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Hike of the Month: Lewis River Falls

Take a break from the Columbia River Gorge and journey into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest for a loop hike featuring a handful of stunning waterfalls fed by snowmelt.

Spray from several waterfalls create a soft rainbow over a turquoise pool on a sunny day.

Native American tribes once fished for salmon at the base of the Lower Lewis River Falls.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Table of Contents

If crowds and timed-entry permit systems are keeping you from chasing waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, then it might be time to wander north. A series of stunning waterfalls in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest awaits those who don’t mind spending a couple of hours in the car to reach them.

Quick facts

Lewis River Falls Trail Portland PDX

Even if there were no waterfalls, we’d still love this trail for its forest views.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Brief overview

A campground and day-use area near the Lower Falls makes this waterfall the most crowded of the three. The trail connecting the three falls is well maintained with mostly gentle changes in elevation. It passes through old-growth forests and impressive rock formations, includes footbridges with creek access, and is mostly shaded by tree canopy. Be aware that the road to the trailheads is bumpy, winding, and includes unpaved sections.

Why you should try it

Thanks to its distance from Portland and few amenities along the way, the Lewis River Falls Trail provides a quintessential PNW-style adventure without hoards of people — a hard-to-find combination these days. Waterfall vistas, mossy forests, swimming holes, camping opportunities, and a bonus fourth waterfall (Lower Copper Creek Falls) make this a must-do hike.

Portlanders, imagine taking in views of the Upper Falls without anyone else around. It happened to us — and it can happen to you.

Gif by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Pro tips

Print a copy of your parking reservation and be sure to start the trip with a full tank of gas. Avoid the toll at the Bridge of the Gods by taking I-205 to WA-14, or taking I-5 northbound to the Woodland exit. There are no toilets at the Upper or Middle Falls trailheads. Bring your swimming suit on a hot day for a dip at the Middle Falls, pack a cooler with snacks and water, and be prepared to be out of cell service.

Let us know

Did you try this hike? Do you know of one we should check out? Send us your thoughts and recommendations — or check out our other monthly hiking guides.

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