Skip Multnomah Falls and Visit These Other Oregon Falls Instead


Until a casino knocked it from the top of the list, Multnomah Falls, in the spectacular Columbia River Gorge, was the number one tourist destination in Oregon. It's not hard to see why. At 620 feet, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon. The view from the base of the falls, with the picturesque Benson Footbridge bisecting the cascade of water, almost seems like it was made for photographing. And if you're feeling up to it, a paved path with twenty-one switchbacks can take you right up to the very top for a birds-eye view. There's even a visitor's center, gift shop, historic lodge, and restaurant.

So why should you skip visiting this beautiful natural wonder? The crowds.

Despite the Casino taking away Multnomah Falls' glory, it's still packed with visitors year-round. The trail to the top, which is steep and uninteresting, is wide enough for for a line of people going up, and a line of people going down. And when you finally get to the top, you are rewarded with a small viewing platform that will probably also be full of people.

If you're like me, part of getting back to nature is being able to look around in wonder, hear yourself think, and enjoy a little solitude. You can't do this with thronging crowds. Luckily the Columbia River Gorge is lousy with waterfalls. Just drive a mile or so and you'll find another one. So instead of over-hyped Multnomah, check out these less crowded, but no less stunning waterfalls and hikes.

Latourell Falls
This family-friendly, moderate hike is a 2.4 mile loop with 520 feet of elevation gain. You'll get a work out, but it is definitely doable for little kids. A paved path will take you to a viewing area, then it turns to dirt and starts to gain elevation until coming to a bench and look-out area. This is the first waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge and will not disappoint.

Wahkeena Falls
At 242 feet tall, Wahkeena Falls is no slouch when it comes to drama. With a nice parking area, restrooms, picnic areas and potable water, this is a place to bring a lunch and spend some time. A short 1.4 round trip hike will take you to the top of the falls and back to the parking lot with a heart-pumping 850 foot elevation gain. If you're looking for something a little less strenuous, .4 miles will get you to a scenic bridge over the falls, and back.

Oneonta Gorge and Falls
A little over two miles past Multnomah Falls is Oneonta Gorge, a place that should at least get an honorable mention on the Wonders of the World list. This slot canyon is blanketed in green moss and ferns and is truly a sight to behold. The trail to the falls is flat, short and wet. You'll actually spend part of the hike wading up a river, so it's best to wait for a hot day to attempt it because the water is cold. Word has spread about this gem of a hike and it's getting more and more popular. If you can, visit on a weekday when it will be less crowded. If you bring children, make sure they are able to climb over a large log jam, walk on an uneven riverbed, and swim. There is no parking lot for this one but there are wide shoulders on the side of the highway for cars to park.

A word of caution: Never leave anything visible in your car and lock all your doors. Thieves love smashing windows and grabbing what ever looks enticing while people are out on the trail. The telltale glass on the ground in the parking areas should serve as a disappointing, but helpful reminder.

Afton Nelson is a freelance writer, an avid hiker and a 19-year resident of Portland, Oregon.