Cooling off Along the Waters of the Columbia River Gorge

Headin east from Portland along highway 84, we raced the rising summer sun. Warming from the tip-top cliffs of the river valley down to the curving road that hugs the waters’ shore, the sun kissed the Columbia River Gorge as we set off on a day-long adventure.

Following the Historic Columbia River Highway (highway 30), from just east of Troutdale, we dotted our way slowly along the winding road in search of the scenic byway’s many waterfalls – and boy did we discover our fair share of tumbling water!

The drive started with a quick stop at the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint to take in the dramatic landscape from the mouth of this scenic byway. From here we could see the jagged cliffs of the Gorge, the shimmering blue river and our second stop, Crown Point Vista House, an octagonal shaped observatory built in 1916.

Columbia River Gorge

Escaping deeper along the highway, we rounded the corner to our first waterfall, Latourell Falls. Located within Guy W. Talbot State Park, this thin stream of water left both our mouths hanging open in awe. Plunging 224-feet from a wall of basalt, the white water impressively contrasted with the dark rock and neon green lichen that highlighted its face.

Latourell Falls

From here we continued along highway 30 to Shepperd’s Dell Falls. A series of trickling plateau, this grouping of falls took you down below the highway to catch some cool spray before hopping back in the car to take off to Bridal Veil Falls. Elegantly streaming like a wedding veil in two separate falls, this waterfall gushes with glory before it descends into the Columbia River.

Bridal Veil Falls

Next up, cascading also in two folds, Wahkeena Falls steps down 242-feet through a crack in two rock outcroppings surrounded by the forest’s lush greenery – making it quite the sight. Originally known as Gordon Falls, this waterfall was re-birthed Wahkeena – meaning “most-beautiful” in Yakima Indian – in 1915 with the completion of the highway.

Wahkeena Falls
Following the dirt trail from Wahkeena Falls for a half-mile, we finally made it to the granddaddy of waterfalls along the Columbia River Scenic Highway, Multnomah Falls. Oregon’s tallest waterfall, Multnomah cascades 620-feet in total and is fed by natural underground springs that originate at Larch Mountain. Spanning over the second fall, Benson Bridge offers visitors a unique viewpoint of the upper falls in all its glory.

Multnomah Falls
But the fun didn’t end there! Before taking the westward journey back to Portland, we cruised down the end of the scenic highway past Horsetail Falls and finally ended the day exploring the mouth of Oneonta Gorge (can’t wait to return and do this whole hike – looks epic!) as the sun started to fall in the sky.

Have you ever driven this scenic highway? What is your favorite waterfall along the route?


Road Trip Day 2

Day two started with cartwheels and coffee.

Getting up with the sun – I would have been up earlier but Sarah needs her beauty sleep – Sarah and I got out of bed early to beat the crowds to the coastal waters. It just so happened that we also beat the sun. With a low, cool damp fog that frizzed every strand of my hair, we made our way out of Florence for the scenic drive north along Highway 101.

To our luck as soon as we hit the edge of town, the sun turned on the burners and patches of blue sky broke through. For anyone who has been to the Oregon coast or lives there, morning sun is hard to come by. So we were thrilled to have packed shorts.

Stopping about every half mile we explored the wonderfully wild and sickly scenic cliff roadway.

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Road Trip Day 1

Breathing hard or hardly breathing – I’m not sure which, but as long as I could still see Sarah’s light blue tank top and red curly hair bouncing in front of me, I’d keep running.

Sarah and I have somehow fall into a bad curse of losing track of time. We just always think we can do more in less. But I guess the phrase is too true – time flies when you’re having fun.

The first day of our three day Oregon road trip started with a short list of stops. Leaving a little later than hoped (I had to unfortunately work until 5 p.m.), Sarah and I trimmed down our must sees for the Highway 126 portion out to Florence. Three stops, two covered bridges, one short hike, all bucket list items for the 46 mile trek. Our only stipulation for this day was to make it to Florence by 9 p.m. to check in at our hotel – so we set off with bags packed, cameras ready and excitement soaring for a weekend away.

Using the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Adventure Guide for directions (wine country and Hwys 126 & 36 pages) we drove off toward the dropping sun in the West.

First up on our trip was the Coyote Creek Covered Bridge. Located off of Territorial Road on Battle Creek, the 1922 erected bridge viewed like a gate to the beautiful countryside. Looking through the 60 foot bridge, the arches framed a beautiful golden field glistening in the hot sun. With my 10 second self-timer programmed, we set abounding to check off more of our jumping covered bridges tour photos. A little rusty on our jumping skills but quickly muscle memory took over.

Jumping Coyote Creek Bridge

Back onto Highway 126, the car swerved in and out of the long cast shadows of the Coast Mountain range around each corner as we popped down our sunglass – ahhh…its finally summer.

Between mile posts 26 and 27, we stopped for our second leap of the evening. Wildcat Covered Bridge, constructed in 1925 crosses the point where Wildcat Creek meets the Siuslaw River. With a hard rock river bed below, this bridge offers wonderful areas to stick your toes in the water and beautiful, unique views of the historic bridge from below.

Jumping Wildcat Bridge

Two down and only one more stop to go as the sun continued it’s decent toward the horizon. With the mountains bringing night fall quicker than we anticipated, Sarah and I boogied west on hwy 126 until we finally turned off on Sweet Creek Road around 8 p.m. near the town of Mapleton.  Following the riverbank for ten miles to the Sweet Creek Falls trailhead, dusk set in and the realization that maybe we really didn’t have time for the hike hit.

Not willing to give up though, we gave ourselves 40 minutes to complete the two mile round trip hike. Carefully treading over the root crossed path and metal grated trail along the creek bed, we walked as fast as we could using our stealth like camera skills to snap shots of the slow moving waters. When the branches of the forest canopied over the trail, you could hardly see in front of you, but we were determined to make it to the end.

Sweet Creek Falls

Reaching the beautiful, classic waterfall at the end of the path in exactly 21 minutes, we took a breather and a few photos before turning back.

Sweet Creek Falls

With still 25 miles to drive before Florence and a mile walk back to the car, the pressure started to kick in. Will we actually reach our hotel before the owner closes up at 9pm. Both of us really didn’t want to sleep in the car. So we picked up the pace – running like wild women through the lush forest back to our car.

Wearing my salmon colored Marmot rain jacket with camera in one pocket and phone in the other, the weight bounced back and forth with every stride making it hard to stay balanced, but with long steps I hopped from rock to rock down the steeper sections and thudded across the cliff grated trail portions.

Laughing like little children the whole way down the trail from the pure silliness of the situation, we made the one mile back to the car in less than 12 minutes and sped off toward the winding road back to Florence.

With the last ounces of our luck, Sarah and I arrived at our hotel in Florence at 8:55. Throwing me out of the car to go check in as she found parking, the smiles never left our faces to have made it – we beat the clock for once.