Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon. This waterfall is a big destination for tourists visiting the area and wanting to experience one of the hundreds of waterfalls that Oregon has to offer! Even if you’re visiting and don’t have access to a car, you can take a shuttle to visit the falls. In this post, I am covering what to expect when visiting Multnomah Falls including the permit system, lodge, parking, and hike details.
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What to Expect When Visiting Multnomah Falls
If you’re coming from Portland, you will follow I-84 East for 23 miles. You will take exit 31 on the left to enter the main parking lot for Multnomah falls. There is no parking fee or pass required. Once you’re in the parking lot, you will be able to see the falls. To get to the falls from the parking lot, take the tunnel just south of the visitor information booth. You’ll cross the street and see the lodge to your right and the path to the falls directly in front of you.
If you don’t have access to a car, you can take a shuttle. There are a few different options for a shuttle. The first option is the CAT public transport which operates 7 days a week. You can find the schedule for this shuttle here. For more info on how to use this shuttle, you can find the info here. For the CAT transit, a one-day pass will cost $15 and covers one adult and one child.
Another shuttle option for the high season, or weekends on the shoulder season, is the waterfall trolley. You can find the schedule for this trolley here. The ticket for this trolley is $20 and more information about how to take the trolley can be found on the website here. The final option for a shuttle is the sasquatch shuttle which is only open during the on-season and opens back up on May 6th. You can find more information about the sasquatch shuttle on the website, here.
The lodge has bathrooms, an espresso stand, a snack shack, a restaurant, and a gift shop. It’s open every day of the week from 9 am- 6 pm on Monday- Friday and 8 am- 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Reservations for the restaurant are encouraged, but not required. During COVID, a mask is required to enter the lodge.
On the backside of the lodge is the path that leads to the falls. There are lots of benches around and plenty of garbage cans and recycling. You can either end your visit at the viewpoint or continue up to the first bridge and on to the hike. It’s typically most crowded on the ground viewpoint. It’s a steep hike at some points and a lot of people do not attempt the climb. On peak summer days, it can still be pretty busy on the hike.
If you decide to do the hike, it’s 2.4 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of 810 ft. It’s an out and back trail and the turnaround point to the overlook at the top of the falls. There are 11 switchbacks to get to the top, but there are also a few other smaller switchbacks to make it up to the first bridge and to make it to the overlook. There are some great views of the gorge on your way up.
If you decide you want a longer hike, you can follow the trail back to the Wahkeena Falls loop which will turn your hike into 6.5- 7 miles with an elevation gain of 1751 ft. If you still want to see Wahkeena Falls but don’t want as long of a hike, you can take the connector trail to the right of the lodge 0.4 miles to the Wahkeena Falls trailhead. From here, it’s only a 0.4-mile hike up to Wahkeena Falls. I recommend taking the Wahkeena loop trail if you want to see a lot of different waterfalls!
Starting in May 2022, a permit system will be put in place to visit the falls. From May through mid-September you will need to get a permit here before arriving. Masks are also required outside during the peak season when the falls get busy. Timed reservations will be able to be made up to 2 weeks in advance at 7 am PST. If you are unable to get a permit then, a second window will open 48 hours in advance at 7 am PST. The permit will cost $1 with the reservation fee. More info on the permit system can be found here.
- Arrive early in the morning or late afternoon in the peak seasons to avoid the crowds. The peak season is summer. It’s also especially busy in the late spring and early fall.
- I recommend visiting other waterfalls in the area if you have time to hike and explore. If you’re just stopping by, only making it up to the ground view is worth the stop!
- The road conditions on I-84 can be icy in the winter. Check road conditions before you go if it’s especially cold or expected to snow.
What to Expect When Visiting Multnomah Falls
For more PNW-related posts, check out some of my previous posts below.
- Falls Creek Falls: What to Know Before Hiking
- Beacon Rock State Park
- Moulton Falls Regional Park
- Wahclella Falls: What to Know Before Hiking
That’s what you should expect when visiting Multnomah Falls! It’s a great hike to get a feel for Oregon and the waterfalls in the area. If you’re local, I recommend checking out some of the other hikes I linked in the posts above!