Striking thing about Multnomah Waterfalls is the ease of access to the falls and the variety of viewpoints. Pull out the wide-angle and capture all the falls from the viewpoint at the foot of the falls. Walk a paved trail to Benson Bridge and focus in on the Upper Falls. The claim is that these are the second highest waterfall in the USA at 625 feet drop. Photographers: don't forget to include details of the falls as well as the whole shebang. A tripod is useful for long exposures. Trees abound, so light levels may be low.
Follow the Larch Mountain trail 1/4 mile to the historic Benson arch bridge. From there, the top of the falls is just one mile further (this is fairly steep, though!). You may want to continue on the Larch Mountain trail to the top (six miles), where a spectacular view of the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River Gorgeawaits you. Free maps are available at the Visitors center. For the more serious hikers, there are more detailed maps that can be purchased.
USDA Forest Service, Multnomah Falls Visitor Center
The Benson Bridge is beautiful. One could wish to see the falls without the bridge intersecting them, however the grace of the design seems instead to create a focal point and adds interest and beauty without detracting from the falls themselves.
The bridge is named for Simon Benson who paid for it. He was a wealthy Portland lumberman who at one point owned the land the falls were on. Designed by K. P. Bilner and built by the Pacific Bridge co, Italian craftsmen and subcontractor Robert Ringer, in 1914.
It is a short but steep hike up the mountain to the 45 ft span that overlooks the brink of the lower tier. From the bridge it is 135 feet to the pool at the bottom.
The falls are actually two-tiered. They are often listed as 620 ft high. This measurement however is a combination of both tiers plus the 9 ft drop in elevation between the tiers. The upper tier falls 542 ft into a large pool, the lower tier falls 69 ft into a small rivulet heading toward the Columbia River. They are spring fed and so have water year round, though fall water flows are lower than spring's.
The grounds are well manicured and paved for the most part. The best view is filled with visitors each hoping for a picture without anyone else in it.
There is a steep walk way up to the Benson Bridge. The 45 ft long bridge across the brink of the lower tier was built in 1914 by Simon Benson who owned the land at the time. From the bridge one can view the upper pool and the lower falls plunging down. The path continues up the mountain to other viewpoints and waterfalls.
There is no charge to visit.
Bridal Veil Falls is yet another waterfall that i underestimated. In photo's this waterfall looks interesting but not spectacular. I was wrong this is actually one of the most beautiful in the area and that is saying a lot. Bridal Veil Falls is about 130 feet (39 m) and makes its way down the cliff in two distinct drops.
Unique to this area, Bridal Veil Falls is on the downhill side of the road. As such the hike will be a downhill out of about .2 miles (300 m) and uphill return. I did notice some nasty plants alongside the trail near the parking area but aside from that and some poorly planned outdoor steps along the trail this waterfall has a lot to offer in sights and sounds.
On a logistical note, Bridal Veil Falls is the only one in the area which has a bathroom and it even has running water. Their is also a short loop trail with a few viewpoints of the Columbia Gorge.
Multnomah Falls is the second highest (620 feet, 189 m) year-round waterfall in the United States. A foot trail leads to Benson Footbridge, a 45-foot (14 m)-long footbridge that allows visitors to cross 105 feet (32 m) above the lower cascade.
There is a nice native american legend about the Multnomah Falls and the Coyote, have a look at:
Take a moderate hike uphill from the Horsetail falls parking area to get to this pretty waterfall. Along the way, you'll be treated to beautiful views of the Columbia River. The trail itself is less than a half mile, but there are a number of switchbacks. One of the rewards for doing the trail is that you can actually walk behind these falls without getting wet, so you can see them from a number of angles. The falls are about 75 feet high, and shoot off the side of the hill. These falls are also referred to as Upper Horsetail Falls.
OK - so I didn't see a ton of wildlife in the Gorge, but I almost stepped on this guy. It's a huge banana slug, which roam the areas around the falls. They are mentioned in the visitors center at Multnomah. Just keep your eyes on the ground as you head along the paths near the falls and you might spot one....
The first major waterfall you hit as you head east along the scenic drive. The falls are over 200 feet tall, passing over a basalt column wall (like those at Devil's Postpile.) There's also a patch of bright yellow lichen that are on the wall. Again, signs mark the parking area to the waterfalls, and there is a relatively short path to get to the base of the falls. I think the basalt columns do add a real cool touch to these falls, so get out and take a look.
The second large falls you will see if you take the scenic drive coming from the west. The falls are about 100 feet tall - and it takes the form of a horsetail (like Horsetail Falls) with the "pinch" in the middle of it. Parking is available along the highway, and then a short trail leads to the viewpoints.
Looping back to the western portion of the scenic drive, there are a handful of waterfalls that are easily accessed from the main road. One of these is Bridal Veil - park in the lot, then take a short path down to the vantage points (or short path up to look at it from above.) This waterfall is about 130 feet high or so, and as you can see, has two tiers to it. I love how green the area is - very pretty to look at.
Heading east past Multnomah, this set of falls is again marked by a parking area and is easily accessed along the road. It gets its name from the way the rocks enclose around the upper end of the falls, making them look like a horse's tail. The falls are just over 175 feet - yet another set that's too high to capture with a regular camera :)
The highlight of the area...don't worry, you can't miss it. There's a specific exit off of I-84 for the falls, but if you're on the scenic drive, you'll know you've hit it when you hit the wall of traffic and people. There's a number of decent sized parking lots, but they can fill up quickly. Once you're situated, take your time to see the falls from the various vantage points. There's a gift shop/snack bar/restrooms, leading to a wide path that ends at the base of the falls, where you'll see the classic shot of the two tiers of the falls as well as the Benson bridge. You can then take a short hike up to the bridge, which crosses over the lower cascade of the waterfall. The two tiers combine to be a nearly 620 foot waterfall, and it is definitely a sight to behold!
Depending on where you get off the highway, this could be one of the first falls you see as you approach Multnomah (it's about half a mile west of there). Park at the base of the falls and take a short, yet somewhat steep uphill hike to a bridge that crosses over the falls. The falls themselves are a little under 250 feet high, but they come down in several tiers. You'll get a very clear look at the bottom portion of the falls from the stone bridge.
This waterfall is the first encountered when traveling the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway from Troutdale. This first stop is one of the best waterfalls anywhere. It is very scenic although you will likely not be alone while viewing this waterfall. The yellow/green lichen that hangs on the cliff face adds to the overall scene. At 249 feet (75 m) this waterfall appears taller to me than Elowah Falls further down SR-30 even though Elowah is sited as being 40 feet (12 m) taller. In any case, the comparisons between these two very similar waterfalls are interesting.
Latourell Falls is accessible by a very short trail from the parking lot to the base of the falls. One important note is that their are two trails leaving the parking area. One will be a short downhill stroll to the base of the falls. That trail is to the far right of the parking area and is somewhat hidden.
The other trail will be a .8 mile (1.2 km) uphill hike to upper Latourell Falls which will allow you some obscured views of Latourell falls but not reach the base. The unfortunate thing is that this is the trail which is more noticeable and their is no sign to differentiate the two hikes. I saw several visitors start hiking up this trail only to find that they were hoping for the other one.