A complete guide to visiting Multnomah Falls in Oregon

Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s tallest waterfall at 620 feet and the state’s most popular natural landmark and attraction. This magnificent waterfall is fed from Larch Mountain and is made even more picturesque by Benson Bridge which spans the falls lower tier.

Guide To Visiting Multnomah Falls

For a close up view of the waterfall you can walk up a short moderately steep path to Benson Bridge which spans Multnomah Falls first tier. From here you can gaze up and see the top tier’s full 542-foot drop and look down at the second tier’s 69-foot fall. The bridge provides some great photo opportunities although it is quite difficult to get the entire fall in the one shot.

Directions to Multnomah Falls

It takes about an hour to drive from Portland to Multnomah Falls heading east on I-84, and about 30 minutes from Hood River going west. The Multnomah Falls parking lot is a bit tricky because it’s actually in the middle of the highway, so be sure to stay in the left lane as you approach the turnoff.

No matter which direction you’re coming from the scenery is spectacular, and there are a number of other waterfalls to stop at along the way including a handful on the Historic Columbia River Highway which runs parallel to I-84.

Getting To Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is located just off the I-84 and is about a 30 minute drive from Portland. You need to take exit 31 which is oddly on the left hand side of the road and very easy to miss if you’re not expecting this.The ramp will take you to a parking lot which gets full quite quickly on weekends. From the parking lot there is a walkway that will take you under the highway and to the Multnomah Falls viewing area.

Turn Your Day Trip Into A Weekend Away

There are many other attractions nearby including other beautiful waterfalls. Highlights in the area include hiking trails, fish hatcheries, and Bonneville Dam to name a few. Why not turn your day trip into a weekend away and explore the Columbia River Gorge further? You can stay close to Multnomah Falls in either Cascade Locks or Hood River but if you would prefer to camp see this article on visiting the Columbia River Gorge.

Getting To Multnomah Falls By Car

Getting to the Falls by car is one of the easiest means of accessing this natural wonder. Not only will you be able to visit Multnomah Falls, but also the other waterfalls and hiking trails around the area. From Portland, you can either take the Historic Columbia River Highway or I-84 to reach Multnomah Falls. Although the waterfall is off the Historic Columbia River Highway, parking is limited to a few parking spots. Once Multnomah Falls became popular, parking was expanded, but can only be accessed from I-84. If your GPS says to take Historic Columbia River Highway from Portland, reroute it to I-84. Take I-84 east for 30 minutes and get off at Exit 31. It’s the same exit for westbound drivers. From both directions, Exit 31 for Multnomah Falls Car Park will be on the left-hand side instead of the right.

Although the car park holds 186 cars, the visiting car rate is estimated to be 13 times that per day, so prepare to be patient and read on for parking tips! Once parked, walk along the path under the freeway to access the viewing platforms, hiking trails, and Multnomah Lodge. It’s common to see the exit blocked by a mechanic gate. It automatically closes when the car park reaches its capacity and doesn’t reopen until a significant number of spots are available (about 10 percent). Don’t wait for the gate to open as it is dangerous to stop on the freeway.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Multnomah Falls?

Because the area experiences four distinct seasons, Oregon’s Multnomah Falls provides different experiences during each time of year. Winter brings snow and ice while fall brings bursts of orange and yellow with the changing leaves.

Although stunning during every season, the best time to visit Multnomah Falls is during the spring months, from April to June. The melting snow from winter creates a full, gushing waterfall that shows Multnomah Falls’ powerful potential. Blossoming white, yellow, and purple wildflowers will dot the landscapes surrounding nearby hiking trails. Although crowds start to pick up, fewer visitors travel to Multnomah Falls during the spring .As expected, July and August are the hottest months of the year. Due to school holidays, it’s also the busiest season. Although the flow of water is not as strong, Multnomah Falls is just as scenic during the summer since it never fully dries up. If you opt to go over the summer, visit Multnomah Falls early in the morning to beat the crowds and the heat.

Overall, you should prepare for crowds regardless of the season. Weekends and holidays almost always guarantee an influx of visitors. Arrive early in the morning and visit during the week if possible.

Hike To Viewing Points And Beyond

Multnomah Falls Trail is the gateway to a longer, six-mile hike to Larch Mountain that weaves through tall trees and lush underbrush. Additionally, the 4.9 mile Wahkeena-Multnomah Falls Loop passes by waterfalls including Ecola Falls and Fairy Falls. Monitor the U.S Forest Service to check trail openings before attempting any hikes.

Hotels near Multnomah Falls

There isn’t any Multnomah Falls lodging directly on site, so the closest towns to the falls are Cascade Locks and Hood River in Oregon, or Stevenson, WA.

  • Skamania Lodge: This beautiful lodge is across the river near Stevenson and has plenty of fun things to do on site including a pool, hot tub, golf and a zip line course. Some rooms have great views of the surrounding Columbia River Gorge, and there are also treehouses which are perfect for some family fun or a romantic couples getaway.
  • Best Western Plus Columbia River Inn: Cascade Locks has easy access to the famed Bridge of the Gods and fantastic hiking trails, and the Best Western is in the heart of the action with a great location in the centre of it all. Amenities include a pool, hot tub, restaurant and adjoining beach with kayak rentals for paddling in the Columbia.
  • Columbia Gorge Hotel: This pretty property on the west end of Hood River has jaw-dropping views of the Columbia River, and plenty of outdoor spaces, gardens and overlooks to take it all in. There’s a restaurant and spa on-site, and guestrooms have an old world charm.

You can also go camping near Multnomah Falls by booking a site in Wyeth, Ainsworth State Park, Benson State Recreation Area or the Eagle Creek Overlook Group Campground. All of them are a quick drive to Multnomah Falls, as well as nearby Columbia Gorge waterfalls like Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Wahkeena Falls.


Len Parent

“The most important thing to remember is that you can wear all the greatest clothes and all the greatest shoes, but you’ve got to have a good spirit on the inside. That’s what’s really going to make you look like you’re ready to rock the world.” —Alicia Keys

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