Multnomah Falls—Portland, Oregon’s Nearby Magic Maiden

Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s #1 most-visited natural attraction, is just a short 30-minute drive from the urban world of Portland. And a place apart. Beware, she is a siren designed to pull you off the highway.

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Multnomah Falls is a temptress. Inexplicably female in her feathery beauty, she captures you first with her grace and then with her sheer size. With a 690 foot drop, she is the highest waterfall in Oregon.

You might as well give in. Go ahead. Pull off I-84, the highway that wends its way through the spectacular Columbia River Gorge. Multnomah Falls deserves a closer look.

Multnomah Falls, 30 minutes drive from Portland, Oregon, is the #1 most visited natural attraction in Oregon.

The pretty and pwoerful Multnomah Falls is bisected by the Benson Bridge, which merely adds to her beauty.


Multnomah Falls has several ways to rein you in. The sound beckons you from the parking area. After your short walk to the viewing platform at the lower pool, she plunges you into a natural fantasy—green, damp, pine-scented and vibrating from the power of the water. Crane your neck up to take in her whole beautiful length. A railed footbridge bisects the feathery fall, like a sash at the waist of a wedding dress. You want to get closer. Do it. Lean in on the railing, close your eyes and let the cool spray of the water caress your face.

Look around you, deep into the green—and blue, and gold. The firs and ferns, the mosses and the gray rocks. Let her speak to you.

If you want to get closer still, hike up the 1/4-mile paved trail to the Benson Bridge, that sash on the wedding dress. Built in 1914 by a wealthy lumber baron, it’s a great spot to look up at the 542′(165m) fall top tier of the twin-layered cascade, and down onto the lower one, which adds another 69′ (21m) to her majesty.

At Any Season, Multnomah Falls is Nothing Short of Gorgeous.

Spring at Multnomah Falls treats you to the greatest volume of flow, as the snow melt and rainwater run-off from high up in the mountains feeds into the streams and the natural spring that feeds the Falls year-round. In Summer, you can wear shorts, let the spray cool you and quite possibly see one of the many weddings that are staged here.

Oh, but then, there is Autumn. When the water pushes its way through yellows, golds and reds, it can stop your heart. And in Winter, you can capture a special still moment of her frozen beauty.

If You Go to Multnomah Falls

Driving Directions:
Driving to Multnomah Falls from Portland is super easy. For the shortest route, just a 30-minute drive, take I-84 eastbound. Get off at exit 31 (which is an unusual left-side exit ramp). This takes you directly to the parking area. Follow the path from there back under the highway to the viewing area for the falls.

For a more scenic drive of about an hour or so, again take I-84 eastbound from Portland. Take the Troutdale exit then follow the signs for the Scenic Loop Trail. This will take you along the old Columbia River Highway, the first drive in the country to be named a National Historic Landmark. It’s easy to see why. The drive offers up a feast of beautiful views of the Columbia Gorge, Mount Hood and several smaller waterfalls along the way.

Services, Fees and Amenities:
There is no fee to visit Multnomah Falls and a Forest Service pass is not required.

There are several bathrooms available on the grounds.

The Multnomah Falls Lodge is just to one side of the lower viewing platform. Built in 1925 using every kind of stone found in the gorge, it’s a popular destination wedding location. The Lodge includes a restaurant, snack bar, bar, espresso bar and gift shop. The amazing views of the Falls are free.

Also located at the Multnomah Falls Lodge is a US Forest Service Information Center. You’ll find information about the Falls, brochures, and trail maps. There are many books for sale to tell you more about the Falls’ history and legends. Open 9 am-5pm daily.

Pets are allowed at the Falls viewing area. They must be leashed and fully controlled at all times.

Accessibility:
The visitor center and the restaurant and facilities in the Lodge are all fully accessible.

Both the short distance from the parking area to the lower viewing area and the hiking path to the Benson Bridge are paved. The more difficult climb to the very top of the Falls, a distance of about a mile (.6km) is more rigorous, with many switchbacks. Parts of the hike can be damp and slippery. Older travelers who are unsure of their footing should considering sticking to the lower viewpoints.

A Bonus Look at Oregon’s Multnomah Falls

Still not convinced you need to visit Multnomah Falls? Check out this aerial drone video of Her Majesty, Multnomah. I’m betting it will have you packing your bags or loading the car for a trip to Portland and the Columbia River Gorge.


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43 replies
  1. Gem
    Gem says:

    She looks amazing! And it’s just a 30-min drive?! People from Portland are lucky! I’ll make sure to go here if we get a chance to travel to the US in the future.

    Reply
  2. Dean Williamson
    Dean Williamson says:

    Driving through this part of Oregon was breathtaking. From being snowed on at Mt Hood, the view from Vista Point and then this stunning waterfall. The area is a must visit for scenery lovers.

    Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Awww, thanks Rachel. Next time you are on this side of the pond, maybe a visit to Oregon will be in the cards. You’ll love it. And those mountains will be a nice complement to your Dutch flatness. 🙂

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      If you do get to visit, I think you’ll be blown away, Christina. It is one of the most beautiful states…. and so green it makes you ache.

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Yon u’ll be very glad you made the time, Kelly. And there are several other smaller falls very close by. If you take that earlier Troutdale exit, you can see several of them on the way to Multnomah.

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Then you know its majesty, Carole. I’ve been told by someone who should know that not only is it the #1 “natural” attraction, but that it was for many years the #1 tourist attraction overall… but that it has been overtaken by Spirit Mountain Casino! Hmmmm….

      Reply
  3. Elaine J Masters
    Elaine J Masters says:

    In all the years (6) I lived in Portland, I only visited Multnomah Falls a couple of times. It’s truly beautiful and serene (especially if you manage to avoid the tour bus crowds.) The entire Gorge is an incredible experience.

    Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Indeed it is, Elaine. Unfortunately on my last trip, we were in a bit of a rush, so did not take the whole scenic drive through the Gorge. Next trip for sure!

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Thanks Bola. Actually, there are several of these very high waterfalls along the highway from Portland through the Gorge. Multnomah Falls is the highest and most beautiful, but the entire string of them is stunning.

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Jaime, you will get a little wet from spray on the Benson bridge, but not soaked. Most people don’t wear rain gear. It’s not like Niagara. The amount of spray depends on the time of year. The “high water” time is in late winter and early spring, when the snowpack is melting. In summer, the water volume is much less, so less spray.

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      You’re welcome, Jazzy. I hope you get to make that trip soon. A a waterfall aficionado, you should take the Troutdale exist and you will see several others along the way to Multnomah.

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      You’re very welcome. I promise you won’t regret a visit to Multnomah Falls. If you have the time, I heartily recommend taking the slightly slower drive, getting off the highway at the Troutdale exit and taking the historic Columbia Gorge Highway. You will see several other waterfalls along the way. The Gorge is wholly beautiful.

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Thanks Danijela. I have only been there in winter and summer, but would love to see it myself in the Fall. I had to use my imagination for that, but I’m sure it would be gorgeous!

      Reply
  4. Christopher
    Christopher says:

    Beautiful description. I kept looking through your pictures to find this beautiful woman you were talking about!!! Lol. The falls is beautiful. I wonder how it got its name or what it means.

    Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Thanks Christopher. The name comes from a nearby Indian village, which Lewis and Clark noted in their diaries in 1805. Apparently, the name comes from the word “nematlnomaq,” meaning “downriver.”

      Reply

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