Multnomah Falls: What to Know When Hiking to This Beautiful Oregon Landmark

Thinking of taking some time to see a few sights? Well, if I may make a suggestion, there is a beautiful little place known as Multnomah Falls, one that I think every Oregnonian (local and tourist) should see at least once. Apparently Oregonians agree, as it’s arguably the most visited landmark in the state.

Multnomah Falls is a beautiful waterfall that is not only all natural, but is surrounded by beautiful forestry. It’s easy to hike, fun to take pictures with and admire as water cascades from its 611-foot height.

If you’re interested in perhaps taking a hike out to come see it, well you’re in luck. We’ve got all the information you need to know in order to get there, prepare for it, and the best viewpoints on the path.

 

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls
Tourists on bridge at Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge.

You might be wondering what makes Multnomah Falls so special. Well, for one, it’s a great hike. There’s plenty of shade, forestry all around, and the path itself isn’t difficult to traverse. As long as you have a good pair of shoes and some water for the road, you’re guaranteed to have a nice time on the way to the falls.

Then there’s the waterfall itself. Standing at 611 feet tall, this landmark sends cascades of icy waters down below, casting a soft mist all around and allowing you to truly feel the power radiating off of such a huge monument. It’s an all-natural waterfall, one that the Indigenous Peoples have their own folklore about.

According to native lore, the monument we now call Multnomah Falls had been created in order to win over the heart of a princess who wanted a place to bathe that was hidden away. It’s a sentiment as beautiful as the falls themselves.

While the path will take you to the base of the falls, if you’re eager for a closer look, you can easily get that by traveling further up. From there you’ll find Benson Bridge, which will give you a perfect view of the top tier’s 542-foot height, as well as a downward view of the second tier’s 69-foot height. Hope you aren’t afraid of heights, because the views are absolutely stunning.

Unlike most waterfalls in the west, you don’t have to worry about Multnomah Falls drying up in the late summer. The falls are fed through a combination of rainwater, snow melt, and an underground spring. So, no matter what day of the year you go, you’ll be able to see the falls cascade.

 

Multnomah Falls Lodge
Multnomah Falls Lodge

At the site, you’ll also find Multnomah Falls Lodge. It was constructed in 1925 after Simon Benson, the original owner of the land and whom the bridge was named after, gave the falls to the City of Portland before his passing. It serves the tourists passing through and houses both a gift shop and lovely restaurant. Take a seat at the restaurant and enjoy some classic Northwestern cuisine, all the while enjoying a great view of the falls. The lodge also has trail maps so you can find a good route to hike. If you come during the summer months, you can find outdoor vendors serving ice cream, sodas, and other little snacks.

If you want some more amazing sights while you’re out, you should know that staying on the path will offer you some wonderful views of the Columbia Gorge. You can also follow signs just out the lodge to find Wahkeena Falls. It’s a little over 240 feet, so it’s not as tall as our Multnomah monument, but it’s still got a world of beauty just waiting to be seen. You can also find trail maps in the lodge that can direct you to some of these gorgeous landmarks.

 

Multnomah Falls: Current Weather

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Multnomah Falls, OR
8:57 pm, Jun 12, 2024
clear sky 54°F
Low: 43° High: 73°
clear sky
Humidity Humidity 82 %
Pressure Pressure 1019 hPa
Wind 3 mph E
Wind Gust Wind Gust 7 mph
UV Index UV Index 0
Precipitation Precipitation 0 inch
Dew Point Dew Point 48°
Clouds Clouds 1%
Rain Chance Rain Chance 0%
Snow Snow 0 mm/h
Visibility Visibility 6 mi
Air Quality Air Quality Good
Sunrise Sunrise 4:19 am
Sunset Sunset 7:58 pm
Weather Condition Comport Precipitation
Day Condition TemperatureTemperature PrecipitationAmount Rain ChanceRain Chance Wind HumidityHumidity PressurePressure
Today 12:00 pm
clear sky clear sky
43° | 73°°F 0 inch 0% 8 mph 37 % 1020 hPa
Tomorrow 12:00 pm
scattered clouds scattered clouds
46° | 73°°F 0 inch 0% 8 mph 40 % 1017 hPa
Friday 12:00 pm
light rain light rain
44° | 68°°F 0.03 inch 82% 10 mph 44 % 1021 hPa
Saturday 12:00 pm
moderate rain moderate rain
47° | 57°°F 0.04 inch 100% 8 mph 95 % 1022 hPa
Sunday 12:00 pm
light rain light rain
43° | 67°°F 0.03 inch 78% 6 mph 34 % 1012 hPa
Monday 12:00 pm
moderate rain moderate rain
50° | 55°°F 0.04 inch 100% 6 mph 98 % 1012 hPa
Tuesday 12:00 pm
light rain light rain
51° | 58°°F 0.04 inch 100% 6 mph 99 % 1018 hPa
Wednesday 12:00 pm
overcast clouds overcast clouds
52° | 74°°F 0 inch 0% 7 mph 46 % 1015 hPa
1 to 8 of 0 results
Weather Condition Comport Precipitation
Day Condition TemperatureTemperature PrecipitationAmount Rain ChanceRain Chance Wind HumidityHumidity PressurePressure
Today 8:00 pm
clear sky clear sky
54° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 1 mph 78 % 1019 hPa
Today 9:00 pm
clear sky clear sky
54° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 2 mph 82 % 1019 hPa
Today 10:00 pm
clear sky clear sky
53° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 2 mph 80 % 1019 hPa
Today 11:00 pm
clear sky clear sky
52° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 2 mph 80 % 1019 hPa
Tomorrow 12:00 am
clear sky clear sky
51° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 3 mph 81 % 1019 hPa
Tomorrow 1:00 am
clear sky clear sky
49° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 3 mph 84 % 1020 hPa
Tomorrow 2:00 am
clear sky clear sky
46° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 2 mph 87 % 1019 hPa
Tomorrow 3:00 am
few clouds few clouds
46° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 2 mph 89 % 1019 hPa
Tomorrow 4:00 am
scattered clouds scattered clouds
46° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 2 mph 91 % 1019 hPa
Tomorrow 5:00 am
few clouds few clouds
47° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 2 mph 89 % 1019 hPa
Tomorrow 6:00 am
few clouds few clouds
52° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 2 mph 75 % 1019 hPa
Tomorrow 7:00 am
scattered clouds scattered clouds
57° | 0°°F 0 inch 0% 3 mph 67 % 1019 hPa
1 to 8 of 0 results

