Hikers, naturalists, and wildlife enthusiasts alike gravitate to Oregon to enjoy its natural beauty. Much of the Pacific Northwest remains untamed and undeveloped, offering wonderful opportunities to view and experience nature’s treasures.
Oregon’s Multnomah Falls offers two primary hiking opportunities. One is a loop around the Multnomah Falls and the other is a trip to Wahkeena Falls. The 542-foot Multnomah Falls are a spectacular sight, and waterfall photographers have plenty of material to work with.
Location: Multnomah Falls is about a 30-minute drive from Portland, making it an ideal day trip location for tourists and residents alike. There are some hotels located 12-15 miles from the trail, though many visitors simply choose to stay in Portland.
Fees and Permits: None are required. It is always best to check with local authorities as to the condition of the trail and to receive any safety warnings. Occasionally, natural events, such as trees falling, can block footpaths.
Length: The Multnomah Falls trail is 2.6 miles all the way around, with 700 feet of elevation gain. An alternative to the Multnomah Falls trail is a 5.4 mile trek to Wahkeena Falls. Hikers who head out for Wahkeena Falls can expect a 1,600 of elevation.
Amenities: Multnomah Falls Lodge is at the start of the trail and offers a number of amenities, including a gift shop, restrooms, information center, and a coffee stand. Hungry hikers can also enjoy a meal in the Lodge’s acclaimed restaurant.
Challenge: The second half of the Multnomah Falls trail, in particular, can get steep. Expert hikers generally regard the Multnomah Falls trail as moderately challenging. Be aware that the area can get very crowded at times. Experienced hikers report that the longer trip to Wahkeena Falls is less crowded, but decidedly more challenging. Neither path is suitable for backpacking or camping, though families should enjoy day outings on this trail. Visitors can bring pets, but the animals must be kept on a leash.
Seasons: This trail is open year round.
Climate: This is the Pacific Northwest, so it can get wet and damp. In addition, there is a fair amount of mist in the area, so be prepared for cooler temperatures. Visitors should bring a jacket or wear layers so as to remain comfortable during their visit.
Sights: The focus for many hikers on this trip is the Multnomah Falls themselves. The Falls are the tallest in Oregon and there are some that believe them to be the tallest in the United States, though this claim is in dispute. Multnomah Falls is a two-step waterfall, comprised of an upper and a lower fall.
There are a few Native American legends associated with the Multnomah Falls. The first is that the beloved daughter of the Multnomah Chief jumped from the cliff where the falls now flow as a sacrifice to save her people from a plague. When the people recovered her body, her father asked the heavens to send a sign that the girl was dwelling among the spirits. Immediately, water began to flow from the top of the cliff.
Another story involves a suitor who wished to impress an Indian maiden with a gift. She requested a private place to bathe and the suitor labored to build the waterfall and grotto for her, eventually winning her heart.
Also along the trail is the Benson Footbridge, an oft-photographed Oregon landmark that gives visitors the opportunity to get on the same level as the lower falls. Photographers love to journey up to the Multnomah Falls Upper Viewpoint, a large platform that gives hikers a spectacular view of the Falls. The Upper Viewpoint is close to the end of the trail, so many folks take this as one last opportunity to capture some photographs and enjoy the view.
As you might expect, Oregon is home to many types of wildflowers, including the Oregon Grape, the state’s official flower. Hikers have spotted the Tall Oregon Grape growing from March through October on the Multnomah Falls trail.
One standout among Oregon wildflowers is the Stream Orchid, a graceful, yellow and pink flower that looks like it grew in a hothouse. Like the Oregon Grape, it is possible to see this flower while visiting the Falls from early spring to late fall.
Western Oregon’s unique climate allows wildflowers to grow throughout much of the year. The deceptively hardy English Daisy, a lovely flower with white petals and a yellow center, begins to bloom as early as January.
Fans of golden wildflowers will have to wait until May to see the Golden Tickseed in full bloom. The Golden Tickseed resembles a sunflower, with rich yellow petals and a golden center. Good things come to those who wait, as this flower continues to grow into the first week of November, offering late fall hikers a chance to appreciate their beauty.
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