Portland, OR: Multnomah Falls Loop

Get beyond the crowds on this 5.4-mile loop hike that visits 6 waterfalls - one of them "secret" - and tops out above 620' Multnomah Falls, the 2nd-highest year-round waterfall in the U.S.
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Get beyond the crowds on this 5.4-mile loop hike that visits 6 waterfalls - one of them "secret" - and tops out above 620' Multnomah Falls, the 2nd-highest year-round waterfall in the U.S.

Less than a half-hour from Portland, Multnomah Falls, on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, draws over 2 million visitors per year, and on most spring and summer weekends its apparent. One has but to hike just a short ways above the roadside falls to leave the crowds behind and plunge into deep old-growth forest, displaying scores of wildflowers, alongside the rushing cascades and waterfalls of Multnomah and Wahkeena Creeks.

Start the loop counter-clockwise at the Multnomah Lodge by picking up the 0.5 mi. Return Trail west, alongside the Historic Columbia River Hwy to Wahkeena Falls. After crossing the bridge at the base of Wahkeena Cascade, the paved Wahkeena Trail #420 climbs to another bridge that crosses the base of the tiered falls. Continue up switchbacks amid slopes decorated with candyflower, larkspur, columbine, and windflower. When the pavement ends, a short spur heads right (N) to Lemmon's Point, offering views of the Columbia River Gorge and Beacon Rock. After checking out the point, continue up the trail alongside Wahkeena Creek. Look for an unmaintained spur trail on the right that leads down to "secret" Necktie Falls. Continue up several more switchbacks to Fairy Falls, a gorgeous cascading veil. Shortly past Fairy Falls, the trail forks with options to continue up via Wahkeena Trail #420 or Vista Point Trail #419. Either path takes you to the crest of the loop. (If you continue up Trail #420, you will fork left (E) at the junction with Angel's Rest Trail #415. For an optional side trip, fork right 1.9 mi. to Angel's Rest.)

From the 4-way junction at the loop crest, stay on the Wahkeena Trail by taking the lower, left-bearing (NE) fork (Another optional side trip, the right Trail 420C leads 1.6 mi. to Devil's Rest.) The trail meanders another mile through fir and hemlock, sprinkled with more columbine, wild iris, strawberry, monkeyflower and tiger lily, until it meets up with Multnomah Creek and the junction with Larch Mountain Trail #441. Turn left (N) and head downstream (Turning right up Trail #441 leads 5 steep miles to Larch Mtn.). The first of the falls encountered on the way down is 55' Ecola Falls. The view from the trail above the falls can be obstructed; there is a very loose, steep spur that descends to the base - use discretion. Shortly past Ecola Falls the trail switchbacks down to similar-looking Wisendanger Falls. A short spur leads to the water, and rock-hopping to the base of the falls is easy (except during periods of heavy flow).

The trail continues down alongside Multnomah Creek, crosses, then forks to the left to the lookout platform at the brink above 620' Multnomah Falls; here's where you'll pick up lots more trail company. Check out the views above the falls and out over the Gorge. The trail then takes several long, winding switchbacks down through moss-covered rockfall, sprinkled with Oregon grape, stonecrop, starflower and bleeding heart to the Benson Bridge, a 45' stone bridge built in 1914 that spans the outlet between Multnomah's upper and lower falls. Finish up by continuing down to the base, and reward your efforts with a soft-serve ice cream at the Lodge's snack bar.

Mapped by Eli Boschetto

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 7.4

Waypoints

MLT001

Location: 45.5772075, -122.1195478

Start the loop at the Return Trail, on the west end of the parking area.

MLT002

Location: 45.5753452, -122.1279904

Cross the bridge at Wahkeena Cascade and start up paved switchbacks on Wahkeena Trail #420.

MLT003

Location: 45.5742409, -122.1274996

Bridge below Wahkeena Falls.

MLT004

Location: 45.5736688, -122.1264838

Junction; fork right for a view from Lemmon's Point.

MLT005

Location: 45.574016, -122.1266125

Lemmon's Point. Columbia River and Beacon Rock views.

MLT006

Location: 45.5732008, -122.1264589

Look for spur to "hidden" Necktie Falls.

MLT007

Location: 45.5737377, -122.1271268

Obstructed views of Necktie Falls.

MLT008

Location: 45.5720855, -122.1262094

Wahkeena Creek crossing.

MLT009

Location: 45.5712942, -122.1256951

Creek crossing. Look for yellow monkeyflower.

MLT010

Location: 45.570299, -122.1246178

Fairy Falls. Enjoy a snack and a view of the falls on the trailside bench nearby.

