Our weekend in Portland wasn’t even an entire weekend in Portland. It was more like a day and a half in Portland, and in no way was it enough. The little that we got to see of the artsy, foodie city has us all dreaming of our next visit.
We arrived on Thursday afternoon and decided to explore Downtown Portland. On Friday, we spent the day exploring waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge and saw Dead and Company at Moda Center that night. Then on Saturday, we ate breakfast and hit the road bound for Washington and our campsite at the Oasis Campground to see Dead and Company at the Gorge Amphitheater. On Sunday we drove 15 hours home to Rocklin, California so we’d be ready for client meetings Monday morning. It was a whirlwind, but also one of the most fun family road trips we’ve ever done.
Our very last Columbia River Gorge waterfall stop of the trip was Horsetail Falls.
Horsetail Falls is a 176 foot tall, 20 foot wide waterfall on Horsetail Creek. It is shaped like a horse’s tail that cascades over a rounded rock cliff. There are a few picnic tables near the falls and the majestic waterfall is right next to the Historic Columbia River Highway. There is no hiking or walking needed. All you have to do to enjoy this beautiful 176 foot tall waterfall is park, get out of you car, and walk a few steps to the stone and masonry overlook near the base of the falls.
Because the falls are so easily accessible and available parking is minimal, you’ll probably have a hard time finding a spot, especially if you have a big vehicle like ours! We ended up parking far up the highway on the side of the road and barely fit.
If you want to get a little bit more up close and personal with the waterfall like we did, you can follow a short staircase and then scamper down a small rock and dirt hill to the plunge pool at the base of the falls and the creek flowing under Horsetail Falls Bridge. Thank goodness we all had flip flops in the car, because the best place to stand for an awesome photo and the best place to stand to take the photo is in ankle deep water — and the water is freezing! We braved it for a tiny bit to get a few great photos, but after just a little bit, all of our feet were starting to hurt from the cold!
In 1940, the Forest Service improved the area south of the Columbia River Highway and near the Horsetail Falls pool. The improvements included the construction of masonry walls and an information kiosk with a roofed timber structure. In 1985, in an effort to enlarge the developed area, the Forest Service landscaped a parking lot north of the highway, refurbished the existing walls, and built new walls in the same architectural style.
Horsetail Creek Bridge
Horsetail Falls drops to a shallow pool from which the water flows down Horsetail Creek and passes under Horsetail Creek Bridge to its outlet at the Columbia River. Horsetail Creek Bridge, also called Horsetail Falls Bridge, was built in 1914 during construction of the Columbia River Highway.
Oregon State Highway Department design engineer, K. P. Billner, designed several bridges including Horsetail Creek Bridge. The bridge is a three-span, 60-foot reinforced-concrete deck girder trestle that is 24 feet wide and has a roadway measuring 22 feet. The curb and guardrail form an integral unit, cantilevered out from the girder. It is one of two nearly identical reinforced-concrete girder trestles on the highway — the other being Oneonta Gorge Creek Bridge — and one of four structures that have a distinctive cap and arch concrete guard rail system.
Horse Tail Falls Trailhead
Leading deep into the forest, Horsetail Falls Trailhead is one of the most scenic trails in the Columbia River Gorge. The four mile loop trail takes visitors past five majestic waterfalls with a 600 foot elevation gain. Similar to the hike to Fairy Falls above Wahkeena Falls, this hike begins at Horsetail Falls and winds through the lush landscape, passing behind Ponytail Falls and then past Oneonta Falls, Upper Oneonta Falls, and Triple Falls. The trail is well cared for, but can get a bit muddy in spots.
Know Before You Go
- Horsetail Falls is located in Cascade Locks, Multnomah County, Oregon 97014 on the Historic Columbia River Highway. There isn’t much parking, so you may need to look for a spot on the side of the highway.
- If hiking the loop trail, be sure to wear sturdy shoes, but be sure to have flip flops or water-friendly shoes to change into at Horsetail Falls because to get the best photos, you’re going to want to get in the water. Luckily, it’s not deep water!
- Traveling east from Horsetail Falls, it is 4 miles to Elowah Falls. Traveling west, it is 1 mile to Oneonta Falls, 3 miles to Multnomah Falls, 3.5 miles to Wahkeena Falls and Fairy Falls, 6.5 miles to Bridal Veil Falls, 8 miles to Shepperd’s Dell Falls, 9 miles to Latourell Falls, 11.5 miles to Crown Point Vista House, and 12.5 miles to the Portland Women’s Forum Overlook.
- Horsetail Falls Trailhead is one of the most scenic trailheads in the Columbia River Gorge. The four mile loop trail takes visitors past five majestic waterfalls, including Horsetail Falls, Ponytail Falls, Oneonta Falls, Upper Oneonta Falls, and Triple Falls. Be sure to pack snacks and water, and wear layers.
- Download a Columbia River Highway Waterfall Map, documenting the waterfalls between Corbett and Dodson.