Lewis River Falls | Trail Route, Hiking Tips + Best Time to Visit!

Looking for your next hike in the SW Washington area? One of my favorites is Lewis River Falls which is located only a 2-hour drive away from downtown Portland. This hike can be found in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and is a family and dog-friendly trail. I posted Lewis River Falls as a part of my post on my favorite hikes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest a few months back but decided this waterfall-filled hike needed a post all to itself. Here’s what to know before you hike, an overview of the trail, and the best time to visit this hike!

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Lewis River Falls | Trail Route, Hiking Tips + Best Time to Visit

Upper Lewis River Falls

Getting to Lewis River Falls

Location: [Click Here]

Lewis River Falls is a  heavily trafficked trail. You will need a car to access this hike. This hike especially gets busy in the summer. To avoid the traffic on the way up to the trail along the gravel road and to avoid not having a spot in the parking lot, plan to arrive earlier in the day (before 9:00 am).

There is active ticketing if you park along the road or try and make your own parking spot, especially on the weekends and busier months. To avoid getting a ticket, make sure you aren’t parking on the roads (especially around the Lower Falls parking lot). If you continue up the road, you will find additional parking.

While the trail can get pretty busy and crowded in the summer, the winter months are much less busy. I recommend checking the Alltrails website before heading up in the winter months to see if the road is still manageable. There will be snow since it’s at a higher elevation.

Permit System

You will need a recreation permit if you plan on visiting the falls between June 15th- September 15th. The permit is something that has been newly implemented in recent years. You can begin to reserve your permit yearly on May 20th. The permit is $2 per person for the reservation fee and is non-refundable. You are allowed access at any time during the date of your permit and you will be permitted to explore Lewis River Falls for 10 hours. To purchase a permit, you can visit the site here.

The permit allows you to park at the Lower Falls, but keep in mind you will still need to pay a $5 day pass fee, or bring your Northwest Forest pass or America the Beautiful pass to access the falls. Make sure to have your pass displayed, there are forest rangers actively ticketing at the falls since it is a very popular location. You will need to have your permit printed and displayed on your windshield as well.

Tips for Visiting Lewis River Falls

AllTrails describes this hike as moderate which I think is pretty accurate. There are some steep inclines in a couple of places. However, I think the trail is manageable if you want to bring along kids. Also, prepare for limited cell service.

Other things to know:

  • Occasionally there will be smaller logs down on the trail that you need to step over and growth of foliage into the trail that you will dodge. Be prepared to get a little wet if you go in the rainy months. Not only can the falls mist you, but you might be running into the foliage that is covered in dew if the trail hasn’t been maintained in a while.
  • Some areas on the trail can get very muddy, especially if you are visiting outside of the summer. I would recommend hiking boots. However, if you don’t have hiking boots and it hasn’t rained much, I think it’s manageable to tip-toe around the muddy areas.
  • Be prepared for limited cell service. It was pretty spotty when I was there having AT&T. If you have a different cell carrier, you may have better luck.

Middle Lewis River Falls

Best Time to Visit Lewis River Falls

Summer is the perfect time to visit Lewis River Falls. Not only is the weather the nicest, but you can take advantage of cooling off at the falls. Below the upper falls, there is an area to swim. It’s deep in some areas so I wouldn’t recommend bringing kits to swim. If you’re worried about crowds in the summer, try a weekday instead of a weekend and go during the late spring or early fall for milder weather conditions and fewer crowds!

Trail Route

Along this trail, there are several waterfalls. The three main waterfalls are the upper, middle, and lower falls. Most chose to park at the lower falls and hike up. However, if you can’t find parking there is a campsite that allows parking in the offseason, a parking lot near middle falls, and a parking lot at upper falls.

This is an 8.6-mile out-and-back trail with only 974 ft of elevation gain. The waterfalls are some of the best in the US (in my opinion). You can decide for yourself from the pictures, or while visiting the trail! Lower Lewis River Falls is 43 ft high and 200 ft across while Upper Lewis River Falls is 58 ft high and 175 ft across. It’s one of the hidden wonders of the PNW!


Upper Lewis River Falls

If you’re from further away, or just looking to take a camping trip, there is a campsite near the falls. This campsite is open from May to late September. There are 43 sites for tents and campers up to 60 ft. There are no hookups available. Campsites range from $15- 35 depending on the site and cars are an additional $5. Reservations are required but if you don’t make one you might still be able to grab a site on a first-come, first-serve basis. To make reservations or for more info and the campsite, you can visit the website here.

Overall Thoughts on Lewis River Falls

Takeya Water Bottle
Ariel Osprey Backpack
Jetboil Backpacking and Camping Stove
Canon G7 X Mark II
Takeya Water Bottle
Ariel Osprey Backpack
Jetboil Backpacking and Camping Stove
Canon G7 X Mark II
Takeya Water Bottle
Ariel Osprey Backpack
Jetboil Backpacking and Camping Stove
Canon G7 X Mark II

I hope this post helped prepare you for your visit to Lewis River Falls. This hike is one of the best hikes in the Pacific Northwest and it really can’t be missed if you are visiting the Gifford Pinchot National Forest!

Looking for more PNW-based hikes? Check out my post on The Best Hikes in The Columbia River Gorge, The Trail of Ten Falls, and What to Expect When Visiting Multnomah Falls.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy the hike! Have you hiked to Lewis River Falls? Comment below and let me know what your experience was and if you have any other tips that I didn’t mention!

For more hikes and travel destinations, be sure to follow me on Instagram @maddie_deer or Facebook here.


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