Multnomah Falls receives over 2 million visitors each year making it the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest.
The falls are named after the Multnomah tribe who populated the Portland river basin on both sides of the Columbia River. They are first known to westerners through the Lewis and Clark expedition which noted these falls in an October 30th, 1805 journal entry during the expedition through the Columbia River Gorge.
In the late 1800s the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company built a railroad passing over the falls with a truss bridge in the same location as the Benson Bridge is located today.
The bridge was later dismantled in 1899 and in 1915 a men's club of Portland lobbied for a hiking trail to be constructed from the base of the falls to the top of Larch Mountain. Simon Benson a Portland banker pledged $3,000 of the funds needed and donated 1,400 acres of land which got him the name of the bridge which crosses the falls, the Benson Footbridge.
The lodge that stands at the base today was finished in 1925 and now serves as a restaurant, a gift shop, and an information facility.
X The total height of Multnomah Falls is 620ft.
X The water source is from an underground spring in Larch Mountain serving as a good source year-round.
X Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon and second tallest year-round in the United States.
X Over 2 million visitors see the waterfall each year making it the most popular natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest.
About The Hike
The hike begins at the base of the falls with a grand viewing platform. If you arrive after 9am this is likely going to be a sea of people but it should be easy to get a picture in front of the mess.
The trail turns to dirt but is still a substantial pathway up to the Benson Bridge. This is the point where most people turn around and the tour groups that are 'only given 30 minutes' would have to head back to their bus.
If you want a good hiking workout, then continue up the side of the mountain on the switchback trail. This thing is a bit brutally slow moving with people and the fact there are signs that count the switchbacks means they are pretty much looking to weed out those who aren't up for the challenge. Challenge isn't the correct word - hike, a normal hike would be the correct term. Enjoy the climb!
The top of the falls are like the same as the top of every waterfall, you get a view but it ain't much different than staring off a normal cliff. However, you can see down to the Benson Bridge and Lodge making these a bit better.
If you have some additional time I recommend hiking further up on the Larch Mountain Trail #441. This trail will take you to a couple of other great waterfalls and has a very characteristic Columbia River Gorge hiking path that winds along creeks and digs into cliffs above tall gorges. You'll also see plenty of damage from the devastating 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.
Multnomah Falls Trail:
Distance: 2.4 Miles
Type: Out & Back
Ascent: 810 feet
Getting There and Important Information
The falls have a massive parking lot, actually several massive parking lots located directly on the Historic Columbia River Highway. The entrance to the falls is to the left of the Lodge which houses restroom and water fountain facilities as well as the afore mentioned restaurant and gift shop.
Depending on what time of year you visit, you may need to book a reservation prior to arrival on the Recreation.gov website. The reservation is free but has a $1 booking fee, I guess so people don't book just to back out.
Pro Tip: This reservation fee is only necessary if arriving between 9am and 6pm. The falls open at first light!
No camping of overnight parking are allowed here - not that anyone in their right mind would want to here anyways.
Don't make this your only stop in the Columbia River Gorge! This stretch of highway has countless amazing waterfalls to see right near by!
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