 

Planning The Visit

Columbia Gorge Express

Like with all hiking trips, you should prepare ahead of time. With Multnomah Falls, you shouldn’t expect any major hurdles, but it’s always good to come prepared. Make sure to have a good pair of shoes, some hiking snacks, plenty of water, and a trail map, which you can get at the trailhead itself. Always download a map just in case, though. Always check the weather on the day you’ll be going so that you aren’t caught up at the Falls on a rainy day. The only water you should feel is the soft spray off of the falls themselves.

One of the big problems is figuring out your transportation. While the majority of the hike is relatively stress-free, parking can be a bit of a problem. Like I said, Multnomah Falls is arguably one of the most visited landmarks in all of Oregon. Because of this, parking is limited. If you’re determined to take your car instead of a shuttle, make a reservation. Permits can be bought up to 14 days ahead of time, costing only $2 per ticket. That’s why it’s a good idea to carpool.

If permit reservations are already full, you can get there via a shuttle. There are many shuttle systems in the gorge that you can just hop on and hop off. You can find parking pickups in Dodson, Bridal Veil, Corbett, and Troutdale. Alternatively, you can take the Columbia Gorge Express. It stops in Portland, at Multnomah Falls, Cascade Locks, and Hood River. Make sure to check out your transportation options for the Waterfall Corridor to get a better idea of where you’re going.

As long as you have all this figured out, you should be ready to go out and enjoy the sights of the waterfalls.

 

Getting to Multnomah Falls

To see the falls, you’re going to have to get there first, and there are several ways to go about it.

While Multnomah Falls may seem like a small paradise away from society, in reality, it’s just 30 minutes away from Portland. At least, that’s the most direct route you can take, and the one that’s most common. Your GPS is no doubt going to take you down the more direct path. However, there are other options if you’re looking for something a little more scenic. Geo coordinates are 45.5760, -122.1154.

 

Direct Route

If you want to get there fast, it will only take you a good 30 minutes. From Portland, you’re going to want to take I-84 eastbound for around 30 miles. Just follow the signs and take Exit 31, which is a more unusual left-side exit ramp. You’ll get off of I-84 and into a parking area. From there, follow the path under the highway and you’ll soon reach the Multnomah Falls viewing area.

 

Scenic Route

If you want a drive that’s a little more scenic, it will take you around 45 minutes to reach the falls. From Portland, you want to take I-84 to exit 28, also known as the Bridal Veil exit. Then, you’ll want to drive three miles to the east on the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway, which is exactly what it sounds like. Along the way, you’ll pass the falls, allowing you to get a gorgeous view of the monument on your drive there.

 

Ultra Scenic Route

For those with time on their hands and looking to really see the majesty for themselves, you’ll want to take the ultra scenic route. This one will take approximately an hour, double the time it takes to complete a direct trip, but if you appreciate scenic drives, it will be worth it. You’re going to want to go eastbound on I-84 to the Troutdale exit. From there, you can follow the signs for the Scenic Loop.

Just follow the road along Columbia River Highway, which is a marvel in its own right, as it’s the first in our nation to be named a National Historic Landmark. While traveling the highway, you‘ll find stunning views of the Columbia Gorge, as well as Mount Hood and several other famous waterfalls. These are the perfect start to sightseeing adventure you go on your way to the Multnomah Falls parking area.

