From its stunning coastline to its mountainous regions, the Pacific Northwest of the USA is home to many incredible natural wonders and some incredible waterfalls. Oregon has undoubtedly some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the country. The best thing is, they are relatively easy to explore on an Oregon roadtrip and only a short easy to moderate hike away from your car.
This Ultimate Oregon Roadtrip itinerary takes you to the 5 best waterfalls in Oregon, including the three highest waterfalls in the state! Plus, if you have some extra time we’ve included a few bonus nearby waterfalls and hot springs to take in while you are in the area.
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Your Ultimate Oregon Roadtrip Itinerary to See the Best 5 Waterfalls in Oregon
The best way to start your Oregon roadtrip is from Portland, the main city of Oregon. Portland is known for its independent breweries, great food, and its hip vibes and definitely worth a visit. Spend a few days there to explore its culinary specialties before starting your Oregon roadtrip to explore Oregon’s 5 best waterfalls.
Oregon Roadtrip Map
The below Oregon roadtrip map shows you the location of each waterfall and the driving distances included in this itinerary. The map closely follows our recommended itinerary but feel free to switch things up if you would like to explore other places along the way.
Day One of Oregon Roadtrip - Multnomah Falls and Abiqua Falls
The first day of this Oregon Waterfall Roadtrip Itinerary is a big day, knocking out arguably the most famous of Oregon’s waterfalls: Multnomah Falls, and also our personal favorite, Abiqua Falls. With so much packed into the first day, getting an early start is imperative, but getting up early should not at all a problem when you have the best waterfalls in Oregon to look forward to.
Starting off from Portland, it is an easy half hour drive East along the Columbia River until you reach Multnomah Falls. You can’t miss this one as there are a ton of signs, and the waterfall is easily seen from the highway. The parking lot is actually in the middle of the highway, and from there it is a short 5-minute walk up to the base of the falls.
Multnomah Falls is incredible to see in person. The size of the falls is immense, as water plunges over 600 feet (180 meters) from the top of the cliff. As you get closer and closer you will be craning your neck to see up to the top of the falls! There is an accessible bridge halfway to better take in the falls, though be sure to get the famous photograph from below, including the bridge, before venturing up onto it.
Cost to see Multnomah Falls: Free
Estimated time to see Multnomah Falls: 1 hour
Difficulty Level: Easy. The entire walkway to the bottom of the falls is paved.
We recommend you wear: Something waterproof as you might get a bit wet depending on the wind direction. If you are planning to take professional photos here, consider bringing rain protection for your camera.
As Multnomah Falls is easily accessible on the highway, and with only a short walk to the falls, it is easy to see another one of the best waterfalls in Oregon on the same day. Abiqua Falls is an hour and a half to two hours drive south from Multnomah Falls. You will pass through some of the Southeastern Portland suburbs, which is a great time to fill up on gas, water, and snacks to make sure you are ready for this mini adventure.
Abiqua Falls is the most difficult of the best waterfalls in Oregon to access, requiring some driving on gravel roads, and a steep hike down to the falls, but it is all worth it!
Start by driving to the town of Scotts Mills and then take the Crooked Finger Road almost 11 miles until you reach an unnamed gravel road. Turn right, and follow the road downhill for the last 2 miles. The road will get rougher as you go and the last 1.5 miles of this requires a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle. You can either park at the top of the hill and hike the 2 miles down the road, or drive as far as they can, and then park on the side of the road.
You will know you have reached the trailhead, when you come across a large gate blocking the road. About 100 feet back from the gate is the beginning of the trail, heading down on a forest trail towards Abiqua Creek. The trail gets very steep as you near the creek, and there are a number of ropes to help aid in getting up and down the hill. Use these ropes as they are very helpful!
Once at the creek level, it is a relatively short hike upstream to Abiqua Falls. The falls are absolutely breathtaking, cascading over a cliff of basalt columns, and reminded us very much of Svartifoss in Iceland. If you are curious to know what we are talking about, check out our weekend in Iceland guide here.
Enjoy your time here, and take in the quietness and solitude at the falls, but don’t enjoy it for too long as you still have to hike back up the hill!
Cost to see Abiqua Falls: Free
Estimated time to see Abiqua Falls: 2 hours (add more if you have to hike on the road)
Difficulty Level: Moderate. The hike to the falls is definitely a bit more involved and pretty steep in the beginning.
We recommend you wear: Good shoes with traction and pants you don’t mind getting dirty as you will have to climb over tree trunks.
