A few months back in October 2013, I visited Oregon, and it was an amazingly beautiful weekend. The sun was out and the temperatures were extremely enjoyable. Near Portland, there are so many options in the Columbia River gorge, but I decided to look for waterfalls more inland. Off in its own world is White River Falls. Nearer to Portland and Mt. Hood are a number of other waterfalls that take a little bit of driving to visit. I didn’t stop to see many of them, either because of time issues or because they required even more driving down back roads.
One of the easiest to visit off of US-26, the Mt. Hood Highway, is Little Zigzag Falls. This little treasure of a waterfall is found between Mt. Hood Village and Government Camp. There is a three mile drive to the falls, but it is along a completely paved road. The 1/4 mile hike to the falls is very enjoyable, though it was rather chilly because of the shade. There were so many great vantage points, though rocks were preventing the whole waterfall from being photographed at any one of those viewpoints. While I might not go out of the way just to view this waterfall, you can see other waterfalls in the area, along with great views of Mt. Hood. (Right at the beginning of the hike, there are also the very cool remnants of the old US-26, if I remember correctly.)
- Head east on US-26 from Mt. Hood Village. If you go past Government Camp, you have gone too far.
- Turn left onto 39 Road, which is easy to turn onto if you’re headed east. (Headed west, it’s a sharp right turn.)
- Head the three miles or so down 39 Road to the dead end. Park and hike to the falls.
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.6 miles round-trip
Little Zigzag Falls in October 2013
Where in the World is Little Zigzag Falls?
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.
- From The Dalles, head south on US-197 for 28 miles or so.
- Turn left onto OR-216, and head east for 4 miles.
- 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)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip
Where in the World is White River Falls?