What to Hike: Columbia River Gorge Highlights - AdventureTripr

What to Hike: Columbia River Gorge Highlights

Spenser Czuleger · April 27, 2021

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View of Spirit Falls on the Little White Salmon River in the Columbia River Gorge, Washington
View of Spirit Falls on the Little White Salmon River in the Columbia River Gorge, Washington

The Columbia River separates Oregon and Washington states and provides a great area to hike and explore. With river canyon views, cascading waterfalls, and scenic vistas, there’s a ton to see! Heads up, a couple of years ago a wildfire burned up parts of the Columbia Gorge and a few areas were closed to hiking until recently. So always be sure to check trail conditions and to see what’s closed. (As of writing, there are quite a few trails closed in the area, but we haven’t included any of those here).

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge
Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

Distance: 2.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 810 feet

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

You may recognize this iconic PNW waterfall from photos you’ve seen. You can either just walk around the base of it, close to the parking lot, or go on a hike to the top of it and look down from above. This is a great hike for families or people who only have time for a quick stop. You won’t regret seeing this amazing waterfall!

Horsetail Falls and Ponytail Falls

Ponytail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge
Ponytail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

Distance: .9 miles

Elevation Gain: 331 feet

Difficulty: Easy

The Columbia River Gorge waterfalls you see on this hike are amazing. It’s the perfect hike for families and waterfall chasers. You’ll get to hike to two waterfalls, and even be able to hike behind one of them! Try to go when the waterflow is at its peak, in the winter and fall, for the best views. 

Bitterroot Trail and Rowland Wall Trail Loop

Distance: 2.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 738 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

With mountain views, river gorge vistas, wildflowers, and rolling hills, this is a beautiful hike in the Columbia River Gorge area. It’s also on the Washington side of the river, so no matter what hike you go on, make sure you know and have the right parking passes and permits!

Dry Creek Falls

Distance: 4.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 885 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Another great waterfall hike, Dry Creek Falls rewards hikers with a beautiful waterfall, cool pool for swimming, and a great spot for a picnic. It’s a great hike for beginners and families. The falls at the end of the trail are definitely worth the hike!

Wahkeena Falls Loop Trail

Wahkeena Falls, Columbia River Gorge
Wahkeena Falls, Columbia River Gorge

Distance: 5.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,656 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

This beautiful loop takes you to Multnomah Falls (listed above) just by a longer route. With multiple Columbia River Gorge waterfalls along this route, and the ability to look down from the top of Multnomah, it’s a great hike to go on!

Dog Mountain

Wildflowers on Dog Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge
Wildflowers on Dog Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge

Distance: 6.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,988 feet

Difficulty: hard

The spring wildflowers on this trail light the hills up in gorgeous colors. One of the best Columbia River Gorge hikes, it will give you beautiful views of the gorge, and take you up a steep mountain. Because of the gorgeous wildflowers, it can be pretty crowded in spring. Permits for each hiker are required to hike on weekends and Memorial Day during peak wildflower season, April 24 to June 13, 2021. Learn more about obtaining permits

Mount Defiance 

Distance: 12.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 5,072 feet

Difficulty: Hard

Considered to be Oregon’s hardest trail, you’ll see amazing views of the Columbia Gorge, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood along this route. It’s the highest point of the Columbia Gorge, and you’ll be climbing a six-million-year-old shield volcano. At the top, you’ll find one of the best views of Mt. Hood around. This trail is best for experienced hikers with a high level of fitness and preparation. 

No matter when you go to explore the Columbia Gorge, you’re going to love the river views, amazing waterfalls, and rolling hills. Hikers of any skill level will find something for them here, and everyone will love the scenery. Be sure to tag us on social media so we can see your adventures here too! And if you want us to design a personalized itinerary for you here, check out our Columbia Gorge Trip.

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