CENTRAL OREGON COAST DEADLINE: JUNE 15, 2024

12 Spectacular Must-See Oregon Waterfalls

by Scott Setterberg April 15, 2024

12 Spectacular Must-See Oregon Waterfalls

A photography tour client once told me that he never realized Oregon could be considered the waterfall capital of the United States until he did an Oregon photo tour with me.  He was correct.  Blessed with abundant rainfall and enormous snowcapped mountains that produce tremendous snowmelt and feed countless rivers and streams, Oregon is home to more than two hundred waterfalls.  With so many remarkable cascades, it's challenging to create a complete list of the best, but below is an account of 12 spectacular, must-see Oregon waterfalls.

Abiqua Falls

Standing 92-feet tall, Abiqua Falls plunges over a columnar basalt amphitheater covered with colorful lichens, mosses, and ferns.  The jaw-dropping cascade can be difficult to find and requires a 4x4 vehicle to reach the trailhead.  Before the road gets really bad, low clearance vehicles can park, which adds between three and 4.5 roundtrip miles to the hike, depending on where you park.  From the trailhead, the hike to the falls is a moderately challenging 0.8 miles out-and-back, and there are ropes leading down to the edge of the creek.  From there, it's a short walk upstream to reach the gorgeous scene, and Abiqua Falls is easily one of the premier waterfalls in Oregon.

Abiqua Falls, Oregon

Wahclella Falls

Located in the world-famous Columbia River Gorge, Wahclella Falls features a peaceful, easy 2.4-mile roundtrip hike along splendid Tanner Creek, rustic bridge crossings, beautiful Munra Falls, and breathtaking scenery.  All that is experienced before reaching the main attraction, and dazzling Wahclella Falls drops 65 feet from a narrow gorge into an splash pool surrounded by huge fallen trees.  A slender, 50-foot, semi-hidden upper fall streams into the lower cascade, making Wahclella Falls one of the most interesting falls in the Columbia River Gorge.  This is one of my all-time favorite hikes in Oregon.  

Wahclella Falls, Oregon

Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls is a gentle, perfectly cascading waterfall located on the Wahkeena Trail in the Columbia River Gorge.  The 3.4-mile roundtrip hike gains 1,500 feet of elevation but features many switchbacks that make the ascent easier.  Much of the trail follows Wahkeena Creek and the combination of the stream and lush, mossy forest provides endless landscape photo opportunities before even seeing the waterfall.

Fairy Falls, Oregon

Middle North Falls

Middle North Falls is the highlight of the Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park.  As the name indicates, this fantastic cascade is located in the middle of the north side of the park and there's no quick way to reach it.  It requires hiking 4 miles roundtrip along a trail that parallels lovely Silver Creek and features old-growth forests, rustic bridges, and several other waterfalls.  Middle North Falls is a broad, 60-foot-wide curtain of water that drops 106 feet into a plunge pool, and it's simply majestic.  Like other waterfalls at Silver Falls State Park, Middle North Falls features a grotto behind the waterfall, and the trail allows hikers to experience the perspective from there.  

Middle North Falls, Oregon

White River Falls

Surrounded by rolling hills of farmland, White River Falls is an oddly out of place two-tiered waterfall that flows into a jagged basalt gorge near an abandoned hydroelectric power station that once energized the region.  This is one of my favorite waterfalls in Oregon and there is rarely anyone there.  Depending on the time of year and amount of snowmelt from Mount Hood, the upper tier can be a raging wall of water or several individual streams.  The lower tier is always full, and drops into a sparkling, emerald pool before another nice drop in the stream.  The 0.7-mile trail is a bit rough and steep but there are several viewpoints and ways to get to lower areas, depending on how creative and courageous you are.  Oh, and there are lots of mosquitos.  You've been warned.  

White River Falls, Oregon

Toketee Falls

Toketee Falls is a magical cascade that plunges 80 feet over a sheer wall of textured volcanic basalt.  The 0.4-mile out-and-back trail along the North Umpqua River leading to the viewing platform above Toketee Falls is an easy stroll, but if you want a better perspective, you have to descend to the base of the falls using ropes.  With a backpack full of camera equipment and tripod, the extremely steep incline is quite challenging, but definitely worth the effort.  Views from the water's edge are sensational, and at the right time of year, colorful flowers dot the shoreline, adding a vibrant design element to landscape photography compositions. 

Toketee Falls, Oregon

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is a jewel in the Columbia River Gorge and this famous, 620' cascade features a bridge that crosses in front of the falls.  A trail leads to and crosses the bridge, continues to the top of the waterfall, and connects to other trails.  With over 2 million annual visitors, Multnomah Falls is the most-visited natural attraction in the Pacific Northwest.  

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Umbrella Falls

Not many people have heard of Umbrella Falls, and this unique, 60-foot-tall slide waterfall is truly magnificent.  Located at the base of Mount Hood, the easy, 0.3-mile trail leads to a footbridge at the bottom of the waterfall, and there are access points on both sides of the steep cascade, as well.

Umbrella Falls, Oregon

Butte Creek Falls

Although it's been closed since the 2020 Labor Day Fires, Butte Creek Falls is scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2024, and features two waterfalls.  It's an easy hike to get to both falls, and of the two, Upper Butte Creek Falls is the star.  Although short in stature, this 20-foot fall flows over a broad basalt cliff with an easily accessible cavern behind the cascade.  The main viewpoint at Lower Butte Creek Falls can be partially obstructed, and it's a dangerous descent to the base of the falls for those seeking a different perspective.

Butte Creek Falls, Oregon

Lower South Falls

Lower South Falls is another favorite at Silver Falls State Park and is arguably the best waterfall on the south side of the park.  This impressive waterfall drops 93-feet over a wide ledge of basalt that features a grotto behind the cascade.  With viewpoints on both sides and from behind the falls, there are plenty of great perspectives at Lower South Falls.

Lower South Falls, Oregon

Royal Terrace Falls

Overlooked by most waterfall chasers, Royal Terrace Falls is a stunning triple-tier slide waterfall located at McDowell Creek.  Although the view can be partially obstructed, the uniqueness of this cascade still shines through, and the simple hike to the falls is less than five minutes from the middle parking area.  Majestic Falls and Crystal Falls are two other waterfalls at McDowell Creek, but of all three, Royal Terrace Falls steals the show.  

Royal Terrace Falls, Oregon

Sweet Creek Falls

Near the small town of Florence along the Central Oregon Coast, Sweet Creek Falls features several remarkable waterfalls and an easy hiking trail.  Along the 2.2-mile out-and-back trail, there are many viewpoints, and areas leading to the edge of the creek that provide countless opportunities for creative compositions.  

Sweet Creek Falls, Oregon

Conclusion

Due to its climate, mountains, and snowmelt, Oregon is a paradise for waterfall photography.  The cascades in this article are just a few of the wonderful waterfalls in Oregon and should be on the radar of every landscape photographer.  Most of them are featured on my Oregon photography tours, so if you're into chasing waterfalls, click the link for itineraries and booking information and grab your spots today!

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Scott Setterberg
Scott Setterberg

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