16 of the Best Oregon Hiking Trails for a Lifetime of Adventures

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While we aren’t even close to covering every trail, Oregon hiking is one of our favorite activities. As a result, we’ve logged some foot miles and have done some extensive research to fill up our bucket list with future adventures. Below are some of the best Oregon hiking trails we’ve experienced and how we’ll be spending much of our time for years to come.

Oregon Gorge Hikes

Believe it or not, we have yet to visit one of Oregon’s most famous gorges: The Columbia River Gorge. Just as we were planning our trip, the Eagle Creek Fire ravaged the area, closing many trails. While several remain closed, we are busy preparing for a visit in the summer of 2021, and when we get there, these Oregon hiking spots will be some of the first places we stop.

Oregon Hiking on the Eagle Creek Trail

Punch Bowl Falls on the Eagle Creek Oregon Hiking trai
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  • Distance: 12 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Seasons: Year Round
  • Are dogs allowed on the Eagle Creek Trail: Leashed dogs are welcome, though some sections of the trail are narrow with high drop-offs, so caution is urged.

Look at any Oregon hiking guide and you’re likely to see the Eagle Creek trail. In fact, the over 6-mile trek to Tunnel Falls is one of the most popular adventures in the Columbia River Gorge. Passing multiple waterfalls, traversing footbridges and taking you through trails once blasted out of bedrock, this adventure comes with a few warnings.

First, if you’re deathly afraid of heights, you might want to sit this one out. Parts of the trail are lined with sheer cliff faces, also making it an unlikely prospect for a family hike, at least if you have small children.

Also, this trail makes its way into various forest jurisdictions. Expect to fill out a day-use pass while on the trail as you enter the Hatfield Wilderness.

However, if you aren’t up to the full 12 mile round-trip adventure, you can turn around at High Bridge, one of only two places where the trail crosses Eagle Creek. It does so here in style, 120 feet over the water flowing below. Turning around after crossing the bridge will shorten your journey to just over 6 miles in and out.

If you want to fit more in the day and only take in a sampling of what the Eagle Creek Trail has to offer, cut your trip short at Punchbowl Falls, another one of Oregon’s iconic classics. Heading back from here will turn your 12-mile trek into a much more manageable 3.8-mile hike.

Highlights of the Eagle Creek Trail:

  • Waterfalls: Punch Bowl Falls, Loowit Falls, High Bridge Falls and many others.
  • Old growth forest
  • The potholes: bowl-shaped manmade formations created as basalt was blasted to create the trail
  • Tunnel Falls: Early trail builders blasted a tunnel behind this 160-foot water drop, allowing hikers to not only walk behind the falls, but travel through part of the mountain to reach a different vantage point.
  • Twister Falls: By taking an additional half mile trek beyond tunnel falls, you’ll come to Twister Falls, passing through some of the most stunning scenery

Mosier Twin Tunnels Hike

  • Distance: 8.5 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: Out and back
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Are dogs allowed on the Mosier Twin Tunnel Trail: Leashed dogs are welcome

For a different sort of view from the usual Oregon beauty, take a jaunt down the now abandoned Columbia River Highway built in 1921. This original byway included two tunnels blasted through rocks in a high cliff face.

Throughout the usable history of the road, the tunnels were problematic, prone to rockslides and road closures. In fact, motorists were stranded inside the tunnel in 1921 when a snowstorm made the road impassable and interrupted travel plans.

In 1954, a more modern road was built following the river course, completely eclipsing the historic highway, until hikers located the tunnels, completely filled with rocks and debris.

Since then, the historic roadway has been restored, as have the Mosier Twin Tunnels, offering a can’t-be-missed hike along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.

Highlights of the Mosier Twin Tunnels Hike:

  • View of Eighteen Mile Island looking over historic stone guardrails atop the old highway
  • Splendid scenic river views
  • Self-tour of the scenic Mosier Twin Tunnels, complete with graffiti left by stranded motorists in 1921

Multnomah Falls Trail

Multnomah Falls, one of the most popular Oregon Hiking Trails in the Columbia River Gorge
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  • Distance: 2.6 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Seasons: Year Round
  • Are Dogs Allowed Mosier Twin Tunnel Trail: Leashed dogs are welcome

While short and sweet compared to some of the Gorge’s other trails, it’s hard to pass up the chance to see what is likely Oregon’s most iconic waterfall. Located on land donated by timber baron, Simon Benson, the trail crosses the well-photographed bridge built by the benefactor, offering a staggering view of the upper and lower falls.

