Winter in Portland usually means cozying up with a bottle of whiskey and resigning to several months of sloth and drunkenness. And if this coming season is anything like the Snowpocalypse that hit us in 2017, there's not much left to do but shrug our shoulders and stock up on more booze.
But before you and your couch start sharing the same DNA, remember that you'll be missing out on what is arguably Oregon's best outdoor season—especially if you enjoy a good waterfall hike.
For one, the crowds that clog the trails in the summer are at home bingeing Netflix. The snowy forest has a tranquil silence that can only be experienced in winter. What's more, the waterfalls are transformed into massive ice sculptures once the temperature drops below freezing.
From the Columbia Gorge to Silver Falls, here are some frozen waterfall hikes that will get you off the recliner. Of course, just make sure to check the road and trail conditions, and bring tire chains.
In summer, this easy 4-mile out-and-back trail is packed with hikers looking to cool off by the water. Come winter, you have a beautiful trek that takes you through a snow-covered forest of Douglas firs, mountain hemlocks and cedars. Since this hike is located on the east slope of Mount Hood, there will be snow on the trail—bring snowshoes. Starting at the Sherwood Trailhead, follow signs for Tamanawas Falls and then cross the footbridge over an icy creek. You'll go uphill a couple miles before reaching the 150-foot waterfall surrounded by rows of icicles hanging off the frosty lava cliff. If you get close, though, those icicles can turn deadly if one happens to fall. Be sure to layer up as the entire hike will probably take a couple hours.
Directions: From I-84 east, take exit 64 for Mount Hood Highway toward OR-35 White Salmon/Government Camp. Turn right onto Button Bridge Road/Mount Hood Highway and drive about 24 miles to Sherwood Trailhead. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for this trail.
Latourell/Bridal Veil/Multnomah Falls
Most Portlanders tend to avoid this stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway during tourist season, when it can turn into one giant parking lot. But that all changes in the colder months. With the crowds mostly cleared out, you can choose to visit just one of these waterfalls or make a day out of it and explore them all—either way, the experience will be completely different from what all those outsiders got back in summer. At 620 feet, Multnomah Falls and the surrounding cliffs transform into a giant ice tower, which makes it even more impressive. You can also opt to hike the 5-mile Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop, which features a few waterfalls. Just watch for loose rocks and falling trees, a lingering byproduct of the Eagle Creek Fire. The trails are icy in the winter, so footwear-traction gear is recommended.
Directions: From I-84 east, take exit 31 near mile 31. Walk under the footbridge to Multnomah Falls Lodge.
Lacamas Creek Park
A city park located in Camas, Wash., Lacamas Park is only 20 miles from Portland and a great choice if you're looking for a relaxing stroll through the woods but are short on time. It's home to three waterfalls, which is pretty unique for an urban park. And even if they aren't completely frozen, the winter snow melt transforms them into the kind of roaring falls you can hear long before they're even in sight. Beginning at the Lacamas Creek Trailhead, you'll walk through a forest of maples and alders before crossing a steel bridge over Lacamas Creek. A path leads down a rocky chute to a view of Lower Falls, though this might not be accessible in the winter due to rising water levels. Veer left after crossing the bridge and walk along the creek until you cross Woodburn Creek Bridge. Eventually you'll come to a viewpoint for the 20-foot Potholes Falls, named after the many divots carved into the rock. To see Woodburn Falls, take the gravel service road right by the Potholes viewpoint past the junction for Lacamas Park Lily Field Hike. After about a third of a mile, you'll find the path leading down to the falls. Head back the way you came.
Directions: From I-84 east, take exit 8 and merge onto I-205 north. After 4.4 miles, take exit 12 for WA-14 towards Camas. At the traffic circle, take the second exit onto Northwest 6th Avenue. Turn right onto Northeast Adams Street and then left onto 3rd Avenue. The trailhead appears on your left.
Silver Falls State Park
Known for the Trail of Ten Falls, the park gets extremely crowded in the warmer months, but an offseason hike is equally as enjoyable—as long as you're dressed appropriately. The trail takes you through a gorgeous forested canyon, where you pass 10 waterfalls that range from 27 to 178 feet high—and you can walk behind four of them. While there's no guarantee all will be frozen, it's likely at least a few will be if you visit during a cold spell. Nonetheless, if you find yourself here after a snowfall, the scenery will be even more majestic than any other time of year. If you're not up for doing the whole 7.8-mile loop, there are some trail junctions along the way that allow for a shorter hike. Park at the South Falls Lodge Trailhead, where you'll find restrooms and a cafe to grab a post-hike hot drink.
Directions: From I-5 south, take exit 271 for Woodburn and Silverton. Make a left onto Highway 214 and then keep straight for 2.6 miles. At the junction with Highway 99E in Woodburn, turn right and drive about a mile before turning left at Highway 214. Drive 6.9 miles, bearing left for Silverton and Silver Falls. After another 4 miles, you'll come into Silverton. Turn right onto C Street and then left onto Water Street and continue straight. Drive another 16 miles and pull right into the exit for South Falls. You can purchase a $5 day-use permit at a pay machine or use your state park pass.
The most remote hike on this list is on property owned by Mount Angel Abbey but open to the public, and it's been described as having one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Oregon. The out-and-back trail is about a mile long but is steep, and you'll need four-wheel drive in winter, preferably with high clearance, to access the trailhead. From the parking lot, turn back the way you came in and you'll pass a dirt trail at the end of the lot. Look for the second trail about 100 feet down the road and take that one. You'll hike down a steep trail to the creek and then turn left and head upstream, which will take you to Abiqua Falls. A tall basalt amphitheater serves as a backdrop for the 92-foot waterfall. In winter, it's likely to be cloaked by frost, making it all the more dramatic—think the Wall in Game of Thrones, minus the ice zombies.
Directions: From I-84 east, take exit 6 and merge onto I-205 south. Drive 11 miles, take exit 10 and follow signs for OR-213/Park Place/Molalla. Follow OR-213 for 23 miles and then turn left onto South Nowlens Bridge Road. After 2.5 miles, turn left onto Crooked Finger Road. After 9.5 miles, it turns into a gravel road. Continue on the gravel road 1.4 miles until you come to another gravel road to the right marked by a tree sign that reads CF 300. Turn right onto CF 300 and drive straight down the hill 2.5 miles. There's a locked gate at the trailhead. FYI: Do not use Google Maps to get here. Keep these directions handy in case you lose phone signal.