Multnomah Falls is a popular and iconic destination in Oregon, attracting around 2.5 million visitors annually as Oregon’s tallest waterfall. This popular attraction is located within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
Multnomah Falls: The Jewel of the Columbia River Gorge
Oregon’s Eagle Creek Fire devastated the Columbia River Gorge, with smaller fires in Washington. On September 2, 2017, a 15-year-old boy playing with firecrackers during a burn ban started the fire, which burned 50,000 acres. It burned for three months.
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This guide will prepare you for the area by covering camping, hiking, dining, and more.
As 635 feet tall, Multnomah Falls drops into two tiers of basalt cliffs, creating a mesmerizing sight for visitors. However, crowds can be a challenge, so arriving early is recommended. Even if you’re not up for hiking, you can still take in the falls’ beauty from the highway or the entrance lodge.
Multnomah Falls is the Tallest Waterfall in Oregon
Multnomah Falls is not only the tallest in Oregon near the historic highway, as credited by the United States Forest Service, but also the second tallest year-round waterfall in the United States.
However, there is some skepticism surrounding this distinction, as Multnomah Falls is listed as the 137th tallest waterfall in the United States by the World Waterfall Database.
I suppose it’s worth mentioning, this site does not distinguish between seasonal and year-round waterfalls. At the end of the day, regardless of how tall it is, it’s absolutely stunning!
The hike to the top is worth the view, and only about 2.4 miles round trip and is very much kid-friendly.
We definitely recommend getting a very early start to beat the crowds. The paved trail is very well maintained. We would consider this a moderate hike and very doable at all skill levels.
Wahkeena Falls is another stunning waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge area, located just a short distance from Multnomah Falls. The hike to the falls is about 2.4 miles round trip and includes a steep climb up a series of switchbacks.
The Historic Columbia River Highway, also known as the Waterfall Corridor, lives up to its name as it boasts numerous breathtaking cascades to discover. If you want to avoid crowds, there are less-frequented options like the 2.4-mile round trip to Wahclella Falls, the 4.4-mile out-and-back trail at Dry Creek Falls, and the 1.4-mile out-and-back hike to Bridal Veil Falls.
Directions to the Majestic Multnomah Falls
The historic Columbia River Highway runs through the Columbia River Gorge, where Multnomah Falls is located near Bridal Veil and Troutdale, Oregon. The round-trip distance to the Benson Bridge viewing area is just 0.4 miles, while hiking to the top of the falls covers 2.4 miles with a 750-foot elevation change. For those looking for a more extended trek, the hike to the peak of Larch Mountain covers 13.6 miles. To get there from Portland, take I-84 east and exit at 31 to reach the larger parking area between the interstate lanes.
Car Free Options
If you prefer traveling without your own vehicle, a taxi, bus, or ride-share from Troutdale to Multnomah Falls is available.
The Columbia Gorge Express provides budget-friendly daily bus rides to Portland, Multnomah Falls, Cascade Locks, and Hood River in Oregon. During summer, a complimentary shuttle operates from Rooster Rock State Park. Due to heavy traffic and limited parking, it is advisable to use public transportation, like the Columbia Gorge Express, to avoid congestion.
Multnomah Falls Historic Lodge
The waterfall attracts over 2.5 million visitors annually, making it the most popular natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest.
Built in 1925, the Multnomah Falls Lodge provides a stunning view of the falls, especially during autumn. The lodge is open to the public and features a gift shop, snack bar, and restrooms. The cozy building incorporates various gorge rocks and has a restaurant offering Northwest Cuisine and a falls view.
During the summer, vendors outside the lodge provide quick snacks like ice cream, soda, and coffee.
History of Multnomah Falls
The Legend of Multnomah Falls
According to Native American lore, Multnomah Falls was created to win the heart of a young princess seeking a hidden bathing spot. Local Multnomah people also tell the tale of how the daughter of Chief Multnomah sacrificed herself by jumping from the top of the waterfall to save the tribe from a plague.
If you want a more in-depth story on the legend, we suggest heading over to Gary Randall’s blog at MountHoodHistory.com
Best Times to Visit Multnomah Falls
Visiting during spring will provide you with a memorable and rewarding experience.
From April to June, you’ll be able to witness the full potential of the falls, as the melting snow creates an immense, roaring cascade. Along your journey through the hiking paths, you’ll find yourself surrounded by bright wildflowers, such as white and yellow daisies and purple lupines.
Despite this being a popular time for tourists to come, the area still sees fewer visitors than other times of the year. This gives you more opportunity to explore and breathe in the freshness that comes with springtime.
How Multnomah Falls Was Formed
A flood that is said to have happened 15,000 years ago Formed by the cataclysmic Missoula Floods and fed mainly by underground springs, Multnomah Falls drops 635 feet in two major tiers down basalt cliffs.
The Bridge Over the Falls
Constructed in 1914 by Simon Benson, the Benson Bridge is a footbridge that spans Multnomah Creek between the two cascades of the falls. Benson, who aided in the building of the old Columbia highway, named the bridge after himself. Since its construction, the bridge has been a notable feature of the area.
The Benson Bridge, spanning Multnomah Creek between the lower and upper falls, is likely the most photographed piece of architecture in Oregon, drawing tourists from around the world.
Where to Stay Near Multnomah Falls
Whether you are just here to hike or see more of the nearby city, the following are some great choices for lodging nearby, up to 13 miles away.
Before You Go
Make sure and check for trail closures before you head out. There are many closed trails in the area since the destruction of wildfires. To keep up with trail closures in the area, see this page which is updated frequently. Many trails have been closed for unstable conditions.
Multnomah Falls is Dog Friendly
If you want to bring your dog, it is permitted as long as they are on a leash. Make sure and clean up your pet waste!
Is Multnomah Falls open to the public now?
Yes, Multnomah Falls is open to the public now!
All visitors to the falls over the age of 2 will require a ticket unless traveling to the area by bicycle. Ticket reservations, which allow for up to 6 tickets daily, are required. It’s important to note that a ticket reservation does not guarantee a parking spot.
Due to the increased popularity, the days of a spur-of-the-moment trip to explore this area are over. As of July 20, 2021, timed tickets are now required for one-hour visits to the popular sight-seeing destination east of Portland. Traffic often backs up at the Interstate 84 offramp as motorists circle the lot looking for a rare parking spot to open up. Reserve your tickets here
We hope you enjoyed this article and it helped inspire your next Oregon adventure. Hit the link here to read about more waterfall hikes in Oregon.