Multnomah Falls actually incorporates three drops into its majesty, for a total cascade of 635 feet. You’ll pick up the trail at the Multnomah Falls Lodge. From there, you’ll climb a slight incline to the famous mid-fall bridge. It’s one of Oregon’s most iconic sights, but for bigger thrill and more waterfall eye candy, take the steeply switching trail to the Multnomah Falls viewpoint.

Highlights of the Multnomah Falls Trail include:

  • Views of Multnomah Falls
  • An up-front education on the devastation caused by forest fires as you cross through land burned in 2017
  • Benson Bridge and the lower viewpoint of Multnomah Falls, one of the most photographed of all Oregon destinations
  • View from the top of Multnomah Falls looking down the cascade.

For a complete review of what to expect on the trail, visit our Multnomah Falls Hiking Post.

Starvation Creek Waterfalls Hike

Cascade on the Starvation Creek Hiking Trail in Oregon
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  • Distance: 4.3 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Seasons: Year Round
  • Are Dogs Allowed on the Starvation Creek Waterfalls hike: Yes, if leashed

See a multitude of Columbia River Gorge waterfalls in a single, easily accessible hike from Starvation Falls State Park, including one rare manmade specimen. You’ll even learn how the ridge got its name with a commemorative plaque that shares the story of a train stranded on the ridge by snow in 1884. Fortunately, passengers were saved from starvation by nearby residents who skied in supplies, but the name has stuck.

You’ll begin by taking a short spur trail to 190-foot Starvation Falls. Doubling back and picking up the Starvation Ridge trail from the state park lot, the real fun begins. You’ll travel the restored section of the historic Columbia River Highway to the two-tiered Cabin Creek Falls. Coming in at 220-feet tall, it’s one of the highest on the ridge trail.

Traveling onward, you’ll take a short detour along the Mount Defiance trail, heading west. Soon, you’ll encounter the manmade marvel, Hole in the Wall Falls, created by highway workers in 1938 to re-channel the Warren Creek. Continuing on, you’ll view the lower portion of the Lancaster Falls located right next to the trail. You’ll probably want to avoid the impressive upper falls though, as poison oak is proliferous through this section of the trail.

Turn around here and head back the way you came until you reach the parking lot again.

Highlights of the Starvation Creek Waterfalls hike:

  • Views of the Columbia River Gorge
  • An up-close view of the historic highway path
  • 4 waterfalls in a single stretch

Wahclella Falls Loop Hike

View of the amphitheater at Wahclella falls
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  • Distance: 2.4 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Seasons: Year Round
  • Are Dogs Allowed on the Wahclella Falls hike: Yes, if leashed

While once a loop hike, the Eagle Creek fire in 2017 put an end to the lollipop excursion as well as a large portion of the greenery. However, the large amphitheater of the falls themselves is still worth the effort.

Pick up the trail from the Wahclella Falls Trailhead and hoof it until you reach a small dam. You’ll want to take some time to peek at the fish ladder managed by the Bonneville hatchery before  heading down the narrowing trail to footbridge and the stunning cascade of Munra Falls. Given its close proximity to the trail, don’t be surprised if you feel the spray.

You’ll begin a climb here, so be careful of the steep trailside drop offs. Fire damage also becomes more noticeable as you make your way up, and several trail improvements have been made to ensure hiker safety.

A set of stairs takes you to a former fork in the trail. One side forms the now closed loop section, so continue heading downward. You’ll soon reach the 350-foot two-tiered Wahclella Falls and splash pool.

WARNING: The USDA Forest Service does not recommend hiking this trail within 48 hours of heavy rain or snow. Fire damage to the area has resulted in fragile environment prone to slides and tree falls.

Highlights of the Wahclella Falls Loop Hike

  • An up-front education on the devastation caused by forest fires as you cross through land burned in 2017
  • House-sized boulders left by a 1973 landslide
  • Possibly spawning salmon at the base of the falls

Oregon Waterfall Hiking Trails

A quick glance through the Oregon section of our site will show you that we’re a sucker for a good waterfall. Lucky for us (and you), Oregon is full of hiking trails with plunges and cascades. These are some of the best we’ve found as well as a few we plan to find on future adventures.

Oregon Hiking the Trail of Ten Waterfalls

trail of 10 waterfalls, an amazing oregon travel site.
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  • Distance: 7.2 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: Loop
  • Seasons: Year Round
  • Are Dogs Allowed on the Trail of Ten Waterfalls hike: No

Many Oregon hiking spots include a waterfall or two, but there are few trails that take you to ten spectacular plunges, including a behind-the-scenes peak of the 177-foot South Falls. If you’ve ever wanted to see the backside of water, then here is your chance as this trail meanders behind a few different cascades as you trek through a rocky canyon on mostly flat, sure-footed trails.