 

Trails and Viewpoints

Trails and Viewpoints in Multnomah Falls

Because Multnomah Falls is one of the many falls lining the Columbia Gorge, there are going to be quite a few trails to take. The lower viewing platforms are easily accessible, including an elevator inside the lodge used as an easy access to one of the platforms. However, if you’re looking to get an intimate look at the falls, there are a few rather steep hiking trails used to climb to the top of the falls. It will be quite the climb and will be an elevation of several hundred feet, but when you get there, the views will be astounding. After all, how many can say that they’ve stood at the top of a 611-foot waterfall?

If you do decide to traverse up the waterfall, remember to wear shoes with traction, as the spray from the falls can make certain parts rather tricky.

From there, you can go on to explore the Colombia Gorge, which has plenty of sights for you to admire. This includes the Crown Point Vista House, which is a century-old observatory now serving as a rest stop and museum. You’ll be able to get a 360-degree view of the gorge from here. You should also see the Dalles, where you get to see sweeping grasslands and rocky outcroppings as you explore the historic Columbia River Gorge town.

If you have your day cleared, you’ll find that you’ll have plenty to explore at and around the Multnomah Falls.

 

Hiking the Multnomah Falls

Wahkeena Trail in Multnomah Falls
Footbridge over a creek on Wahkeena Trail in Multnomah Falls.

If you enjoy a few outdoor activities, you’ll find that Multnomah Falls can give you the fun that you’re looking for.

 

General Info

The Multnomah Falls hike is a 2.4 mile long round trip. It takes you from the Multnomah Falls Trailhead at the very bottom and brings you up to the Multnomah Falls Upper Viewpoint.

The trail is a relatively simple one and is taken by many people every day, but it’s still a steep climb. You’ll be climbing an elevation of 870 feet. You need to remember to wear shoes with traction, as the spray from the falls can make certain pathways rather slippery. Just watch your footing whenever you get near areas close enough to be misted by the falls.

The trip is family friendly, but is of moderate difficulty, so please prepare supplies for any children who are coming along on the hike.

One of the only dangers you need to look for is poison oak. On your way past Benson Bridge, there is poison oak growing along the base of the rock face. Just make sure that you and anyone you’re with can recognize poison oak so that you don’t come into contact with it. Always make sure to keep an eye on any children to make sure they don’t stray into any dangerous plantlife.

 

The Hike

Multnomah Falls includes three separate drops for a total of 611 feet, meaning that you’re in for a pretty high hike, all things considered.

If you want to have a non-crowded hike, you’ll want to come before 9 a.m., when it opens. This is because people from all around the world tend to stop by this landmark when visiting Oregon, so you can expect there to be quite a few people around.

The hike will begin at Multnomah Falls Lodge. You can already get quite a few picturesque views from here, but if you want to actually go on the hike, you can follow the path to Benson Bridge. The road to the bridge is a gently sloped 2/10 mile path. Soon you’ll pass by a rock net, and if you look up, you can see Shady Creek Falls, a seasonal waterfall that neighbors the Multnomah Falls.

Once you’re past the bridge, you’ll pass by cable-linked bollards to keep people from tumbling over the cliff in front of them. From here, the asphalt trail begins to steepen for another mile and to a ridgecrest. There are 11 switchbacks along the way, as well.

At the first switchback, you’ll come across Larch Mountain-Gorge Trail Junction. After the events of the Eagle Creek Fire, loggers cut down a good chunk of trees on the slope, allowing for more open views of the area.

At the third switchback, you’ll find a bench you can rest at with a good view of the falls. On the fourth, you might find a pika or two. There’s a fairly busy colony nearby, but they tend to hide away as the crowds get larger.

As you continue to climb the slope, look for a view of the Columbia River. You might notice some residual damage from the 2017 fires, but for the most part, the park service has done a good job cleaning it up. Soon you’ll reach the crest. There will be a slight drop in the trail, but you should see a signed junction leading to the Multnomah Falls Upper Viewpoint, where you can look over the lip of the falls and really bask in how far you’ve come. You can look down at all the visitors who come but never climb the path; internal gloating will never be judged by us.

Finally, when you finish taking in the view, you can either head back down or keep trudging on. You can keep hiking up the Larch Mountain Trail along Multnomah Creek to view Wiesendanger Falls and Ecola Falls.

 

Fees and Regulations

All parks have their own fees and regulations in order to keep the land in the best condition possible. Here are the fees and regulations of Multnomah Falls:

  • If you’re parking near the Multnomah Falls Lodge in between late May and early September, you’ll need a Timed Use Permit. These are required for each personal vehicle between the hours of 9 a.m and 6 p.m. You can buy these online and they are only $2. It’s highly recommended that you buy them early, as parking can be competitive.
  • If you’re in the I-84 parking lot between late May and early September, you’ll need to purchase reservation tickets from Recreation.gov.
  • Pets are allowed, but must be on a leash at all times.
  • The Visitor Center, restrooms, and a restaurant can all be found in the Multnomah Falls Lodge.

 

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