The Columbia River Gorge is filled with waterfalls, but none as striking as Multnomah, with its two tiers and storybook footbridge. With great beauty and a convenient location literally right off the highway come great crowds, though. Luckily, it's free and you can make this a quick stop before heading off in search of the other hidden gem waterfalls waiting to be discovered.
“A breathtaking year-round waterfall!”
Multnomah Falls is a waterfall on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, located east of Troutdale, between Corbett and Dodson, along the Historic Columbia River Highway. The falls drops in two major steps, split into an upper falls of 542 feet (165 m) and a lower falls of 69 feet (21 m), with a gradual 9 foot (3 m) drop in elevation between the two, so the total height of the waterfall is conventionally given as 620 feet (189 m). Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the State of Oregon. It is credited by a sign at the site of the falls as the second tallest year-round waterfall in the United States but that claim is debated among waterfall experts. Underground springs from Larch Mountain are the year-round source of water for the waterfall, augmented by spring runoff from the mountain's snowpack and rainwater during the other seasons. A foot trail leads to Benson Footbridge, a 45-foot (14 m)-long footbridgethat allows visitors to cross 105 feet (32 m) above the lower cascade. The trail continues to a platform at the top of the upper falls where visitors get a bird's-eye view of the Columbia Gorge and also of "Little Multnomah", a small cascade slightly upstream from the "upper" falls, which is not visible from ground level. The footbridge is named for Simon Benson, who financed the bridge's construction in 1914 by Italian stonemasons. According to legend, "There was a terrible sickness that threatened lives of the Multnomah people. An old medicine man revealed that the sickness had been foretold but that it would pass if a maiden descendant of a tribal chief would throw herself from a high cliff above the big river and onto the rocks below. The chief was not willing to sacrifice any of his daughters, so he elected to allow the sickness to run it’s course.When the Chief’s daughter saw that the sickness had affected her lover, she went up to the top of the cliff and threw herself to the rocks below. Upon her death, the sickness immediately began to leave the affected people. Now, when the breeze blows through the water, a silvery stream separates from the upper falls.
A must see in Oregon and only 30 minutes from Portland and is the tallest waterfall in Oregon. But, we suggesting not just joining the masses at the observation point but also do the 5 mile loop walk to the waterfall.
Not only will you experience the power of this gigantic waterfall from top, middle and bottom, but you’ll also pass by five other waterfalls along the way, as well as countless cascades - an adventurous and fun way to spend a few hours.
Need a permit to see now. We didn’t know and arrived and that’s what we were told. You can purchase online though.
You can see this gigantic waterfall from the highway. The parking lot is very close and it's just a walk up to the beauty for all ages. A very popular stop but the view looks great in all seasons and in all angles.
During our cross-country road trip, we took a short detour to the falls. Not sure what to expect, my wife and I ventured off at the wrong exit while “discussing” the correct route. It was pretty early and our passes were for 0800 so we weren't too bothered by the wrong turn. We followed a narrow, unmarked road passing a couple of cute smaller waterfalls along the way.
After about 15 minutes down that path, we stumbled upon the main parking lot for the falls. We arrived around 0715 and were only the second car in the lot. While I was searching for some type of sign that noted whether it was general parking, I received a slight nudge on my right shoulder. I heard a faint "look", thinking she found the parking info I gazed around at eye level in confusion. A stronger nudge came next with a louder "look" but this time it was followed by a very import word; "up".
I stopped my search and began to slowly move my gaze up, then up and then up. At that point I had to get out of the car to see the entire falls. A mist had filled the early morning air almost as a welcome handshake from this majestic beauty of nature. As we gathered our things for the walk to the falls, we were placed into a slight trance by the sound of water making its permanent mark on the rocks below. Like a siren's song to a weary sailor, we found ourselves being lured into the park.
As we approached the base of the falls, we navigated a small hill that was acting as a stage curtain preventing onlookers from seeing too much from their seats. At the crest of the hill the powerful sounds of the falls had taken shape into a beautiful display of what nature can offer. At this time, around 0745, the number of visitors was fairly small. We were able to easily take unobstructed photographs of the bridge as well as on the bridge.
