A spectacular feast for the eyes, the awe-inspiring Multnomah Falls travels 635 feet down three major drops (upper, main and lower falls). The falls is located only a 30 minute drive outside of Portland, on Multnomah Creek in the Columbia River Gorge. Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s most recognizable waterfall, the tallest waterfall in Oregon and one of the most iconic natural wonders of the state. It is also easy to reach, making it one of the most popular outdoor attractions in the Pacific Northwest.
We have visited Multnomah Falls a few times over the years. When we are adventuring through Oregon, it is always a welcome stop to view and feel the beauty and power of nature’s creation. Plus, who does not like to always be chasing waterfalls ?
Guide To Visiting Multnomah Falls
Here is everything you need to know before your first visit to Multnomah Falls:
Is Multnomah Falls open?
Multnomah Falls was closed to the public back in March 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The hiking trails around the falls and surrounding area of the Columbia River Gorge closed as well. The falls have since re-opened, but to a limited number of visitors. Go early for the best chance to see the falls, as it it on a first-come, first-serve basis between the hours of 9am and 6pm daily.
Are Tickets Required?
No fee or permit is required to visit Multnomah Falls. Parking is also free of charge.
The historic Multnomah Falls lodge is located at the base of the falls. Inside you’ll find a restaurant, gift shop with Oregon produced goodies, and an information center. If you are exploring beyond Multnomah Falls, the information center is a fantastic spot to grab some brochures and ask questions.
How Did Multnomah Falls Form?
Multnomah Falls (and neighbouring waterfalls) were formed as a result of the Ice Age floods. The Missoula Floods were cataclysmic glacial lake outburst floods. They periodically swept across eastern Washington and down the Columbia River Gorge. After the Missoula Floods, the valley walls were remarkably eroded, causing steep vertical slopes. This created one of the greatest accumulations of high waterfalls in North America. Multnomah Falls is one of the best known examples of this.
Can You Visit Year-Round?
Multnomah Falls is an incredible sight all year round. The falls does not dry up during the summer. The waterfall is fed from rainwater, underground springs from Larch Mountain and snow melt. However, the falls are at their maximum force during spring, when rain and snowmelt provide that extra force.
The busiest times to visit the falls are in the summer months of June to August. It is busier on nicer days and on weekends. Always try to visit mid- week if you can. If you want to visit with less tourists, the trick is the same as always, go early.
In the winter months of November to February, it is less busy. You may also be able to view the falls covered by snow and ice.
How Do You Access The Falls?
The I-84 parking lot is the only way to access to the falls. Parking or stopping is not allowed on the historic highway.
How Do You Get To The Falls?
The easiest way to get to the falls in by car, via I-84. Ensure you get there early because the parking lot closes at capacity and does not re-open until 10% of the vehicles leave.
Multnomah Falls is a popular short trip from Portland, since it is only about a half hour drive. Travel east on Interstate 84 and take exit #31, Multnomah Falls.
If you do not have a vehicle, it is possible to get there with a combination of tram and taxi, but allow for extra travel time. It is estimated that it would be a minumum of $63 to get to Multnomah Falls from Portland, using public transportation.
Another option is to take a tour to see the falls. Turn your quick visit to the falls into a day of adventure. Take a scenic flight over Multnomah Falls, or pair your visit with a Portland to Mount Hood Wine & Waterfalls day tour.
How Long Does It Take To Hike To Multnomah Falls?
It is a moderate, 2.2-mile hike with 700 feet of elevation gain to reach the top of Multnomah Falls. You can also view the falls from the viewing platform near the base of the falls if you do not want to hike to the top. From the car, it is around a five minute walk to the viewing platform to witness the falls roar.
If you have time, you can also take the more difficult 5.4-mile and 1,600 feet of elevation gain, hike to Wahkeena Falls. At 240 feet, Wahkeena Falls are not as well-known, but is worth it for the pretty views and considerably less visitors.
Can You Swim In The Falls?
Swimming is not allowed. There isn’t much of a pool at the bottom, either. See the photo below of the view looking down from the Benson Bridge.
Can You Bring Dogs To Multnomah Falls?
Dogs are allowed, providing they are on a leash. If you’re travelling with Fido, please never leave him in a hot vehicle!
Part of what makes the waterfall so spectacular is the the iconic, Benson Bridge. The bridge was built by Italian stone masons in 1914. It was named for Simon Benson, a businessman who owned the falls when it was built. The bridge sits at the half way mark of the cascade and gives another breathtaking perspective.
Can You See Multnomah Falls Without Hiking?
To get the full experience of the falls, we recommend to make the stop to take in the views from the viewing platform. You can also see Multnomah Falls from I-84 off the main highway that winds through the Columbia River Gorge. However, the full experience is really where you will understand the grandeur and beauty of the falls.
Multnomah Falls Legend and Native American Lore
The Multnomah Falls legend is a heartbreaking tale of sacrifice and love. The Chief of the Multnomah people had one surviving child, a beautiful daughter whom he loved with all his being. He searched far and wide for a husband for her. When he found her match, she fell deeply in love. The Chief held a celebration of the upcoming wedding and guests from all over started to fall ill and die. The children were impacted first and even the strongest warriors were getting extremely ill.
A medicine man said that the Great Spirit was unhappy and had told him that, to save the others, there had to be a sacrifice of a young maiden’s life. This maiden had to be the daughter of a powerful man, a leader of the people. The Chief refused to commit the sacrifice of a young girl.
The Chief’s daughter felt that she should be sacrificed, even though she wanted to marry. She slipped away and climbed the trail to the Great River high above the gorge. She asked for a sign that her sacrifice was needed and a full moon appeared. And so, she stepped off the cliff, and fell to her death.
The next morning, the people woke up feeling strong and healthy. After finding his daughter, the Chief asked for a sign that his daughter was at peace. A loud thundering noise gave way to a stream of water, falling over the cliffs edge, to fall at the feet of the Chief.
The waterfall today is seen as a sign of love and sacrifice.
Oregon is an outdoor lovers paradise. It is a place that we keep returning to again and again because there is always something incredible to see. Multnomah Falls is one of our favourite sights in Oregon. One glance of the falls in-person and you’ll understand why people fall in love with Oregon so easily.
Have you seen Multnomah Falls? Where is your favourite waterfall?