If you are hiking in the summer, there should still be a few hours of daylight left after you see both falls. We would recommend the 45 minute drive to Silver Falls State Park in the evening. The park has a great campground, or cabins to stay at, which puts you within walking distance of South Falls, which you’ll explore on day two. If you are new to camping and are worried about sleeping under the stars, make sure to read these Camping Tips for Beginners and you will be all set.
Day Two of Oregon Roadtrip – Hiking to the South Falls
Day two includes another great waterfall, South Falls, located within Silver Falls State Park. The best part about Silver Falls State Park is that there are over ten great waterfalls and you can walk behind 4 of them! We completed the Trail of Ten Falls hike to take them all in, and highly recommend spending the time to enjoy this park while you are here.
South Falls is unique in that you can walk completely behind the falls! There is something so magical about walking behind a waterfall and seeing it from a completely different angle.
If you have camped at Silver Falls State Park, South Falls is an easy 20 minute walk away from the campground. Alternatively, if you are driving into the park for the day, there is a very large parking lot near South Falls.
You will hear the thundering sound of the water plunging over the edge and see the mist rise into the air, well before you see the falls. The falls are impressive to see from any angle, but the best is surely from underneath the falls, on the narrow trail that circumnavigates the falls. You will likely get wet, but it is totally worth the experience!
While at Silver Falls State Park, we would highly recommend you to hike the Trail of Ten Falls hike which continues from South Falls, and meanders throughout the park, taking in (you guessed it) ten more waterfalls, including more that you can walk behind! The full hike should take about three hours, and is on an easy to follow 7 mile (11.5 km) trail. We really enjoyed hiking through the peaceful backcountry of the park, taking in the waterfalls and meandering river all to ourselves on a brisk March morning!
Cost to see South Falls: $5 park day-use permit
Estimated time to see South Falls: Thirty minutes to only see South Falls. Just over three hours for the Trail of Ten Falls
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate. The ground might be a bit slippery if it rained recently and some of the inclines can get your heart rate up.
We recommend you wear: Good shoes with good traction as the muddy trail can be slippery when wet. Also make sure you bring a rain jacket and a protective bag for your camera as you will likely get wet when walking behind the waterfalls.
After spending most of the day exploring Silver Falls State Park, you can either stay another night in the campground here, or drive an hour and a half south towards Eugene, Oregon where there are many accommodation options.
Day Three of Oregon Roadtrip – Exploring Salt Creek Falls and Watson Falls
The third day is the last day of your ultimate Oregon roadtrip to see the 5 best waterfalls in Oregon. Packing in two more powerful waterfalls, this day also requires the most driving. If you spent the night at Silver Falls State Park, it is a two and a half hour drive to Salt Creek Falls, or just over 1 hour from Eugene.
Salt Creek Falls
Once you reach the Salt Creek Falls they are super easy to access, as there is a parking lot right near the falls. Salt Creek Falls is known for it’s main drop of 286 vertical feet (87 meters), the third highest in Oregon! Third only to Multnomah Falls (check!), and Watson Falls (coming up next!).
Cost to see Salt Creek Falls: $5 park day-use fee
Estimated time to see Salt Creek Falls: Thirty minutes
Difficulty Level: Easy
We recommend you wear: Anything you would like.
Back on the road, it’s an hour and a half drive to Watson Falls which are in the Umpqua National Forest.
Watson Falls involves a short but steep hike up a heavily trafficked path. The hike will take you past beautiful mossy rocks and trees, as well as some small rapids, before Watson Falls comes into view. Watson Falls are the second highest falls in Oregon and are just as impressive as you would imagine. There are multiple viewing platforms and a bridge that crosses the river below the falls, allowing you to get the perfect viewpoint.
After snapping a few photos, you can take an alternate path back down to the parking lot for some more variety in your hiking views.
Cost to see Watson Falls: Free
Estimated time to see Watson Falls: Less than 1 hour
Difficulty Level: Moderate but short. The hike is steep and can be a bit muddy.
We recommend you wear: Good shoes with traction.
Day Three Bonus - Toketee Falls and Umpqua Hot Springs
While you are visiting the Watson Falls in the Umpqua National Forest on your Oregon roadtrip, make sure you check out a few other highlights, only a few miles away – namely Toketee Falls and Umpqua Hot Springs.
