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Multnomah Falls Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls is a recognized piece of Oregon history. (Steve Hart)
Multnomah Falls (Steve Hart)
Viewpoint at the top of the falls (Steve Hart)
Appoximate track of the trial

Contents

Hike Description

Multnomah Falls, which includes three separate drops (the upper falls, the main falls, and the lower falls) for a total of 635 feet, is without doubt Oregon's most recognizable waterfall and arguably its most awe-inspiring. It is also the highest waterfall in Oregon. However, local boosters like to bill the waterfall as one of the highest waterfalls (second highest? fourth highest?) in the United States. Alas, according to the World Waterfall Database, Multnomah Falls is the 154th tallest waterfall in the United States and ranks 581st in the world, give or take. Nonetheless, the falls are an impressive sight, especially when they are a thundering plunge seep into the wet season or a muted ice-encased column in the throes of a freezing spell. The paved trail to the top of the falls involves threading through crowds of visitors from around the world: come before 9:00 a.m. if you want to experience a relatively uncrowded passage. At viewpoints along the way, you can experience different perspectives on the waterfall, which plunges from hanging valley left high above the river bottom after the Columbia River carved its way through layers of basalt as the Cascade mountains began their period of uplift during the Pleistocene.

The trail begins at Multnomah Falls Lodge, a historic building built to serve early automobile travelers in 1925. From a photographer's viewpoint get a head on vista of both the lower and main tiers of Multnomah Falls and the picturesque span of the Benson Bridge. From here, the trail is a gently sloped 2/10 mile trail to the Benson Bridge, built in 1914 by Simon Benson, one of the builders of the old highway. This part of the trail is a paved cakewalk, although one small flight of a few stairs blocks the way to wheelchairs beyond the lower falls viewpoint.

Beyond the bridge, the asphalt trail switches up steeply for another mile to a ridgecrest (There are 11 switchbacks to be exact). At the first switchback, you'll come to the Larch Mountain-Gorge Trail Junction. At the third switchback, a scree slope shelters a busy colony of pikas, which tend to disappear when the midday crowds show up. As you ascend higher on the slope, look for Columbia River views. From the top, the trail drops slightly to a junction with a trail labeled "Top of the Falls Trail #441A" on some old Forest Service documents. Today's sign just says "Multnomah Falls Viewpoint". The asphalt follows a new side path to the Multnomah Falls Upper Viewpoint, a balcony of sorts at the lip of the falls looking down on the lodge and the less motivated people below. Most people take in this view, grab a couple of snapshots and return down the steep hill to that mocha latte thing.

Consider hiking further on the Larch Mountain Trail up Multnomah Creek to view Weisendanger Falls and Ecola Falls. Details are listed under the Larch Mountain Hike.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Bridal Veil, OR #428
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
  • Geo-Graphics: Trails of the Columbia Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management: Columbia River Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Oregon's Geology, by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Portland, by Paul Gerald
  • Afoot and Afield Portland/Vancouver, by Douglas Lorain
  • 35 Hiking Trails, Columbia River Gorge, by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Columbia River Gorge, 42 Scenic Hikes, by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge - 1st and 2nd Editions, by Russ Schneider

More Links


Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.