- Top Waterfalls to Photograph Around the World
- 4 Reasons Why Oregon Should Be Your Next Photography Destination
Oregon waterfalls provide some of the best waterfall photography opportunities on the West Coast. If you live in or near Oregon or plan to visit sometime soon, here is a short list of what could be considered the best Oregon waterfalls.
In this list of some of the best Oregon waterfall photography locations, we’ll show some of what we’ve found with the help of our good friend, Scott Setterberg, of ColorTexturePhotoTours. If you decide to tackle one or two on your own, you are sure to enjoy the trek.
This list is by no means the final say for beautiful Oregon waterfalls for creative imaging. Let us know your favorite spots, too! Our list will be in alphabetical order since it was actually rather difficult to rank them properly. They’re all so gorgeous!
Abiqua Falls is accessed via the Abiqua Falls Trail, a 5-mile-long trail best traveled from Spring to early Autumn that is rated difficult. It’s located in the Santiam State Forest near Scott Mills, Oregon, a small mining town near Salem in Northwest Oregon. You get to Salem on I-5 and from there take Oregon Route 213, the Cascade Highway, and follow the signs.
The waterfall itself is sandwiched between basalt rock formations and at certain times of day the light has an almost ethereal quality. You can get right down onto the stream to photograph it, but the water is very cold and some pools are deep.
The falls and the trail to it are full of luscious forest growth, making the entire trek a photo opportunity. There is wildlife to see, too, with the trail being a popular spot for birding.
Butte Creek Falls
A short bit South and East of Abiqua Falls is Butte Creek Falls, accessed by means of an easy 1-mile trail that is part of the Butte Creek Falls Recreation Area, all of which is only about 90 minutes from Portland.
The easy hike rewards you with a very pretty set of two waterfalls that you can photograph. The main falls can be viewed from above or the front, and you can get behind the upper falls further down the trail. The upper falls is wider and shorter while the main falls is tall and somewhat narrow.
Lots of forest growth and many birds make the entire trek a picture taking journey. Though it is an easy hike, there are fall dangers, so be careful.
Part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Fairy Falls is a 20’ high veil type waterfall with great views of the falls head-on. It’s moderately difficult to reach, but the trail is also listed as dangerous. Again, exercise caution!
A short drive East of Portland, you can get to the trail system from the Historic Columbia River Highway or off of I-84, but the historic highway is more fun with many spots to stop and take pictures. The trail for Fairy Falls is near the area of the large Wahkeena Falls, so you could do both in the same trip.
Named after its appearance, Horsetail Falls is one of the easiest of the Oregon waterfalls to access.
A couple of miles of the Wahkeena Falls trail and only about 100 feet or so off of the Historic Columbia River Highway, your best views for Oregon waterfall photography will be from this easy, short trail.
Photographically, this 176’ high falls is highly recognizable and is fun to image, as exposure techniques can make it appear very much like an actual horse's tail. The trail is full of other possible photo subjects, but it is also generally quite full of visitors due to its easy-to-access location.
Lower North Falls
Popularly known as the Thunderdome due to its shape, Lower North Falls is located a few short miles East of Salem in the Silver Falls State Park, accessed from Hwy 214, which is also known as Silver Falls Drive.
It’s 30’ tall and 60’ wide and empties into a large pool at its base. A wide horsetail shape photographs as an interesting sheet of water, which varies as the volume of water changes seasonally. In addition to the trail, you can also get to it by recreational river travel.
Lower South Falls
At 100’ tall and clearly viewed from the trail, Lower South Falls is a classically beautiful waterfall that lends itself to a variety of photographic imaging techniques to showcase that beauty.
Like Lower North Falls, this waterfall is also located in the Silver Falls State Park.
McDowell Creek Falls
The views all along the trail leading to McDowell Creek Falls are excellent for photography as there are wooden footbridges, a wide, boulder-strewn stream bed at its base, and multiple intricate details of the rock face it tumbles down.
Generally open all year long, the falls are easily accessed from US 20 just a few miles from Lebanon, which is about halfway between Salem and Eugene.
