Pattie Discovers the PNW: Waterfall Corridor

article and photos by Patricia Elwing

On our way home from our anniversary trip to the Oregon Coast, my husband and I were on the look-out for waterfalls.  As we traveled West from Portland on Hwy. 84, I caught a quick glimpse of a large waterfall and walking bridge.  At that time, we were unaware that we were driving parallel to the Historic Columbia River Highway’s “Waterfall Corridor.”  And, although the next exit would be nearly 3 miles ahead, we took it and quickly back tracked to discover Multnomah Falls and Horsetail Falls on the Historic Columbia River Highway.  We were soon to discover several nearby points of interest along this portion of the Historic Hwy. 30, including Mitchell Point Tunnel, Wahkeena Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.  

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls

The pictures shown here show the well-known Multnomah Falls, which is the 2nd tallest year-round waterfall in the United States.  The Upper Falls are 542 ft. and the Lower Falls are 69 Ft.  The Multnomah Falls Lodge has a restaurant, gift shop, snack bar and restrooms all open to the public.  I enjoyed an amazing salad and glass of champagne while viewing up at the waterfall from my indoor window seat in the restaurant.  

If you have time don’t miss the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop Trail.  You may choose to start at either trailhead.  (Information I did not have while on our adventure.)  From the observation platform at the lower level of Multnomah Falls, you can continue on up a short hike to the bridge (in the center of the falls) shown here.  The trail continues looping around to Wahkeena Falls offering the opportunity to view both Falls in one hike.  Here’s a link for a downloadable map of the loop and other information https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/crgnsa/recarea/?recid=30026

The Horsetail Falls 176 foot plunge is clearly named for its form.   You can park and walk just 20 feet to view the base of the falls and all of its beauty.  There is a short hike that will take you right out of the car and into nature with amazing views all around and This hike is suitable for all skill levels.   Apparently, there is also an easy-medium difficulty hike to the top of the falls which is said to be breathtaking.  

Things I loved about this little adventure include:  1) the endless photo opportunities, 2) it’s FREE, 3) there are short and long trails around each waterfall.  This is a popular tourist attraction and parking can be limited with long waiting lines.  Consider visiting in off seasons.  We went in early May and while there was waiting, it was easy to drive from one waterfall viewing to another as parking spots opened up.  

horsetail falls
Horsetail Falls

From Portland, OR: Travel east on I-84 to Bridal Veil Exit #35 (you are going to overshoot and head back west but this allows you to bypass other waterfalls and traffic congestion to places like Multnomah Falls).  Follow the off ramp to the intersection with the Historic Highway and turn left (east).  Travel west on the Historic Highway approximately 1 mile to the parking area on the right (north) side.

From Hood River, OR: Travel west on I-84 to Ainsworth exit #35.  Travel west on the Historic Highway approximately 1 mile to the parking area on the right (north) side.

From Spokane, WA:  It’s approximately 144 miles to Exit #35 toward Historic Columbia River Hwy.  

Just for fun let’s consider the boundaries of the PNW.  

“The Pacific Northwest is bounded by its coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean to the west and, loosely, by the Rocky Mountains to the east. Though no official boundary exists, the most common conception includes the U.S. states of OregonWashington, and Idaho, and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Some broader conceptions reach north into Alaska and Yukon and south into northern California. Other conceptions may be limited to the coastal areas west of the Cascade and Coast mountains. The variety of definitions can be attributed to partially overlapping commonalities of the region’s history, culture, geography, society, and other factors.  ~ Wikipedia

I have also seen maps defining the Northwest portion of Montana as part of the PNW.  I enjoy discovering it all and so, I hope you don’t mind if I color outside the lines a bit from time to time.  

In-joy,

Pattie

Patricia “Pattie” Elwing, moved to Washington State in August 2020.  A West Coast woman, her love for travel and discovering new places leads her around the world and now, around the Pacific North West.  Watch for “Pattie Discovers the PNW” articles in the Huckleberry Press where she will offer fresh reviews and information about places she visits.  If she sparked a bit of the travel bug in you, or inspires you on your own adventure, leave her a comment below.

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