One look at Multnomah Falls and I knew why so many people make this day trip from Portland. In fact, more than 2 million people visit them annually.
Oregon’s tallest waterfall is a two-drop cascade falls dropping 620 feet (189 m). Fed by underground springs from Larch Mountain, rainwater, and snowmelt, it flows all year.
Winter and spring generally off the highest water volumes, although some consider the frozen sections occurring in the winter to be the most dramatic sights.
We visited in late springtime and it was pretty amazing.
Getting to Multnomah Falls is just a short 30-mile (48km) drive east of Portland. There is easy parking and a short walk to this natural masterpiece on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. However, with current restrictions, it may be easier to enjoy this day trip from Portland without self-driving. We have outlined several options below.
In fact, Multnomah Falls is the most visited national recreation site in the Pacific Northwest (according to the US Forest Service)
Things to do at Multnomah Falls
This is a masterpiece of nature. As a result, the number one thing to do is to get out and see the falls. There are wheelchair-accessible viewing platforms making it easy for everyone to get here.
Hiking – creating a more extensive day trip from Portland
There are also several hiking opportunities offering views, ranging from the short walk out the Benson Footbridge to the steep hike to the top suitable only for the more athletic.
The return hike to the top of the falls is 2.4 miles (3.8km). It’s a fabulous day hike for those wanting to see the falls from the top as well as the Columbia River Gorge.
If you still want more, you can continue for another six miles (10 km) along the Larch Mountain Trail to the top of the mountains.
The hiking trails are open from sunrise to sunset and there is no overnight camping.
At the base is the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge built in 1925. Aside from great views, there is a restaurant, gift shop, espresso bar, and U.S. Forest Service interpretive center at the lodge.
Take a trolley tour
If you love waterfalls and want more, you will love this trolley tour that starts out at Multnomah Falls and includes 10 stops, many of which are other waterfalls. Reserve your trolley in advance.
Views from the Benson footbridge
A bit of Multnomah Falls history
On Labor Day in September 1995, a 400-ton boulder, loosened by erosion, fell 225 feet (69 m) from the face of the waterfall into the upper cascade pool, above Benson Bridge.
It caused a 70-foot (21 m) splash of water and gravel to wash over the footbridge, causing minor injuries to twenty members of a wedding party that happened to be on the bridge posing for photos at the time. (from Wikipedia)
Day trip from Portland – getting to Multnomah Falls
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There are several ways to get to Multnomah waterfall resulting in anywhere from a few hours to a full day trip from Portland.
We opted to drive, but that was back in the days when entry tickets were not required. Today, I think we would opt for a tour, just to be sure nothing went wrong.
Here are several options:
- Drive to Multnomah Falls
The 45-minute drive from Portland was easy and straightforward. It’s the fastest way to get here, but depending on the time of day and time of year, congestion can be a real problem.
Travel east on Interstate 84 to exit #31, Multnomah Falls. Park and walk south following the signposts. You will walk underneath the interstate and railroad tracks towards Lodge and Visitor Center.
- Go with a tour / guide
- Take a shuttle bus
According to the US Forest service, the Columbia Gorge Express offers a daily bus service between Portland and Multnomah Falls. They also include Cascade Locks and Hood River, Oregon.
- Ride a bicycle
Locals know the 30-mile (48km) bicycle ride along the Historic Columbia River Highway is a fabulous day trip from Portland. If you don’t have a bicycle, we recommend this self-guided e-bike tour of Multnomah Falls and the Columbia Gorge that will keep you off of the interstate.
- See it from the air with a scenic flight
This 40-minute flight will give you a different perspective of the falls, and the Columbia River Gorge. You will also fly over the Bridge of the Gods and the Bonneville Dam. Reserve your flight here.
What you need to know for your Multnomah Falls day trip from Portland
- Dress in layers, and if the bridge is open or if you are hiking near the falls, be prepared to get wet from the mist.
- Also, wear sturdy shoes with good grip as the ground can get slippery when wet,
- Drones are not permitted.
- Note above the requirements for your timed entry tickets.
Looking for more Oregon photos, be sure to check out this stunning book by Greg Vaughn, fellow travel blogger: Photographing Oregon: A guide to the natural landmarks of Oregon.
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