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Mist Falls Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mist Falls (Steve Hart)
Corydalis growing next to the trail (Steve Hart)
This is what passes for a trail (Steve Hart)
A frozen amphitheater in the depths of winter (bobcat)
The fireplace and chimney from the Multnomah Lodge (1916) along the Mist Falls hike. (Jen Thomas)
  • Start point: Mist Falls TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Mist Falls
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back
  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 335 feet
  • High point: 395 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: For adventurous scramblers only
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

Mist Falls plunges 520 feet in two scenic drops. It is sometimes billed as the second highest waterfall in Oregon but is also sometimes discounted because of its lack of volume. The entire waterfall is best viewed from Benson State Recreation Area, off of I-84, but a scramble to the base of the waterfall gives you a great impression of the lower drop as it spills over an overhanging layer of entablature basalt past a colorful layer of columnar basalt. The waterfall is indeed wispy, but it actually runs all year although windy days will see the spray splashed against the entire cliff face. In subzero temperatures, the amphitheater is quite a sight as it accumulates a frosty assortment of icicles. These can grow to be massive in size and it is a dangerous time to be there when they start breaking off. The 2017 Eagle Creek Fire passed through the area as a ground fire and burned out some of the understory here, but the maple canopy is generally intact. There is no trail here, just a scramble path on loose scree often disguised by maple leaves and plant matter. It's a very short excursion but not one for those unsteady on their feet. Wear good boots, and bring a camera!

The first few feet from the Mist Falls Trailhead are deceptively easy. You'll pass a plaque commemorating Rose Lenske, the landowner who, in 1971, donated five acres here for use as a park. Just after the plaque, the boot path reaches Mist Creek.

There's a quick side trip available here to the ruins of the Multnomah Lodge, later renamed the Mist Falls Lodge. Look for an unmarked use path across little Mist Creek. This 30 foot long path leads to the remnants of the fireplace and chimney from the original 1916 Multnomah Lodge, which burned down in 1929. It's not obvious at first, but if you aren't looking, you might walk into it. If you miss it, don't worry. It's a bit easier to find on the way back, and those with good eyes can even see the chimney's profile from the parking wayside. Below the chimney is the walled path, washed out at Mist Creek, that led to the lodge's small parking area. A couple of rusting artifacts lie in the brush. A concrete drain cap marked for the lodge can be seen next to the highway just east of the small parking area.

The Mist Falls scramble route follows the western side of Mist Creek, so go back to re-cross Mist Creek and turn uphill following a steep scree slope. This boot path, somewhat less obvious after the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire closures left it "fallow" for a year and a half, simply ascends above the creek. There are rudimentary short switchbacks, but the route is basically straight up the slope past scorched big-leaf maples. Expect loose rocks to tumble beneath your feet here as you take one step up and slide back a half step.

At the top of the talus slope, the trail works its way around a large rock on a narrow mossy ledge above the creek. As you round this rock and pass under an arbor of vine maple and hazel, you will get your first view of Mist Falls. Keep hiking up scree to the base of the waterfall. This is fun place to watch the water dance in the wind as it plunges down the cliff.

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
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • None

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Pokin' Round the Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge, Volume One: Oregon by Zach Forsyth

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.