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The Best And Worst Of The Columbia River Gorge

Find the better view.

By: Austin Jackson + Save to a List

After a long, stressful week at work, don’t make the mistake of choosing a sub-par hike in the Columbia River Gorge. Pass up the crowded parking lots and poor views for better views with less people using this guide as an aid. Of course, this is just my opinion on all of these hikes, so feel free to disagree and try everything. As always, remember to Leave No Trace!

The Worst

Multnomah Falls - The view from the bottom of the falls is the best view you will get of the falls, and you only have to walk from the parking lot. To make things worse, parking is a mess and the falls is always crowded due to the easy accessibility. If you do decide to hike the somewhat short 1.3 mile trail to the top, be prepared for a ton of switchbacks. This is one of the more tedious hikes, as the view stays about the same the whole time and you will be passing people quite frequently. While it is the tallest waterfall in Oregon, this is one better seen from the bottom than actually doing the hike.

Upper McCord Creek Falls - While this hike is a little less crowded, the falls is pretty weak and a much better Elowah Falls is on the same path and a lot easier to get to. This hike is longer and more uphill, and really doesn’t have all that much water going down the falls. 

Dry Creek Falls - This hike is never too crowded, but the walk vs. reward is pretty poor. The falls is very weak and the walk is pretty boring with no views other than the forest the whole time. Once you reach the falls, there is a concrete sort of bridge to cross the stream on the other side, which ruins pictures in my opinion. If you are looking for a moderate distance hike in the gorge, I would recommend many other hikes over the 4.4 mile Dry Creek Falls.

Beacon Rock - Stairs. Hiking isn’t about walking up stairs! You do that enough in your work week. Find a hike that consists of a dirt trail! Not to mention that the trail is closed as of spring 2016. Also, you can find much better views on hikes such as Angel’s Rest or Wind Mountain (mentioned below).

The Best

Spirit Falls - This is absolutely my favorite “hike” in the gorge. While it can be considered a scramble to reach, and I wouldn’t recommend for someone with bad knees, the trail to get down really isn’t all that bad for the reward. It isn’t too long either, and the falls possesses some of the bluest water I have ever seen.

Angel’s Rest - While this hike does attract quite a few people on the weekends, I still consider it an excellent hike. Go early in the morning to make sure you get a parking spot and a great view at the top. Once you reach the top, you can walk around and sit anywhere, but be careful of heavy winds and cliffs! This is a moderate hike with excellent views of the gorge and is not too far from Portland compared to many other hikes in the gorge.

Falls Creek Falls - This hike is a good length for a day trip, and is one that is not too easy or too hard. 6.2 miles is not too bad to this amazing three-tiered falls. You can even explore the different tiers if you continue hiking a little further. This is an excellent photo op and is in a great place in terms of lighting if you get there mid day.

Wind Mountain - This hike is steep but to the point. You reach the top a little more than a mile in, and your legs will be burning, but fear not, there is plenty of spots to sit and eat. Unlike many other similar hikes, this one is short and steep up to an excellent view.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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