Multnomah Falls is one of Oregon’s iconic places to see – and it’s totally worth the stop. At a whopping 611 feet tall, it’s one of the tallest falls you’ll ever see, but the best part is that you don’t even have to go out of your way to see it. It’s right off the road (like…RIGHT off of it) if you’re on I-84, just a half hour drive outside of Portland. If you’re in the Columbia River Gorge or Portland and are looking for something fun to do, do this.
Bonus – it may look remote and like quite a hike in photos, but it’s not only easy to get to, parking is easy as it’s right across the street from the falls, and the “hike” up to the famous bridge is also easy at just about a half mile and not very steep at all.
Of course, you can branch out and hike more from here if that floats your boat, but if you’re like me and you have an overtired toddler with you, then the ease of access is almost as good as the waterfall.
What to Expect
You can see Multnomah Falls right from the parking lot. Simply cross the street and you’ll find yourself on a pathway that, if you follow it, leads to a trail that zigzags up a hill and takes you to the Multnomah Falls bridge, formally called Benson Bridge. You’ll probably find yourself snapping photos the whole way up, and that’s okay. Everyone else is too. Just make sure to put the camera down and enjoy the view, too. Enjoy that 600 feet of tumbling water.
Multnomah Falls is a tiered waterfall. The first super massive fall is 542 feet, and there’s a second fall that adds another 69 feet of height. If you make your way up to the bridge, you’ll find yourself right in the middle of that division. Look up and take in just how high these falls are, or lean over the bridge and look straight down the second 69 foot drop. Yeah, it’s a bit of a knee-wobbler, but it’s worth it. Just keep a grip on that camera. I had my phone camera with me and I don’t think I’ve ever held onto it so tightly!
If you do want to hike beyond going up to the bridge, this area has more to offer. Follow a half-mile trail from the lodge to Wahkeena Falls and you’ll get to enjoy a 240-foot waterfall in relative peace as most people stop at Multnomah Falls. If you’re feeling feisty, you can take the one-mile trail to the top of the falls too, but it’s a bit steep if you’ve got younger kids with you.
And just 2.75 east of Multnomah Falls on the Historic Columbia River Highway is yet another waterfall called Horsetail Falls, which has a few more hiking trails around it. Like Multnomah Falls, Horsetail Falls is right by the road and is super easy to get up close to.
Multnomah Falls Lodge
You might see the word lodge and assume you can stay right at the base of these falls. I did. And yet, Multnomah Falls Lodge is not a hotel, but instead a place to explore the gift shop (which was enjoyable and great for kids), have a bite to eat at the restaurant or grab a snack at the snack bar out front (which had the biggest cookies I’ve seen in a long time), or take a potty break. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch on Sundays.
Columbia River Gorge Lodging Nearby
So if you can’t stay at Multnomah Falls, where can you stay? Well, if you aren’t staying in Portland and want to stay in the Columbia River Gorge (which I highly recommend as it’s gorgeous), the closest major hotel to stay at is Skamania Lodge about 10 miles away.