We were so excited! We were in Portland and we were going waterfall hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. I had seen photos of the famous Multnomah Falls, various other waterfalls, and the magnificent Columbia River Gorge vistas, and visiting had been on my adventure bucket list for a long time.
We had one day to explore Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge and we were going to make the most of it. Well, we really only had five hours because:
- We slept in a bit and ate a big delicious breakfast at our gorgeous hotel, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown before hitting the road for a day of adventuring…
- And we needed to get back to our hotel in time to eat dinner and get cleaned up for Dead and Company at The Moda Center that night.
We knew roughly where to go and what the closest freeway exit was, but we didn’t do much research and planning in advance for this trip. Brian did some to make sure I got to see everything I wanted to see, but I just went with it. I just knew I wanted to see Multnomah Falls.
With a case of bottled water and lots of hiking snacks and food in the car, we were ready to get hiking. Then we hit I-94 and saw the looming clouds. It was going to be a pretty ugly, dark day, and there was a high chance that we were going to get rained on. Crap!
Really, the weather didn’t matter. We were going to hike no matter what, the views were still spectacular, and later that morning, I realized that we were getting so wet from the waterfall spray and mist that it didn’t matter if it was raining! We all were going to be a little damp all day.
Now to be honest, with limited time, I was worried we weren’t going to have enough time to really see the Columbia River Gorge, but we did good — really good!
We visited Vista House Observatory and six waterfalls, including Bridal Veil Falls, Shepperd’s Dell Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Fairy Falls, Latourell Falls, and Multnomah Falls. Bridal Veil Falls was our first stop of the day and I was blown away!
Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Viewpoint
Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Viewpoint, also known as Bridal Veil Falls State Park, is a 15.5 acre Oregon State Park that sits on the Columbia River Highway in Multnomah County. The park, adjoining the site of the Old Bridal Veil Timber Company operation, has picnic tables, restrooms, an open grassy area to spread out a picnic blanket, and two hiking trails.
- The Upper Trail is a walking/interpretive trail that takes visitors around the precipice of the cliffs of the Gorge. Sign boards along the trail point out distinctive native wild plants that grow abundantly in this area. The trail is fenced beautifully with logged beams and wire to protect visitors along the viewpoint while maximizing every vantage point of the magnificent view of the Gorge. The famous geologic edifice known as the Pillars of Hercules, a 120-foot basalt tower once used as a training site for mountain climbing, can be seen best from the upper trail at Bridal Veil.
- The Lower Trail takes visitors downhill to the base of Bridal Veil Falls. It is a semi-steep little trail with one long switchback and is not wheelchair accessible. Along the way there is some poison oak, so stay on the trail.
Bridal Veil Falls Trail
Bridal Veil Falls Trail is a 0.6 mile out and back trail that rises only 70 feet in elevation. It begins as a paved trail but quickly becomes dirt and gravel. The trailhead departs from the east end of the parking lot. It winds through a shady, fern-laden forest and down a staircase to a gorgeous wooden arch bridge that crosses Bridal Veil Creek. It then makes a sharp right turn and follows the creek uphill to a wooden observation deck that provides a fantastic view of waterfall.
We snapped some photos in front of Bridal Veil Falls on the observation deck, but to be honest, that’s not where we got the best photos of the stunning waterfall. Instead, we stood on a dirt landing just below the observation deck, that gave us a much better, unobstructed view of the falls.
Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Creek travels down from the top of Larch Mountain, pours over the cliff to create Bridal Veil Falls, and eventually empties into the Columbia River. Bridal Veil Falls is a 120 foot, two tier waterfall. With the base of the falls standing only about 20 vertical feet above the Columbia River, the waterfall is the only in the area that occurs below the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Just downstream of Bridal Veil Falls was the site of one of Oregon’s oldest lumber companies, the Bridal Veil Lumbering Company. Its large mill operation diverted most of the water in Bridal Veil Creek to a lumber flume system that brought rough cut lumber to its sawmill and the railroad. As a result, while the lumber company was in operation, Bridal Veil Falls all but disappeared. In 1960, after almost 75 years, the company closed, the lumber flumes were removed, and the gorgeous double cascade of Bridal Veil Falls returned. Today all that is left of the lumber company is a retention wall along the creek and remnants of some buildings footings.
Know Before You Go
- Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Viewpoint is an Oregon State Park in the Columbia River Gorge. It is located near milepost 28 on the Historic Columbia River Scenic Highway and is accessed off I-84 at Exit 28. Travel west on the Historic Columbia River Highway about 3/4 of a mile to the entrance of Bridal Veil Falls State Park.
- Traveling west from Bridal Veil Falls, it is 1.5 miles to Shepperd’s Dell Falls, 2.5 miles to Latourell Falls, 5 miles to Vista House at Crown Point, and 6.5 miles to the Portland Women’s Forum Overlook. Traveling east, it is 3 miles to Wahkeena Falls and Fairy Falls, 3.5 miles to Multnomah Falls, 5.5 miles to Oneonta Falls, 6.5 miles to Horsetail Falls, and 10.5 miles to Elowah Falls.
- There is no fee to visit this Oregon State Park, but the parking lot isn’t very big, so consider visiting on a weekday or come early in the morning.
- The Bridal Veil Falls Trail begins as a paved trail but quickly becomes a dirt and gravel trail. If it has recently rained or is raining, you’ll need wear sturdy tennis shoes or hiking boots.
- The trail is a fairy easy, 0.6 mile out and back hike that rises only 70 feet in elevation.
- Download a Columbia River Highway Waterfall Map, documenting the waterfalls between Corbett and Dodson.