The drive to Toketee Falls from Watson Falls is less than five minutes and the hike to Toketee Falls is relatively easy and less than one mile. The falls are viewed from a platform, high above the river below, and you can feel the power of the water as it cascades over the edge. Toketee Falls is very impressive as it is also surrounded by basalt columns, similar to Abiqua Falls.
Cost to see Toketee Falls: Free
Estimated time to see Toketee Falls: Less than 1 hour
Difficulty Level: Easy to moderate. It’s a relatively steep but short walk to the platform on forest ground.
We recommend you wear: Good shoes as you climb over some roots.
Umpqua Hot Springs
The road that the Toketee Falls parking lot is on, also happens to be the road to Umpqua Hot Springs, which is only a few miles further. If you haven’t heard of Umpqua Hot Springs before, they are a series of pools on a hillside overlooking the North Umpqua River which we visited on our first month of vanlife. The pools are filled with natural hot mineral water, pouring out of the hillside, filling the top pool and continuing to flowing into lower level pools. The way the hot springs are situated, you will experience the hottest water at the top. The water temperature cools down the further down the hill you go.
If you enjoy cold water, you can walk downhill to the North Umpqua River for a short dip and warm back up in the hot springs.
To get to the Umpqua Hot Springs from the parking lot, you will do a short but steep hike. Note that the Umpqua Hot Springs can be extremely popular. We recommend you visit early in the morning or during the week and either in Spring or Fall.
Cost to see Umpqua Hot Springs: $5 day-use fee
Estimated time to see Umpqua Hot Springs: Less than 30 minutes hiking time; stay as long as you like in the hot springs pool!
Difficulty Level: Moderate. The hike to the Umpqua Hot Springs is steep on forest ground but short.
We recommend you wear: Good shoes with good traction. As the hot springs are completely natural, there are no changing rooms. If you would like some privacy to change into your swimwear, you would have to do so before starting the hike. The area is also popular with nudists so don’t be surprised if you end up seeing more than expected.
The drive back to Portland to complete your Oregon roadtrip is 4 hours and if you have spent all day exploring the Umpqua National Forest, you will likely want to camp in the area rather than driving through the night. As an alternative to visiting Umpqua Hot Springs on Day Three, you could also extend your Oregon roadtrip by one day and enjoy the hot springs the next day, first thing in the morning.
Where to Stay for the Ultimate Oregon Roadtrip
The best place to start and end your ultimate Oregon roadtrip is in Portland, Oregon. Portland has an amazing and quirky restaurant scene, and is also worth exploring while you are in the area. We have put together a list of some of our favorite airbnb's in Portland to help plan the start of your ultimate Oregon roadtrip!
It will be hard to leave the state after completing the ultimate Oregon roadtrip to see the 5 best waterfalls in Oregon. We were simply amazed at the power of nature, and impressed by the natural beauty of Oregon! The state of Oregon has so much to offer, with these 5 waterfalls, being some of our favorite places to visit! If you are yearning to explore more of Oregon, check out our summary of the first month on the road of vanlife, where we also explored nearby Crater Lake in Oregon!
If you are looking for a road trip adventure in Colorado, make sure you check out these tips for the perfect 6 day Colorado road tip!
The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for Your Oregon Roadtrip
1) Prepare for Muddy Trails
Most hiking trails to these waterfalls on your Oregon roadtrip are on forest ground and can be quite muddy in spring after the snow melt or after rain. Make sure you have good shoes with good traction to facilitate the hike. Also prepare to have your clothes get dirty on some of these hikes.
2) Expect to Get Wet
Expect to get wet! You are at a waterfall after all and any wind gust can transport the waterfall mist and get you soaked. Especially if you are planning to walk behind waterfalls or get close to them, be prepared to get wet and bring a rain jacket. We also recommend bringing water protection for your camera if you are planning to take professional photos.
3) Let Someone Know Where You're Going
Many of these places on your Oregon roadtrip don't have any cell reception or only spotty reception. Before you leave, make sure you let someone know where you're going and when you expect to be back. That way, in case something happens, they know where to look for you.
4) Pack Some Snacks
Some of these waterfalls are remote and there aren't any restaurants or coffee shops nearby. Make sure you pack some snacks for your Oregon roadtrip so that you don't end up being hungry on your hike.
5) Plan Your Oregon Roadtrip for Between April and October
Due to the higher elevation in these locations, it can get quite cold and snowy during the winter months. The best time to go on your Oregon road trip to see the best waterfalls is between April and October. Any earlier or later in the year and you might still have snowy and icy trails.
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