Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls & Benson Bridge.

  Ever read a 'things to do in Portland' article?

  If so, I'm willing to bet Multnomah Falls makes the list. In fact, it's probably somewhere near the top of those lists.

  Funny thing though, even though I grew up in Oregon, and lived in the Portland area from the time I was eight, it took me until I was almost 30 to finally make it to the famous waterfall along the Columbia River.

  My mom and I were in training. We had committed to hiking Mt. St. Helens mid-summer 2010 with a group of several other ambitious (read: crazy) people. In order to be somewhat prepared for St. Helens, we knew we'd need to do some training hikes in the months leading up.

  So, we bought a hiking book about the Portland area: 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles and started looking for some interesting outings.

  Multnomah Falls just happened to be one of those hikes.

The Falls
Me & Mom!
  Multnomah Falls is situated 30 minutes east of downtown Portland, along the Columbia River -- the border between Oregon and Washington.

  You might think an attraction like this would be difficult to get to, that it would be isolated, or in the middle of nowhere. But not Multnomah Falls. Extremely easy access, just off the freeway, and plenty of parking.

  The waterfall itself is quite a sight to see. In total, it's 611 feet, and drops in two major tiers. The upper fall drops 542 feet (165 m), while the lower fall tumbles 69 feet (21 m).

  The falls are visible from the freeway -- the way I had always seen Multnomah Falls prior to finally visiting that summer. But the view from afar doesn't quite allow you to  fully understand its power and beauty.

Wahkeena Falls.
  From a distance, it looks like a narrow, quiet phenomenon. Up close, it's quite another thing. Standing in the shadows, with the mist falling down on you, the roar alone lets you realize the magnitude of the falls.

  Unlike many waterfalls in the west, Multnomah Falls does not dry up in the summer season (but then again, I don't know if anything in Oregon ever dries up!), so visitors can appreciate the falls year-round. Though if you visit in the winter, or other wet months, I would expect the ground to be slippery.

The Hike
  The particular hike we did was the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop. Starting from the Wahkeena Trailhead, and ending at the touristy Multnomah Falls Trailhead. If you love waterfalls, this hike was tailor made for you. There are 10 named waterfalls on this loop, along with smaller intermittent cascades, and creeks sprinkled in throughout the trip.

Columbia River view from the hike.
  Aside from the numerous awe-inspiring waterfalls, the terrain and surrounding scenery is gorgeous as well. There's the view of the Columbia River Gorge anytime you turn around. You also have the feeling of being deep inside a forest. There are the old growth trees surrounding you -- both fallen on the ground, lying across the streams -- and towering above you. Dark green mosses cover rocks, and so on.

  It's Oregon at its best!

  It was mid-way through the Wahkeena-Multnomah hike that I asked my mom why they (my parents) had never brought my brother and I up to Multnomah Falls as kids. It was a spectacular hike, with beautiful views and scenery. And even though it was fairly long (almost five miles in all), there's a paved path throughout most of it, so it is fairly accessible for everyone.

Interesting terrain along the trail.
  I cannot say the hike to Multnomah Falls sufficiently prepared us for what we would encounter on Mt. St. Helens, but it was a good starting point. The hike does get steep at times, so your legs, and your lungs, better be ready.

  If you have little kids or aren't much for hiking, I suggest starting at the Multnomah Falls trailhead, hiking to the falls, and returning (not doing the loop). Up and back, it's 2.6 miles. Still, you can expect a pretty steep walk. This side of the trail can be pretty busy, so keep that in mind!

  I've since been back to Multnomah Falls each summer since I first hiked it. It's beautiful, and you hardly realize you're breaking a sweat as you go from one waterfall to another. A great way to spend an afternoon!

  If you ever find yourself in the Portland area, make sure you visit Multnomah Falls -- you won't be sorry!

Lots of pictures below....

Almost there! Multnomah Falls from the trail.
The start of the hike -- Wahkeena Falls.

Break time in the forest!

Yet another waterfall.

Columbia River Gorge. Washington is just on the other side of the river.

More forest scenery. Who can name these?
Lots of fallen trees along the way.
Deep inside a forest??
Fallen trees across a creek.
Rene getting after it on the trail!
At the base of the falls.


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