MLT011

Location: 45.5699942, -122.1242386

Junction with Vista Trail #419; either fork meets up at loop crest.

MLT012

Location: 45.5686156, -122.1228218

Junction with Trail #415. Continue straight to stay on loop; fork right for side trip to Angel's Rest.

MLT013

Location: 45.5699905, -122.1179312

Crest of loop trail. Vista Trail #415 heads down to the left. Loop trail continues straight and left; fork right on Trail #420C for side trip to Devil's Rest.

MLT014

Location: 45.5709439, -122.1158695

Creek crossing. The next section of trail is heavily flowered with larkspur, cow parsnip, wild iris, tiger lily and columbine.

MLT015

Location: 45.57171, -122.1072006

Junction with Trail #441. Fork left to continue on loop; fork right for 5 mi. hike to Larch Mtn.

MLT016

Location: 45.5738657, -122.10742

Ecola Falls. There is a VERY steep, loose spur that goes to the bottom - use discretion.

MLT017

Location: 45.5747065, -122.1084988

Wisendanger Falls. From water-level, an easy rock hop gets you to the base of the falls.

MLT018

Location: 45.5757772, -122.1123447

Creek crossing.

MLT019

Location: 45.5757129, -122.1134341

0.25 mi. spur to view platform above Multnomah Falls.

MLT020

Location: 45.5757354, -122.1150327

Viewing platform at the brink of 620' Multnomah Falls.

MLT021

Location: 45.5777843, -122.1143159

Junction with Gorge Trail #400 to Oneonta Gorge; fork left to continue down loop.

MLT022

Location: 45.5769219, -122.1162879

Benson Bridge. Enjoy the cool spray of the upper falls, while peering over the brink of the lower falls.

MLT023

Location: 45.5776278, -122.1171141

Multnomah Lodge. Finish with a soft-serve ice cream, and check out the visitor center's historic photos.

Trailhead

Location: 45.5772223, -122.1193779

Start the loop hike with the Return Trail to Wahkeena Falls. © Eli Boschetto

Wahkeena Falls

Location: 45.5742559, -122.1273494

0.2 miles up the Wahkeena Trail, cross the bridge beneath Wahkeena Falls. © Eli Boschetto

Secret Falls

Location: 45.5738654, -122.127167

Use a short, overgrown spur to a viewpoint of this hidden waterfall. © Eli Boschetto

Wahkeena Creek

Location: 45.5720592, -122.1261826

Cascade above crossing. © Eli Boschetto

Monkeyflower

Location: 45.5712856, -122.1255496

Bright yellow monkeyflower decorate many sections along Wahkeena Creek. © Eli Boschetto

Fairy Falls

Location: 45.5702079, -122.1246243

This 20' cascading fan waterfall is right along the trail, and makes beautiful long-exposure shots. © Eli Boschetto

Larkspur

Location: 45.5719052, -122.1159124

These tall blue flowers inhabit many sections of the Multnomah Loop trail. © Eli Boschetto

Fork in the Road

Location: 45.5699675, -122.1177471

Fork left to continue on the Multnomah Loop; fork right for a side trip to Devil's Rest. © Eli Boschetto

Left Fork

Location: 45.5703506, -122.1175969

Hiker on the Multnomah Loop. © Eli Boschetto

Wild Iris

Location: 45.5733172, -122.1127474

These pretty purple flowers can be found along some sections of the Multnomah Loop trail. © Eli Boschetto

Cow Parsnip

Location: 45.5723258, -122.1147001

Tall, bunched white flowers along the Multnomah Loop trail. © Eli Boschetto

Columbine

Location: 45.5734073, -122.1094751

Unusual-looking red flower along the Multnomah Loop trail. © Eli Boschetto

Multnomah Trail

Location: 45.5716799, -122.1070719

Hang a u-turn at this trail junction to continue down to Multnomah Falls. © Eli Boschetto

Ecola Falls

Location: 45.5741057, -122.1074474

This 55' plunging waterfall is best seen from the trail above. © Eli Boschetto

Wisendanger Falls

Location: 45.5745638, -122.1081769

A pretty plunging waterfall with a small rocky beach, accessible by a short rock hop. © Eli Boschetto

Over the Edge

Location: 45.5757429, -122.1148825

From the playform, view of Multnomah Creek tumbling over Multnomah Falls. © Eli Boschetto

Upper Falls

Location: 45.5768468, -122.1161807

The upper section of Multnomah Falls, seen from the Benson Bridge. © Eli Boschetto

Benson Bridge

Location: 45.5774025, -122.1169639

Benson Bridge, between upper and lower Multnomah Falls. © Eli Boschetto