Your adventure for the day begins easily enough from the parking area of Silver Falls State park, before heading off to your first fall of the day, the North Falls, and one of the first walk-behind plunges.

For a complete review of what to expect on the trail, see our Silver Falls State Park post.

Highlights of the Trail of Ten Waterfalls Hike

  • Main Concession Building and the South Falls Lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corp
  • 10+ waterfalls in a single day trip

McDowell Creek Falls

View of Majestic Falls and boardwalks on McDowell Creek Falls Oregon hiking trail
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  • Distance: 1.8 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type: Loop
  • Seasons: Year Round – best winter through spring
  • Are Dogs Allowed on the McDowell Creek Falls hike: Yes, on leash

The McDowell Creek Falls hike was spectacular in February the first time we visited, with signature Royal Terrace double-tiered fall roaring a curtain of plunging white. Our summer visit was a different story, starring a much smaller trickle, but providing a view of the fall’s understory and a changed adventure from the drizzly winter day.

We actually enjoyed both experiences but would recommend you hike McDowell Creek when the water is flowing. That’s winter through spring, before the rains stop.

You’ll pick up the trail from the parking area just north of Sweet Home and travel a wooden footbridge to reach the trail. From there, it’s a series of upward climbs and wooden walkways to the Majestic Falls. A loop through heavy woodland brings you back to the precipice of Royal Terrace Falls and a steep and mythical stone stairway back to the base.

For a complete and more detailed review, be sure to reach our McDowell Creek Hike expose.

Koosah and Sahalie Falls

Sahalie falls guy on wire
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  • Distance: 2.6 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: Loop
  • Seasons: Year Round – mid-spring through fall
  • Are Dogs Allowed on the Koosah and Sahalie Falls hike: Yes, on leash

Steeped in the heart of the McKenzie River Corridor are two of Oregon’s most spectacular waterfalls. You’ll travel through sky (Koosah Falls) to Heaven (Sahalie Falls) and back again. At least that’s how the Native Americans who named the twin wonders looked at the experience.

In reality, you’ll pick up a moderately trafficked portion of the McKenzie River National Recreation trail, a 26.4 mile excursion that begins at the base of Mt. Washington in an ancient lava bed and winds through the Willamette National Forest.

To transcend from earth to heaven and back again, you’ll need to begin the hike at the Carmen Reservoir, the lowest elevation point of the loop. From here, Waterfall Loop Trail #3503 travels uphill along the eastern edge of the McKenzie River. Taking this journey, you’ll encounter Koosah Falls (sky) first, before ascending to the heavenly Sahalie Falls.

Or you can do what we (and many others) have done and jump right up to heaven via a crowded parking lot off of Highway 126 in the Willamette National Forest. You’ll pass through old growth timber of impressive size before quickly reaching the midpoint uppermost viewpoint overlooking the 100-foot tall Sahalie Falls. We were joined by several slackline enthusiasts attempting to “walk” the top of the heavenly cascade.

Koosah Falls is another gem, located on the downside of the loop, offering a quieter and more serene adventure, with two stonewalled viewing areas.

For complete details on visiting these falls, be sure to read our trip review of the Koosah and Sahalie Falls hike.

Oregon Hiking Trails through Ancient Forests

Despite the fact that Oregon is a logging state, you’ll still find several old-growth specimens around. In some areas, you can even visit an entire forest of ancient trees. These are our favorite picks, including a few still on the bucket list.

Valley of the Giants

mother daughter travel bloggers in old growth forest
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  • Distance: 1.4 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: Loop
  • Seasons: Mid-spring through fall are best
  • Are Dogs Allowed at Valley of the Giants: Yes

It isn’t easy to find, but you’ll be well rewarded when you get there. The Valley of the Giants near the now abandoned town of Siletz, is an old growth forest carved out of prime logging land. Getting there requires the use of both public and private roads which may be intermittently closed, or worse, in use.

There have been many close calls with trucks and visitors who are unaware of how a business like logging works and the speed the vehicles use when transporting timber. For that reason, it’s recommended that you visit this Oregon hiking trail on the weekend.

Once you reach the Valley of the Giants, however, all else fades away. Light filters softly through trees of this size, and one of first things you’ll realize is that the tops are a long way up. Later you’ll see that these early sentinels in your path were the babies of the forest.

