek. It’s got its own separate side-trail that leads to the falls from the main trail.

I found it to be relatively easy to find. I think there were very clear signs posted that helped find the falls. And while there wasn’t a huge amount of water flowing, it still was actually pretty good for October. Woodburn Falls also happens to be relatively calm and quiet since it’s off on its own. I don’t think there were any other people at the falls when I reached my destination.

Directions:

  1. From I-205, take WA-14 East toward Camas.
  2. Exit WA-14 onto 6th Avenue.  Continue along 6th Avenue.
  3. Turn left onto NE Garfield Street (WA-500). You will veer left, and then turn right right, continuing on WA-500 (now known as NE Everett Street).
  4. There is a parking area on Everett Street, and there is also one just a short distance further up along NE 35th Avenue. The parking area on Everett Street is clearly signed, and ends up being an easier starting point. There is more parking at the 35th Avenue spot, but it is a little more difficult to determine where to begin. The park does have some of the best signs/maps I have seen, so follow the signs if in doubt. This map helps greatly.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Length of Hike: ~ 1 mile one-way
Height: 15′

Where in the World is Woodburn Falls?

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?

White River Falls, Oregon

White River Falls in mid-October 2013

Oregon has two halves. If you’ve ever visited Portland or traveled west toward the coast, you’re greeted with intensely green lush forests. It’s hard to escape the green. If you’ve traveled east from Portland, you’ll know that it suddenly becomes much drier, and far less green. That’s not to say that it’s any less beautiful, it’s just a completely different feel. It feels less “Pacific Coast”, and more desert West.

Even the waterfalls seem different in this drier half. White River Falls might be one of the widest waterfalls in Oregon (outside of Willamette Falls) that I’ve seen. Many of the others in the Columbia River Gorge and near the Central Cascades are much thinner. It’s difficult to tell how wide the falls are in photographs because in order to capture both drops, you’ll miss a portion of the upper falls that is blocked by trees and rock. (One the drops is also commonly known as Celestial Falls.)

It’s a stunning waterfall, especially with the fall colors. This was one of the nicest days I have experienced in Oregon, with the sun shining and blue skies throughout the day. With the sun shining, it was difficult to get photos at certain angles, but there were still more than enough vantage points to lead to some pretty good shots. Near the falls, you’ll also experience the history associated with the dam that existed at the falls at one point. There is an old building still below the base of the second drop that reminds us of the recent past. While this waterfall is somewhat isolated from others, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Directions:

  1. From The Dalles, head south on US-197 for 28 miles or so.
  2. Turn left onto OR-216, and head east for 4 miles.
  3. Turn right into the entrance to White River Falls State Park. There is limited parking, though on this beautiful Saturday, it still seemed more than abundant.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 75′
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip

Where in the World is White River Falls?

Pothole Falls, Washington

Pothole Falls in October 2013

If you live in the Portland (Oregon) metropolitan area, you’ve obviously got a number of very impressively waterfalls to the east. But did you also know that there are some smaller waterfalls to the north, just across the Oregon/Washington state line? In the city of Camas, you can find Lacamas Park. It’s a very enjoyable park to hike around, even if you’re not planning on seeing any waterfalls. The terrain is relatively gentle, with only a few minor uphill portions.

I visited this in mid-October of this year, and it was probably the most pleasant weather I’ve experience in Portland. It was sunny and in the 60’s on both days. I don’t think that I had seen Mt. Hood on my previous two visits, which were in mid-Spring. Many of the leaves were beginning to change colors, so I couldn’t ask for anything better.

In Lacamas Park, there are three main waterfalls, and a smaller 3-4′ unnamed drop. Pothole Falls (aka The Potholes) is the first you would likely encounter. None of the signs scream out “The Potholes,” which might create some confusion as to the specific waterfall you’re visiting. Many signs point to the Lower Falls downstream. I had read that it was easy to view Pothole Falls, but found the opposite to be true (as you will see in the photograph). There was a rather steep trail down to the river, but you end up just behind the base of the falls, making it almost impossible to photograph up-close views. Maybe there’s some other path, but it wasn’t obvious what that safe path would be. (It was also suggested that it was more difficult to view Lower Falls, which again was the opposite case for me.) To get to the viewpoint in the picture, continue along the trail a short ways, and then look back. It’s relatively hard to miss if you’re on the correct trail.

Directions:

  1. From I-205, take WA-14 East toward Camas.
  2. Exit WA-14 onto 6th Avenue. Continue along 6th Avenue.
  3. Turn left onto NE Garfield Street (WA-500). You will veer left, and then turn right right, continuing on WA-500 (now known as NE Everett Street).
  4. There is a parking area on Everett Street, and there is also one just a short distance further up along NE 35th Avenue. The parking area on Everett Street is clearly signed, and ends up being an easier starting point. There is more parking at the 35th Avenue spot, but it is a little more difficult to determine where to begin. The park does have some of the best signs/maps I have seen, so follow the signs if in doubt.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Where in the World is Pothole Falls?

Munra Falls, Oregon

Munra Falls in May 2010

Munra Falls is really just a side attraction to the much more interesting Wahclella Falls. As a benefit, though, Munra Falls is VERY easy to visit. You could skip Wahclella Falls if you wanted, and you’d cut your hiking time down…but the hike isn’t bad, and seeing these two waterfalls simultaneously is a good perk.

You’ll have a pretty hard time missing Munra Falls. As you’re hiking along the trail to Wahclella Falls, a bridge passes right over the lower portion of the falls. Try taking pictures at different angles, from the left, the right, and in the middle. You’ll be surprised at how different the views can be!

Directions:

  1. From I-84, take exit 40 (Bonneville Dam).
  2. You can exit from either the east or the west. Wherever you exit from, head away from the entrance to the dam and head toward the gorge.
  3. After turning, if you go straight, you’ll see a sign indicating trailheads, and then a sign indicating parking for Wahclella Falls. Head here.
  4. Park in the parking area, which may be rather full on the weekends.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 68′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Munra Falls?

Bridge Creek Falls, Oregon

Bridge Creek Falls in May 2010

As you may notice in the directions given below, the negative about Bridge Creek Falls is finding the exact point to pull off the very curvy OR-6 to get to these falls. Once you’ve done that, the hike to the falls is very enjoyable. I was very impressed by this smaller falls in the northern coast range of Oregon. I think I was partly impressed by the ability to get closer to the falls. I had been to the much larger Munson Creek Falls earlier that day, and was disappointed that I wasn’t able to get close to the falls, as they were blocked off by a number trees. Bridge Creek Falls has no issues of that sort, so you can play around to get a number of different views of the falls.

Directions:

  1. These directions to Bridge Creek Falls are based on starting at the junction of US-101 and OR-6 in Tillamook on the coast.
  2. From that junction, head east on OR-6 for almost 20 miles.
  3. This is where it can get a little bit tricky. Look for mile marker 21 on OR-6. Go almost 1 mile past this mile marker. On your right, you will notice a “pulloff” and a sign indicating a falls. The sign is NOT very big, and can be easy to miss the first time around. If you get to mile marker 20, you’ve gone just a little bit too far. You’ll have to turn around and figure out how to get back to the pulloff.
  4. You may have to backtrack on foot for a few feet to get to the stairs leading to the falls. Once you find those stone stairs, it is just a very short distance to the falls.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 50′
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Bridge Creek Falls?