A visit to Multnomah Falls is the classic Portland tourist experience. It’s perfect for out-of-towners looking for a touch of the Oregon wilderness without having to, well, travel too far into the Oregon wilderness.
As a Portlander (read: person who lives in Portland), Multnomah Falls isn’t the kind of place I ever set out to visit. It’s crowded and right off the highway and the trail to the top is paved, for god’s sake. And yet for one reason or another, I keep finding myself there, year after year, taking photos from the Benson Bridge and climbing the mile to the top of the waterfall.
And here’s the thing I discover each time I visit: despite the hoards of tourists armed with disposable coffee cups, a visit to Multnomah Falls is always totally worth it.
There’s nothing quite like standing on the bridge and listening to the roar of the water as it drops 600 feet into the pool below. If you believe that man has any lasting control over Mother Nature I prescribe to you an hour on that bridge breathing in the power of that falling water.
Pets: Allowed on a leash.
Drive time from downtown Portland: about 30 minutes.
Directions: I-84 east to exit 31. The exit ramp is on the left side of the highway and takes you directly into the parking lot of the falls.
Hiking to the top of the falls: It’s worth it. Don’t get discouraged when you’re huffing and puffing and spot the sign that says “switchback 1 of 11.” The switchbacks get shorter, I swear. After switchback 8 they even actually go downhill.
Making a day of it: If you’re looking for more than a mile-long hike to the top, swing left instead of right when the trail forks (it’s marked with a sign). The trails extend for miles out to Larch Mountain.
Hometown hint: The Multnomah Falls Lodge houses the on-site restrooms and gift shop. But who cares about the gift shop? The true secret is that the lodge hosts a mouth-watering, shouldn’t-be-missed Sunday Brunch. It’s a little pricey at $22.95 per adult but Brian and I partook once, about five years ago, and we still talk about it.
Looking for other hikes in the Columbia River Gorge? Enjoy Multnomah Falls!