The 51 acres that comprise the Valley of the Giants has protected 400-year-old behemoths from the ax since 1976. In that time, many of the giants have reached 200 feet tall and measure a whopping 20 feet in circumference.

A simple loop trail will lead you through the majesty and given how hard it is to reach this spot, you’re likely to be alone as you commune with the giants.

For more details about visiting, including the best way to reach this sacred grove, read our article on the Valley of the Giants.

Hackleman Old Growth Trail

Large Tree on the Hackleman Trail
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  • Distance: 1.4 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: 2 Loops
  • Seasons: Mid-spring through fall are best
  • Are Dogs Allowed on the Hackleman Old Growth Trail: Yes

It may not be the Valley of the Giants, but the Hackleman Old Growth trail located along the Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway in the Willamette National Forest features some pretty impressive old trees. And if that sounds trite, it isn’t meant to be. After all, who could trivialize Red Cedars and Red Hemlocks that have survived 500 years of flood, fire and wind.

There are two trails that make up the Hackleman Old Growth Trail. The first leads directly from the parking lot on Highway 20 and makes a quick 1- mile loop through the forest on fairly packed gravel.

Following the course of the Old Santiam Wagon Road, this part of the trail is deemed wheelchair accessible by the U.S Department of Agriculture Forest Service. However, the same organization notes “that the wheelchair access is considered difficult due to grade.”

There is one particularly impressive specimen located along this portion of the trail, but you’ll need to tackle the spur trail to see more of the Hackleman Old Growth. Both trails together make a short and sweet excursion, with some opportunities to mingle with Oregon’s old growth beauties.

Visiting this trail is best combined with a road trip across the Over the River and Through the Woods Scenic Byway or by combining your hike with other nearby stops. For a complete guide of this area, read our blog on the Willamette National Forest.

Highlights of the Hackleman Old Growth Trail:

  • Visit the old Santiam Wagon Road, a primary route of travel during the state’s early colonization
  • Chance to view the Hackleman trout as you walk along the Hackleman Creek, , a subspecies of cutthroat trout

Cedar Flats

  • Distance: 10.4 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: out and back
  • Seasons: Spring and fall are best, extremely crowded in Summer
  • Are Dogs Allowed on the Trail: Yes

The trail to Cedar Flats is actually a road for several miles but rumored to be one of the prettiest in the state. We’ve been thwarted in our attempts to visit this scenic portion of the Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area, first by a desire to avoid the crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic. That turned out to be a mistake, as the Beachie Creek Fire ravaged the area in September of 2020.

Currently, the trail to Cedar Flats is closed. According to the U.S. Forest Service, it’s likely to be 2022 before they get in to assess the trails and make repairs—at the earliest.

When you do decide to make the trek out to Cedar Flats, you’re in for a treat. You’ll follow an old mining road to Jawbone Flats, a historic mining community turned environmental center. From here, follow the trail toward Opal Creek. While the majority of your hiking compatriots will continue onward toward the crystal blue swimming holes, you’ll branch off on the Kapetski trail toward Cedar Flats. Here, you’ll find an impressive grove of 1,000-year-old red cedars, some of the oldest in the state.

Highlights of the trail to Cedar Flats:

  • Historic mining town and relics (if not burned by 2020 fires)
  • Sawmill Falls, a 30-foot falls that marks the end of the native winter steelhead run

Oregon Hiking to Fire Lookouts

Given the state’s recent misfortune with wildfires, it should come as no surprise that the ridges and mountaintops are hiding a number of fire towers, some still active, others defunct. Hiking to these destinations usually takes a bit of work but rewards you with some stunning views. (list 3-4 we want to visit)

View of wildflowers on the Coffin Mountain Oregon Hiking Trail
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Coffin Mountain Fire Lookout

  • Distance: 2.8 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type: out and back
  • Seasons: June-October (June and July best for wildflowers)
  • Are Dogs Allowed on the Trail: Yes

For little more than a few hours of your time, the hike to Coffin Mountain offers stunning views of Mt. Jefferson and an abundance of wildflowers if you time it right. Crowning the top of Coffin Mountain is an active working fire tower. Forest service personnel still live and work at this facility, so please be respectful and don’t try to enter the tower unless invited to do so.

The hike up Coffin Mountain is located in the Willamette National Forest.