While still mesmerized by the beauty of the falls, I attempted to convince the beauty next to me to join me on a trip to the top. Not being one to shy away from an adventure, she humored me and joined. As we navigated up the path, I gazed in awe of such sights that I had never seen before. Venturing along the path I had the feeling like I was onset for a Jurassic Park movie. Being from the east coast I am accustomed to certain things. One of those things being normal sized slugs and snails. My world view has been expanded to include such things as 6" slugs and 4' snails that are considered "normal".
My west coast wife chuckled as I stared in amazement at the size of these gross creatures. After a few pictures of my hand next to the snails and slugs we decided that halfway to the top was going to have to satisfy our daily dose of hiking. We still had an entire country to cross, and our adventure was just beginning. We had to make it Shoshone Falls by sunset and the clock was ticking.
Starting 2021 visitors will be requires to obtains passes on line to enter the viewing area and falls for 2022 +.
A must see if you are traveling through the Columbia River Gorge. A better way to get here is by leaving the freeway and traveling the Old Columbia River Gorge Highway. Entering from the East at the Ainsworth State park exit will take you by Horsetail falls. Midweek at Multnomah Falls is better, as weekend parking is almost impossible during the warmer months. The gift shop is reasonably priced, and there are gems to be found in there. Lastly the lodge itself has a healthy feel with stone and timber construction that is a little pricey, but a nice place to eat. Leaving the falls to the west are several other falls to see along the Old Columbia River Highway that was designed for the drive in mind.
Multnomah Falls is open to a limited number of visitors on 1st come, 1st serve basis from 9:00 am through 6:00 pm daily.
A must see. It's just steps away from the parking lot. Beautiful!
CAUTION - ABOUT THE ROAD!
If you are in ANY size RV, please DO NOT take the Historic Columbia River Hwy. It is stunningly gorgeous and DANGEROUS for any RVs. There were signs as we entered from the East side that said, "No vehicles over 35 feet" ... In my humble opinion, it should have warned against WIDE vehicles, and should have stated that the road narrows significantly (if it did, we missed it).
What starts as a normal looking road narrows more than once, with a few sheer drop offs and no guard rails on the passenger side when traveling west. We are typically quite cautious about these things, but OUR MEMORY recollected a nice large parking lot (which does exist off of I-84). Yes, it was our bad for not investigating deeper.
We made it through without incident, but that is due to my husband's insanely good driving ability, him keeping it at 10-15 mph TOPS, and other folks in the opposing lanes paying attention as well. The worst moment was when we came upon another RV ... thankfully they waited and held traffic at the bottom of the narrow bridge while we crossed. We crawled by them with literally only inches between us.
There are literally NO turnaround points on this road ... and on a busy day, NO places for a bigger rig to even pull over to let people pass or take a breather. Definitely no chance to stop for waterfalls!
I'm not typically a freeway loving girl, but the onramp to I-84 near Bridal Falls was a welcomed sight!!
Plan ahead! One of the most iconic falls in the northwest, but plan ahead before your visit.
First, plan your visit taking account of the sun. Try finding a time when you won't be glaring to try and get a good photo or viewing.
There are 2 parking lots, one on the Historic Columbia River Highway that is just next to the entrance; and one off of Interstate 84 with more parking. However ...
The closer parking is limited and will often require a long wait ... or might even spit you down the road where you'll have to drive a few miles before you can turn around and try again.
The Interstate parking lot is easy and there are many spots available, but you will not be allowed to cross under the walkway to the falls unless you have a reservation. Sounds like it is easy and can be done online, but if you wait until you arrive, you might be twiddling your thumbs for a few hours.
Beautiful falls. Lovely hike. Expensive coffee and snacks. But plan ahead.
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- Sun - Sat: 8:00 am - 9:00 pm
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Good for Backpackers, Couples, and Cultural travelers.
Credit Cards Accepted