Lancaster Falls is one of a trio of waterfalls seen along the Mount Defiance Trail in the central Columbia River Gorge. The trail passes immediately below the falls, allowing up close access to the final 20 feet of the falls. However this is just a fraction of a much taller waterfall. Wonder Creek heads in a spring high up the mountain, sending a small but extremely consistent volume of water plunging 231 feet over a mossy cliff, then channeling into a narrow slot and fluming down about 50 feet before plunging the final 20 feet adjacent to the trail. The upper falls can be easily seen from Interstate 84 and from across the Columbia River, but foot access is only possible via a very steep, extremely crumbly climb up the adjacent slope. Those who do wish to attempt to get close, wear long pants because poison oak is profuse in the area.
- Lancaster Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
This waterfall did not have a name until 1970, when at the suggestion of Gertrude Jensen and Donald Sterling the Oregon Board of Geographic Names gave its title for Samuel C Lancaster, the engineer responsible for designing and constructing much of the original Columbia River Gorge Highway.
The falls are accessed from Starvation Creek State Park, just off of Interstate 84, about halfway between Cascade Locks and Hood River. The parking area is only accessible to eastbound traffic (if you are driving west, exit and turn around at Exit 51 (Wyeth), then to return to your westbound direction, do the same at Viento State Park at Exit 56). From the parking lot, find the signed Mt. Defiance trail adjacent to the exit ramp. Follow the trail, which parallels the freeway, for about just under a mile to Wonder Creek, where the falls are seen spraying almost right onto the path. The larger upper tier can be easily seen from the freeway or from the Dog Mountain Trailhead on the Washington Side of the Columbia River.