Highlights of the Coffin Mountain Trail:

  • Views of Mt. Jefferson and Detroit Lake
  • Chance to see the historic Coffin Mountain Lookout

Black Butte

Fire watch tower on the Black Butte Oregon hiking trail
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  • Distance: 4 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type: out and back
  • Seasons: June-October (June and July best for wildflowers)
  • Are Dogs Allowed on the Trail: Yes

For a mere 6,436 feet in elevation gain you can hike to the summit of Black Butte where not one, but three separate fire lookout structures can be viewed. The first is a 62-foot-tall lookout tower. The other two include  an old D-6 Cupola, an historic structure built in 1923, featuring a 1/4 sized second floor observatory on top of a 12’x12’ main floor.

The second is a cabin built in 1980 which can still be found in use during the fire season. Unfortunately, all are closed and off limits for exploration but can be freely photographed.

The Black Butte hike is located near Sisters.

Highlights of the Black Butte Trail:

  • 3 historic fire watch structures
  • Views of Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, North Sister, Middle Sister, South Sister, Broken Top, Mount Jefferson, and Mt. Hood

Gold Butte

  • Distance: 3.2 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type: Out and back
  • Seasons: June-October (June and July best for wildflowers)
  • Are Dogs Allowed on the Trail: Yes

Take a hike to this mountain lookout, and you might never want to leave. Fortunately, you don’t have to. You can make reservations to stay in the Gold Butte lookout through the U.S Forest Service, but first you’ll have to get there.

Fortunately, it’s a relatively easy trek up this Oregon hiking trail, past two locked gates and over a few gentle switchbacks to the summit, where an L-4 Ground Structure Type Fire Lookout waits for you. L-4 lookouts are characterized by a square wood cabin featuring all-around windows. This particular specimen also doubled as an Aircraft Warning System station during WWII, giving it an added historical twist.

The tower on Gold Butte is located in the Willamette National Forest and offers views of six volcanoes. You can find directions to Gold Butte from this excellent blog.

Highlights of the Gold Butte Trail:

  • Views of Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, North Sister, Middle Sister, and South Sister
  • Onsite Geocache

Easy Hiking Trails in Oregon

Tackling some of Oregon’s hiking trails is a multi-day adventure, but if you don’t have the stamina for a backcountry excursion, there are several easy and beautiful hikes, perfect for wiling away a few hours.

Painted Cove trail through Painted Hills

Hills with red, orange, and yellow streaks
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  • Distance: .2 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: Loop
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Are Dogs Allowed on the Trail: Yes, on leash

Rolling Hills in sunset colors highlight the desert landscape of the Painted Hills State Park, part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  A simple boardwalk takes you through the heart of the hills and the best colors, while the Painted Hills Overlook trail adds another half mile through the varying landscape.

This simple trail is short but can easily take more time than you think if you stop to admire the constantly changing hues of the hills and the beauty of your surroundings.

For the highlights of both trails, look at our complete blog on Oregon hiking in the Painted Hills State Park.

Sweet Creek Falls

Casually sitting on a log in front of one of the Sweet Creek Falls waterfalls
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  • Distance: 2.2 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: Out and back
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Are Dogs Allowed on the Trail: Yes, on leash

Sweet Creek Falls Trail showcases four waterfalls, which together, drop over 70 feet. Small swimming holes can be accessed at most of the falls, if you’re up for getting wet.

While this trail is heavily traveled for the first quarter mile or so, we found that crowds drastically thinned out as we continued on. By the time we reached the two-tiered finale, the most impressive plunge of them all, there was one other group departing and no one filling up the trail behind us.

Sweet Creek Falls provides easy hiking on a level dirt path augmented by beautiful wooden footbridges in places where the going could get rough.

For highlights of the Sweet Creek Falls hike, please read our complete review of Sweet Creek Falls.

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Kathleen Hesketh

Kathleen is a travel agent with Mickey World Travel, a platinum level Authorized Disney vacation planner, where she helps people discover the magic of a Disney vacation and other travel destinations. She is also the chief author and editor for Seconds to Go - a travel blog where she shares experiences from traveling the U.S. with her daughter, Ali.

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mother-daughter travel bloggers looking up at old growth tree in Oregon's Valley of the Giants

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother-daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S. We're sharing our experiences, tips and insights to help you more easily get out and explore the beautiful landscapes and places of this nation.

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Kathleen Hesketh

Kathleen is a travel agent with Mickey World Travel, a platinum level Authorized Disney vacation planner, where she helps people discover the magic of a Disney vacation and other travel destinations. She is also the chief author and editor for Seconds to Go - a travel blog where she shares experiences from traveling the U.S. with her daughter, Ali.

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