A breathtaking destination on the trail often makes a hike more than worth the journey and the waterfalls in Oregon can definitely be defined as breathtaking destinations! The most famous quote about waterfalls may say “don’t’ go chasing waterfalls” but it’s being metaphorical and we totally believe you should chase as many waterfalls as you like, just be careful not to slip. Oregons is the perfect destination for chasing waterfalls as its climate makes for the lush forests and numerous waterfalls to exist.
Powerful, a force of nature, serene, tranquil, revitalizing are all words that can describe the places in nature where the flow of water falls off of cliffs both big and small. Falling water is a symbol of change or release to many, at once soothing and powerful, there are many reasons to visit and spend some time at Oregon waterfalls. While visiting our natural wonders remember to bring water, carry out your trash, and stay on the trails to protect our wilderness. At waterfalls, in particular, it’s important to take care because of slippery trails and rocks as well. Seasonally waterfalls will always be larger in the spring when runoff and rain are at higher volumes but they are beautiful year round. Whether you enjoy a long hike or just love a good waterfall there are plenty of options for you at the waterfalls of Oregon.
NOTE: research each trail ahead of time for closures! The 2017 Eagle Creek Fire left many trails in that area closed for an indefinite period of time so you’ll always want to check and be sure so you don’t end up disappointed later.
10 Bucket List Waterfalls In Oregon You Won’t Want To Miss!
Proxy Falls is our favorite waterfall in Oregon
We are suckers for tall waterfalls with beautiful cascades and this is one of the waterfalls in Oregon that hits the bullseye for us. This hike is often listed as easy and family friendly which it is, but if you want to hike down to the base of the falls that part of the trail is a bit sketchier and down a steep hill, the falls can still be viewed from the trail above. The trail itself is only 1.6 miles round trip hike so you can make a short visit or spend some time enjoying the falls. Since it is a relatively easy, short, and dog-friendly trail with such a beautiful waterfall it is a popular hike. The parking lot isn’t very large, does include vault toilets, and requires a recreation pass is for each vehicle.
Technically this Oregon waterfall has an upper and lower falls but our favorite and the famous one is the lower falls. At lower falls Proxy Creek splits in half and tumbles over the edge of a glacier-cut cliff 226 feet high and into a pool where the creek ends as the water escapes through the porous lava ground. Once you’ve scrambled down the steep hill to the base of the falls, if you are careful you can get close enough to the waterfall to touch it and be sprayed by the mist. If you are looking to include multiple waterfalls in Oregon on your trip Sahalie Falls, Koosah Falls, and Tumalo Falls are nearby as well. For something a little different check out the nearby Terwilliger Hot Springs and our blog post on that location.
Sahalie Falls in the Cascade Mountains
If Proxy Falls doesn’t have parking and you still want to check out some waterfalls in Oregon Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls are nearby and there are no parking fees. Their names come from a basic trade language that was developed by the Kalapuya, Molalla, Sahaptain, and Chinook peoples so they could exchange news and goods; Sahalie means “heaven” and Koosah means “sky” we think these are apt names for such magnificent natural formations.
Both Oregon waterfalls can be seen by taking the same trail but have their own parking areas. From the parking area for Sahalie Falls it is a short 100 feet to a viewing platform of the falls that is wheelchair accessible. Sahalie falls drops swiftly over 100 ft creating a frothing misty impact with the McKenzie River.
This is the perfect stop for those looking for both a beautiful waterfall and a roadside handicap accessible stop for their trip. Those who’d like to do or see more can continue on and hike the trail along both sides of the McKenzie River, see Koosah Falls, and other viewpoints for both waterfalls in Oregon. While the parking area at Koosah Falls doesn’t have a toilet it is often less busy than the Sahalie Falls lot if you were going to do the full hike anyways.
Koosah Falls on the McKenzie River
If you’re looking to continue visiting waterfalls in Oregon after seeing Sahalie Falls and get away from the crowds it is a 2.6-mile loop hike along both sides of the McKenzie River to visit Koosah Falls and see second viewpoints of both falls. While a bit longer of a hike this easy trail can be completed in an hour if you’re in a rush or at a more leisurely pace. You can also follow the trail further to Clear Lake or Cold Water Springs Campground.
From both Sahalie and Koosah Falls lots follow the Waterfall Loop trail to the left, keeping right at all junctions to eventually make it back to your parking lot. View foaming cascades along the river, mossy lava, a wood bridge, reservoir, old growth forest, and all the usual Oregon greenery on your journey. For the most bang for your buck don’t miss out on these waterfalls in Oregon right along the same trail.
Multnomah Falls the Most Famous of the Waterfalls in Oregon
Of all the waterfalls in Oregon, Multnomah Falls is the tallest in Oregon, the 2nd highest year-round waterfall in the United States, and the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest. As its popularity might indicate, this waterfall is well worth a visit. At 620 feet tall, falling in two cascades with a bridge you can walk across built over the split between cascades, photos of the falls are pretty iconic.
This is another of the Oregon waterfalls that is very accessible and does not require a far walk to enjoy. No pass is required to visit and it’s a 5-minute walk from the parking area to the first viewpoint, then a 0.25-mile walk on a paved trail to Benson Bridge. If you’re looking for more there is an uphill 1-mile hike to the top of the falls with views of the Columbia Gorge and access to several other gorge trails with varying lengths and difficulties.
If you’re looking to spend more time in the area you can grab a bite to eat, take in another view, and pick up a map of the area at the nearby Multnomah Falls Lodge. There you will find the information center, restaurant, and gift shop. From here you can hike even more waterfalls in Oregon including the lesser known waterfall Wahkeena Falls, 0.5-mile from the lodge, or do a full 4-mile loop and add Fairy Falls as well. Just a short 30-minute drive from Portland this is an easy day trip. When you get to Portland if you’re looking for some amazing food experiences check out our blog posts on Thai Bloom Portland and Urban Farmer Portland.
