Multnomah Falls: Hike to the Top


Multnomah Falls is one of Oregon’s most impressive natural landmarks. It’s also the central attraction in the stunning Columbia River Gorge. A visit can range from a quick stop to an exhaustive climb to the top of the falls.

My Visit

I’ve visited Multnomah Falls several times.  It’s always wondrous.  On a good day…

… it looks like this.  I took this picture during a visit to the gorge, back in 2011.  When I visited in 2014…

… it looked like this.  Admittedly, it wasn’t the perfect day for a hike, but I was trying to burn off the final couple of hours before heading to the airport, and I wanted to do something special with my time.  Since the falls are only about a half-hour drive away from PDX, it seemed like a good idea.

And I wasn’t the only one with the idea.  Multnomah Falls will almost always be packed with visitors.

Most casual visitors will take a short trail up to that footbridge, which spans the waterfall just above the lower brink.  On previous visits, this was as far as I went.  This time, however, I decided to go further — all the way to the top of the falls.

This shouldn’t come as a shock, but the trail to the top of the falls includes a challenging uphill climb, navigating numerous switchbacks.  Supposedly, there are 11 switchbacks.  In reality, I think there were a couple more than that — probably because of a detour near the end.

Be aware that the trail goes up, over a ridge, and then you have to hike downhill to get to the brink of the falls.  When you get there…

… this is the view, looking straight down.

You will also have a view of the parking area, Interstate 84, and the entire gorge.

Above the brink, there’s another, smaller waterfall, that’s quite pretty, too.  You’ll find a few places to sit beside the creek and enjoy the rushing water, while recovering from the leg-straining climb.

I didn’t have much time, though. The hike uphill had only taken about 32 minutes — which is not bad, considering the 1.2 mile trail gains about 700 feet.  But, my flight was leaving in just a few hours, so I had to hike back down, rather quickly.

On the way back down, you’ll have some great views of the upper portion of the falls.  This view is just before the footbridge.

You can check out my 2011 visit to Multnomah Falls for some better pictures, as well as a drive up to Vista House at Crown Point, along historic US 30.  My 2006 visit also included stops at Oneonta Gorge and Sheppards Dell.  And, if you enjoy the TV show Grimm, you may want to take this tour of filming locations around the Portland area.

The Bottom Line

A hike up to the footbridge will be plenty for most visitors. If you have an extra 60-90 minutes, and you don’t mind the climb, go ahead and tackle the trail to the top of the falls.


Multnomah Falls is located east of Portland, Oregon, along Interstate 84 and historic US Route 30. The Interstate parking area is at exit 31. If you’re interested in driving part of the historic road, take exit 28 or 35. Be aware that the old road is frighteningly narrow in some spots.

Drivelapse Video

Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive into Portland, then out to Multnomah Falls…

… and from Multnomah Falls back to Portland:

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