Chasing Waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest

08/27/2020 | by Adam Patterson | Local Area

 

The band TLC had obviously never visited the Pacific Northwest when they crooned, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls.” The area’s stunning and diverse wilderness includes hundreds of jaw-dropping waterfall wonders that are worth chasing, from small but scenic falls to dramatic drops that leave you breathless. 

As with most wilderness adventures, the chase is worth the prize. We’ve put together the best six Pacific Northwest waterfalls, giving you a crash course in where to start, how to get there, and what you can expect when you cross the finish line. Read on to take the plunge! 

Multnomah Falls

It’s an easy race to Multnomah Falls, but the finish line may be the most rewarding of the group. Its impressive cascade is fed by underground springs and melting snow from Larch Mountain, falling 611 feet to the glittering pool beneath. The viewing area is nestled into a carved-out wall at the fall’s base, giving you an impressive upward view of the sheer power and beauty of this natural wonder. 

For an even better vantage point, hike the paved trail to Benson Bridge for a stomach-dropping view of the fall’s final 69-foot drop. 

Drury Falls

The 1,270-foot Drury Falls is formed as Fall Creek tumbles into a free-fall over the rim of Tumwater Canyon. Fall Creek is relatively small and runs dry during the summer months, but during snowmelt season it provides a powerful flow over the cliffs that crashes against the steep cliffs below.

The most popular viewpoint is along Highway 2, as 600 feet of the flow can be seen from the road. Park at one of the pullouts about 500 yards from the falls on either side; you’ll need to walk beside the highway to reach the viewpoint, so be aware of passing cars!   

Deception Falls

Hidden just off an inconspicuous rest area along Stevens Pass, Deception Falls is often overlooked.  But its magical trip through an ancient Douglas Fir forest is worth the stop. Though not as tall as some other waterfalls on our list, this multi-tiered beauty tumbles in short but dramatic drops full of impressive white-capped waves as it makes its way to join the Tye River. There are multiple lookout points that offer great views right past the parking lot, but the best vantage point is at the designated viewing platform at the top of the falls. You can even be serenaded by the waves as you grab a quick bite at the Picnic Area (but be sure to protect your snack from the spray). 

If you have time, be sure to take the .8-mile interpretative trail loop nearby to learn about the ecology of the area and enjoy even more lookout points to the falls. You’ll find interpretative signage, cross picturesque bridges, and get to see the fall’s powerful whitewater rapids blend into a cool, crystal pool at the bottom of the trail.

Bridal Veil Falls

In the depths of Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park in the Fraser Valley, this popular waterfall gets its name from the unique way its powerful cascade flows over a wide, smooth rock face in a delicate-looking veil. But don’t mistake its deceptively fragile appearance for weakness; crashing more than 122 meters to the bottom, this waterfall is truly awe-inspiring in its natural power. 

An easy 15-minute trail through cedar and fir trees leads to a designated viewpoint at the base of the falls.  During the winter, falling sheets of ice and unstable cliff rocks make this a hazardous, slippery endeavor. Perhaps the best time to view Bridal Veil Falls is during the summer when the water flow dries considerably, and the intimidating spray slows to a mesmerizing stream.

Elk Falls

This 25-meter waterfall is so impressive they named the entire park after it. It’s one of the area’s best “plunge waterfalls,” meaning it falls vertically and loses contact with the cliff face behind it as the Campbell River plunges into the rock-walled canyon below. The powerful drop creates an abundant spray and a thunderous roar that can be heard for miles around. 

There are multiple trails in the park that lead to great lookout points for Elk Falls, but the newest addition is also the most popular: a thrilling suspension bridge that floats 60 meters above the Canyon floor. Offering a top-to-bottom view of the cascading flow, its multiple viewing and cantilevered platforms give you a breathtaking sight of the waterfall from every angle!

Alexander Falls

Don’t be fooled by their bottom position on our list – Alexander Falls is a frontrunner in the amazing waterfalls category. Three impressive tiers drop over 43 meters in a 12-meter wide flow that’s framed by jagged andesite cliffs and vibrantly green trees. The forest that surrounds it is wide and wild, offering views of curious wildlife (watch out for bears) and plenty of prime hiking territory. 

A dedicated viewing platform and picnic area sits just across from the falls and offers a wide, but dry, view of its immense drop. There’s also an obscure trailhead not far from the platform that leads to the top and bottom of the falls, but both hikes are considered strenuous in difficulty and should only be tried by experienced hikers. 

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