Elowah Falls is right down the highway from Multnomah Falls
Also along the Columbia River, of the waterfalls in Oregon, this one has fall smaller crowds. Known both as Elowah Falls and McCord Creeks Falls there are several options for the hike to this falls. There is a 1.4-mile hike to the 210-foot fall which is listed as easy with a very small amount of climbing but we find these definitions really depend on the person so always be prepared, trekking poles can really help you out.
When McCord Creek dives off the cliffs left by lava flow which makes for distinct formations it crashes into an amphitheater and the sound drowns out any noise you might hear from near-by Route 84. If you’d like to add another more to your hike you can take the Upper McCord Creek Falls Trail on the way back to see the smaller upper falls and a view of Elowah Falls from above. As usual, there are also many other trails in the area to spend more time.
Continuing Down Rt 84 is Wahclella Falls
Waterfalls in Oregon as are so numerous that on the trail to Wahclella Falls you hike over a bridge at the base of Munra Falls along the way. This 2.4-mile round trip hike is an easy 2-for-1 with both these falls. What’s more, there are three other nearby falls as well! To get to Wahclella Falls you follow Tanner Creek passing a fishing dam and Murna Falls before you reach a junction where you can hike either direction as the trail is a loop to Wahclella Falls from here.
Wahclella Falls drops 65 ft from the more visible lower part of the falls, the upper part is more hidden and can only be seen from some angles. While not a difficult hike it might be more comfortable with small children to take the lower path to the falls from the junction and return the way you came to avoid hiking uphill on steeper rocky trails. There is a fee per vehicle to visit unless you have a recreation pass. With so many waterfalls in Oregon to visit even just along this small section of Route 84 how will you decide?
Looking for a longer journey with an amazing destination, then Tunnel Falls is the waterfall in Oregon for you!
The trail to Tunnel Falls is as beautiful as the destination with other waterfalls, cascades, and bridges along the way until you reach your final destination the 175-foot tall Tunnel Falls. After 6 miles, Metlako Falls, Punchbowl Falls, the potholes, and a stop to get a free day pass at Hatfield Trailhead you’ll get to follow the path directly behind the falls! This is where the falls got its name, the Tunnel shape of the trail in the lava wall behind the falls. After spending some time here would turn around to head back. Please, don’t be tempted to mess around climbing down around the falls it’s dangerous and not good for the trail either.
If 12-miles round trip is not already a lot another half mile further you can reach Twister Falls (also called Crossover Falls or Eagle Creek Falls). This part of the trail is sometimes called “Vertigo Mile” for its verticle cliffs to the gorge floor, while not for the faint of heart it’s a beautiful trail. We’ve covered quite a few waterfalls in Oregon just around Route 84 and close to Portland but there are many more throughout the state.
Heading South With Some Clear Instructions Discover Abiqua Falls
Always excited to find beautiful locations with moments to ourselves we were excited to discover one of the waterfalls in Oregon off the beaten path. Near the more crowded Silver Falls State Park, Abiqua Falls is open to the public but on private property, so be respectful, and a bit of a challenge to navigate to the trailhead which makes this waterfall a bit less popular. Its lack of over-tourism is a huge part of the draw as well as its 92-foot drop into a large pool of water at its base.
The trail is about 2-miles round trip depending on how far you park, and unmarked save a private property sign which also explains it’s open to the public. The hike can be muddy, slippery, and depending on water levels might include a scramble up steep slopes so be sure to wear proper footwear. For a less crowded experience add Abiqua Falls during your visit to Oregon waterfalls. If you don’t mind the crowds hit the nearby Ten Falls and South Falls at Silver Falls State Park.
On the Coast Stop and Visit Sweet Creek Falls
Cascades are gorgeous and can be found in many of Oregon waterfalls, creeks, and rivers. Sweet Creek Falls is an easy, family-friendly 2.2-mile round trip hike along a creek full of cascades. The falls itself is also 4-tiered with 10-30-foot cascades within the waterfall. This trail isn’t just about the destination but invites you to pay attention and enjoy the journey.
The waterfalls in Oregon remind us to slow down and enjoy the day which the hike to Sweet Creek Falls does exceptionally well. When you arrive at the parking area of your choice, there are several lots which can make the hike shorter, you’ll need a recreation pass to park. With so many little cascading falls along the way, you’ll have to stop by to really experience one of the waterfalls in Oregon with the most bang for your buck.
Speaking of Cascades, Ramona Falls!
Of all the numerous waterfalls in Oregon, Ramona Falls has the most cascades. Water plunges off a cliff that juts out further as the water continues down in many stair like forms creating hundreds of little cascades throughout the drop. This is one of the longest hikes on the list at 7-miles round trip for the falls and an extra piece of trail to get you there that’s about a mile. While most of the hike isn’t difficult there is no bridge to cross the Sandy River during the first mile so caution and proper footwear are needed.
Despite the river crossing Ramona Falls is a popular trail that also links to the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail parallels the Sandy river but you don’t see it much of the time. There is a bridge when you reach the falls so you have beautiful viewpoints and can cross safely. As part of a wilderness area, there is a permit box to sign in at along the trail as well. If you’re up for the journey you shouldn’t miss the most stunning of the waterfalls in Oregon.
Waterfalls may not be all that there is to see on these hikes and in Oregon but they are numerous in this part of the country and we believe one should be added to any visit to the state. For more details on what you need to know before visiting Oregon check out our blog post on it here. Be mindful of your fitness level, the weather, and have proper gear then get out there and visit these gorgeous waterfalls in Oregon!