Middle North Falls
Part of the same trails as Lower North and Lower South Falls, Middle North Falls is a majestic wide sheet waterfall about 100’ tall that photographs beautifully by means of a variety of photographic methods.
Surrounded by lush forest, there are several excellent views at various points along the trail so you can capture the beauty of this waterfall from multiple perspectives.
Royal Terrace Falls
Royal Terrace Falls is part of the same area as the McDowell Creek Falls and is an awesome subject for waterfall photography. It’s a tiered, multi-level waterfall that is about 119’ tall and has been described as a stair-step waterfall.
The easy trail has multiple man-made paths and stairs constructed of wood which makes the trail accessible year-round for any level of hiker.
Silver Falls is located in Silver Fall State Park about 20 miles Southeast of Salem and has a wonderful trail system that gives many photographic opportunities besides the waterfall itself.
A highlight of the trail is a beautiful wooden bridge. There are about 10 waterfalls along the entire trail which is rated easy.
The park is easy to access and is actually a very popular wedding venue.
Smith Rock State Park is in the central part of the state near Redmond, along the Crooked River and is accessed from US 97. It is listed as part of the 7 Travel Wonders of Oregon due to the huge variety of recreational activities available plus the many different types of landscape views for photography.
Depending on the time of year, Crooked River is full of areas of white water and small falls, and the entire park has trails that range from easy to very difficult. It’s a great idea to book a guided photo tour by ColorTexturePhotoTours which may be the best way to see and photograph this area.
Starvation Creek Falls
A very easy drive on I-84 a mere 30 minutes from Portland, Starvation Creek Falls is a showcase waterfall of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The parking lot for the trailhead is right off of the highway.
It is a two-tiered tall waterfall and is photographically magnificent, making it one of the most photographed of Oregon waterfalls and of the entire United States. The two drops total in height at 227’ and you can photograph it from various spots along the trail for a wide range of views.
About 5 miles East of the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River and just outside of Sweeny, Washington on Hwy 14 is Sweeny Falls. It’s a beautiful small falls and photographs wonderfully even in the dead of winter.
Bridge of the Gods is a 1920s era cantilever bridge about 40 minutes East of Portland that offers its own great photographic opportunities.
At a total height of 242’, Wahkeena Falls is a multi-tiered waterfall that is named for a word which means “most beautiful,” a label it lives up to in many ways. Photographically, it is easy to make stunning images of this Oregon waterfall.
It’s also easy to access from the Historic Columbia River Highway or off of I-84 about 30 minutes from Portland. The trail it’s on is part of a large trail that offers views of several photographically interesting waterfalls.
White River Falls
Located within the White River Falls State Park near Maupin in North Central Oregon, White River Falls is a great photo subject with its tall height and horseshoe shape. It’s about 75’ high and it can be as wide as 250’ during peak runoff season.
Various river canyon spots along the trail also make for great photography in addition to the waterfall photography offered by White River Falls, easily one of the most exciting of Oregon waterfalls.
Tall and thin, the Winter Falls waterfall in the Silver Falls State Park near Salem photographs wonderfully from several different angles along the trail.
It’s on a moderate length trail, about 5 ½ miles, but the trail is rather easy for the most part and includes man-made stairs for several of the elevation changes.
Book a Tour or Take Your Own
Whichever method you choose to explore these beautiful Oregon waterfalls, we want to see your finished images. These waterfalls are generally somewhat simple to access, though some of them may have a challenging trail as the way in.
What really makes these waterfalls challenging is that they are naturally beautiful and can be imaged in many different ways.
If you’re unfamiliar with these areas, or if you’re in need of individual guidance on waterfall photography, I can’t recommend ColorTexturePhotoTours highly enough.
Scott hosts guided photo tours of Oregon waterfall photography locations. These highly rated photo tours provide photographers with valuable insights and are a treasure trove of beautiful sites and helpful photography tips.
Visit some of the waterfalls on this list in high style with one of Scott’s all-inclusive, small-group photo tours. Visit ColorTexturePhotoTours today to book your Oregon waterfall photography adventure!