Multnomah Falls Travel User Guide
When you hear the term “Pacific Northwest,” images of thick, green forests, snow-capped peaks, and powerful, cascading waterfalls might fill your mind. Multnomah Falls, located in the Columbia River Gorge in northern Oregon, encapsulates all of these elements and offers a truly unforgettable sight. Here is your 2,000-word guide to visiting this stunning location.
Understanding Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon, with a total height of 620 feet. It’s divided into two sections: the upper falls at 542 feet and the lower falls at 69 feet, separated by a serene pool at the base of the upper falls. The falls don’t dry up in the summer, as they’re fed by an underground spring, rain, and melted snow, ensuring a spectacular sight all year round.
Multnomah Falls is located about 30 miles east of Portland, making it an accessible day trip from the city.
By car: From Portland, you can take Interstate 84 (I-84) East and use Exit 31 (on the left side of the highway) for Multnomah Falls.
By public transport: The Columbia Gorge Express bus is an affordable and convenient option, taking you from Gateway Transit Center in Portland to the falls.
When to Visit
Multnomah Falls is open all year round and each season presents its unique charm. Summer can be quite busy, while spring brings with it the gushing snowmelt and lush greenery. Fall offers a breathtaking display of autumn foliage, and winter, although cold, adorns the falls with ice, creating a stunning, crystalline spectacle.
Exploring Multnomah Falls
Upon arrival, the Multnomah Falls Lodge should be your first stop. Built in 1925, this historic lodge houses a restaurant, a gift shop, and a visitor center where you can gather information about the falls and the surrounding area.
Next, head to the base of the falls. From here, you can get an unobstructed view of both the upper and lower falls. A footbridge known as Benson Bridge, built in 1914, spans the falls at the first tier’s base, allowing visitors to get up close to the roaring water and feel the mist on their faces.
Hiking at Multnomah Falls
For a closer look at the falls, consider hiking the 2.2-mile trail to the top. It’s a steep, paved path, but the views are worth the effort.
The trailhead starts at the lodge and takes you up several switchbacks to Benson Bridge. This 105-foot bridge offers a unique perspective of the upper and lower falls. From here, the trail continues upward through the forest to the top of Multnomah Falls. At the top, you’ll find an overlook that provides panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge and a bird’s-eye view of the falls.
Please note that due to its popularity, the trail can be quite busy, particularly on weekends and during the summer. It’s advisable to hike early in the day to beat the crowds.
Local Flora and Fauna
The area around Multnomah Falls is rich in biodiversity. The dense forests are dominated by Douglas fir, western hemlock, and red cedar, along with bigleaf maple and red alder. Lower down, you may find vine maple, Oregon grape, and sword fern.
Wildlife at the falls includes small mammals like chipmunks and squirrels. Birdwatchers might spot Steller’s jays, American dippers, and even peregrine falcons.
While the beauty of Multnomah Falls is mesmerizing, it’s important to remember that it is a natural area, and certain safety precautions must be taken.
Stay on Marked Trails: Trails are marked for a reason. They not only protect the local flora and fauna from human disruption, but also guide you on the safest path.
Respect Barricades and Signs: These are placed for your protection. Climbing over railings or venturing off into restricted areas can lead to serious injuries.
Weather Conditions: The weather in the Pacific Northwest can be unpredictable. Check the forecast before your visit and dress appropriately. The path can get slippery in the rain or when icy in winter.
Hydration and Nutrition: Even though the hike isn’t long, it’s steep. Carry water to stay hydrated and snacks for energy.
Leave No Trace: Carry out all trash and belongings that you bring in to keep the environment clean and safe for everyone.
Multnomah Falls isn’t the only natural wonder in the Columbia River Gorge. Consider making a day of it and visiting other nearby attractions.
Columbia River Highway: This scenic byway is home to numerous other waterfalls, hiking trails, and lookout points.
Bonneville Dam: Visit one of the largest hydroelectric power producers in the country. Here you can learn about renewable energy and see Pacific Northwest salmon migrating upriver at the fish ladder.
Hood River: This charming town is known for its orchards and vineyards. It’s a great place for a meal or a wine tasting.
Mount Hood: Just over an hour’s drive from the falls, Oregon’s highest peak offers hiking in summer and skiing in winter.
Multnomah Falls is a captivating gem in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. Its roaring waters and lush surroundings provide a refreshing retreat for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and anyone looking to enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. From the moment you see the falls, either from the base or the top, you will be entranced by its beauty and power.
Whether you’re visiting for the day or exploring the wider region, remember to respect the falls and the surrounding natural areas, ensuring they remain pristine for generations to come. Enjoy your visit to Multnomah Falls, a testament to the sublime beauty that nature endlessly crafts.