5 of the Most Underrated Waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge

Ian Sane
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Sure, you’ve been down “Waterfall Alley” a dozen times. You’ve visited all the staples with loved ones from out of town—Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Latourell, Horsetail. You’ve been to the headliners time and again. But there’s a whole world of cascading wonders above and beyond the paved trails that deliver latte-toting tourists to well-known selfie-inducing vistas. Here’s a list of five waterfalls you might not be familiar with, but are more than worth the time it takes to get acquainted.

1. Fairy Falls

Adam Sawyer

Ever wonder what’s above Wahkeena Falls? How about a metric ton of awesome! Once the pavement ends, the real fun begins. In a deep, forested canyon that gets seemingly better with every step, Fairy Falls makes for a perfect rest stop on your ascent. However, the delicate beauty of this 20-foot cascade regularly renders visitors breathless.

Directions.

2. Triple Falls

Adam Sawyer

“There’s Horsetail Falls, yeah!” Keep hiking. “Oh, we just walked behind Ponytail Falls!” Good, keep hiking. “Why, there’s nothing past Ponytail. Oh wait, that little waterfall by the bridge? That’s cute.” Wrong! You almost un-hiked yourself out of a waterfall crescendo. Triple Falls isn’t fooling anybody with that name. The three-pronged cascade is easily the most photo-worthy of any you can visit from the Horsetail Falls Trailhead. Don’t miss it.

Directions.

3. Wahclella Falls

Adam Sawyer

Whether due to lack of visibility, size, or distance of hike, Wahclella Falls doesn’t get nearly as many visitors as the other falls just off of the Historic Highway. But the lush grotto that is home to Wahclella Falls is damn near life changing. It’s a fairyland, almost assuredly inhabited by hobits and the like. It’s only a mile out and a mile back, so it’s barely a leg stretch. But if that’s the sort of thing that prevents you from visiting awe-inspiring beauty of this caliber, then so be it. You’re only hurting yourself with that sort of behavior.

Directions.

4. Upper Latourell Falls

Adam Sawyer

In another case of, “There’s another waterfall up there?” Upper Latourell Falls is an inviting 120-foot cascade that would be a stand alone attraction were it not for her slightly more fetching sister located downstream. See them both in an easy, 2.4-mile loop.

Directions.

5. Coopey Falls

Adam Sawyer

Coopey Falls, or the upper chunk of it, is not hidden from view. If you've ever been among the throngs of people who hike butt-to-gut up to Angel's Rest on the weekend, you've probably seen it. But in order to get your eyes on the falls in its entirety, you need to visit it from ground level. And in order to do that, you have to visit a nunnery. Located on the grounds of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist Convent, Coopey Falls is a short distance east of the Angel's Rest Trailhead on the Historic Highway. Walk up to the main house, check in, and ask for permission to visit the falls. The sisters are more than accommodating, and it's more than worth it.

Directions.

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