Just East of Portland, Oregon is a scenic highway dotted with waterfalls and hiking trails. The Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway (Yes, it's a mouthful but that's its real name), has a good weekend's worth of adventures.
Multnomah Falls is the most famous stopping point on this route, but Oneonta Gorge is quickly rivaling it. When I visited this past weekend there was a good hundred people struggling to get up a wall of logs that block the entrance to the gorge. Once past them though, people were a lot more spread out.
What's exciting about this hike is the various distinct sections within it. First, the large pile of logs at the beginning. Getting over them was a bit tricky, but as long as you take your time and wear decent shoes you should be fine. However, some people were trying to it with flip flops and babies strapped to their backs... not a good idea unless your looking to crack your head open. The logs were pretty slippery in some places.
Once you hurdle those though, you're rewarded with quite the view. Two rock faces reach up high on both sides, and a shallow riverbed leads the way between them. Lush, green plants lined the walls and sunlight streamed in from above. I was amazed however, how cool the air felt through here as it was a 90+ degree day.
For this part of the hike, prepare to get a little wet. The water from the falls pools in certain areas, and must be waded through. For the most part it was waist-high or below, but there was a section where it reached my chest and I had to hold by bag above my head. My advice for these pools is to move carefully, as the water is cloudy and some of the rocks can surprise you. I have a nice bruise on my shin now as proof haha.
Also, I recommend putting any electronics you have in a plastic bag or waterproof case beforehand. It's easy to loose your footing, even if your not a clutz like me.
Finally though, the waterfall is in front of you and your rushing in to swim. Or maybe your not, but I definitely was! The water hole beneath the falls made for a nice swimming area, and was deep enough to jump from the low rock ledges. However, don't be fooled - the water is COLD. The summer sun took a bit of the edge off, but I spent the rest of the hike back trying to regain feeling in my toes.
Heading back seemed to go a lot quicker. I was ready to put on some dry clothes and find the nearest snack I could get my hands on. The logs served as a road block though, and the crowd there was just as large as when we'd started. People were pretty friendly though and recognized the dangers of so many bodies in one place. Strangers offered hands and steady arms, and we did the same.
Overall, the hike took about an hour and a half. Pretty short, but well worth it! Just keep in mind it's level of difficulty and leave the really small children at home for this one. Sturdy hiking sandals or tennis shoes are also a good idea, and a change of dry clothes.
If you're still up for more hiking afterwards too, the whole highway is lined with trails and roadside falls. Make sure to check out Multnomah if you haven't seen it!