Editor’s note: Face coverings (ages 5 and up) are required at all indoor and outdoor public spaces statewide, regardless of vaccination status. Learn more here. It’s also wildfire season — plan ahead and do your part to prevent wildfires.
With more than 2 million visitors each year, Multnomah Falls Recreation Area is one of Oregon’s top visitor attractions and one of the most-visited natural areas in the Pacific Northwest. Now this famously Instagrammable, 611-foot double cascade will take a bit more planning to access in the summertime.
Between July 20, 2021, and Sept. 19, 2021, all Multnomah Falls visitors must book an advance ticket to take in the sight of Oregon’s tallest waterfall as well as to explore the historic 1925 Multnomah Falls Lodge. Visitors who ride a shuttle to Multnomah Falls do not need to book an advance ticket — they just need to show their shuttle pass at the entrance instead. Those who arrive by bike also do not need to book an advance ticket to the falls.
Why launch the ticket system? Anyone who’s been to Multnomah Falls — or driven past Exit 31 on Interstate 84 — has likely witnessed an overcrowded parking lot and mass of backlogged traffic on the short left-turn off-ramp of the highway. The new system is designed for better accessibility and a more safe and enjoyable experience for all.
Here’s how the new system works:
- To purchase a ticket, log on to Recreation.gov or the Recreation.gov mobile app and choose your date and quantity of tickets. You may reserve up to six tickets per transaction. All visitors, including infants, require a ticket. Tickets must be purchased at least a day before your visit and may be canceled up to midnight a day before the reservation, but the $1 reservation fee is nonrefundable. Your ticket reservation does not guarantee a parking space, but it will be easier to park since there will be fewer visitors. You may book up to two weeks in advance (500 tickets available) or 48 hours in advance (100 tickets available).
- Arrive at Multnomah Falls via the eastbound Interstate 84 parking lot at Exit 31. This parking lot is the best place to park to enter the falls. Stopping in front of the Lodge on the Historic Columbia River Highway and blocking traffic is prohibited.
- You’ll see check-in stations at the entrance; follow the pathways to the plaza and present your ticket for entry — either a printed or a digital copy. Your name must match the one on the ticket. Please arrive as close to your reserved time as possible (no early entry is allowed). Note that face coverings are required in the Historic Lodge for all visitors over age 5, including staff members.
The new ticketing system is a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Transportation and Columbia Area Transit.
Ride a Shuttle Instead
If you’d rather skip the advance ticket system and the hassle of parking, consider hopping on a shuttle to Multnomah Falls instead. Shuttle riders will receive a wristband, sticker or pass that serves as a ticket to enter Multnomah Falls.
Three shuttle options are available:
- The Sasquatch Shuttle offers a daily on-and-off pass for $10, plus a $5 parking pass. Riders have easy access to all of the major sites along the Historic Columbia River Highway, including Horsetail Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Angel’s Rest and more. Dogs are welcome on board.
- The Gray Line Trolley offers a narrated hop on, hop off tour/shuttle full-day pass that stops at Multnomah Falls and eight other iconic sites in the Columbia River Gorge. Tickets are $19 per rider.
- The Columbia Gorge Express is the city-bus route that shuttles riders between Portland, Multnomah Falls, Cascade Locks, Hood River and The Dalles. One-way trips are $10, and the shuttle is bike friendly. Or for only $30, you can buy the new annual GOrge Pass, which lets you hop on/hop off any of the buses around the Gorge (and helps protect the scenic area).
Or Go By Bike
Cyclists who arrive at Multnomah Falls do not need to book an advance ticket. One great option is to rent an e-bike at Ebike Multnomah Falls, 5 miles west of Multnomah Falls along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Guests can park for free at the rental location, hop on an e-bike and pedal about 15 minutes to Multnomah Falls. Cyclists then can lock their bike at the entrance and enjoy their day, no ticket needed.
Tips for Visiting
- Stay on trails and respect closures. Areas that remain closed as of early July 2021 include Benson Bridge, which spans the base of the falls; the trail to the top of the falls; and the loop trail to Wahkeena Falls. The Visitor Center is also closed. The Historic Lodge, restrooms, snack bar, gift shop and restaurant are open.
- Always have a Plan B and a Plan C in case your destination is too crowded or closed.
- Bookmark the Ready Set GOrge website and check before you go for the latest updates on trail closures in the Gorge.
- Pets are allowed at Multnomah Falls but must be leashed at all times. Remember to pick up and pet waste and put it in the trash.
- Wear sturdy footwear and layers for the weather — the spray and mist cause a cooler microclimate that may be chilly in the cooler months.
- Visiting midweek is always a best bet for fewer crowds.
- Winter and springtime rain bring the fullest flows to the waterfall. You’ll also avoid the summertime ticketing system.
- Extinguish cigarette butts and put them in the trash.
- Be kind and patient to fellow visitors and staff.
The Historic Columbia River Highway is known as the “Waterfall Corridor” for good reason: There are plenty more jaw-dropping cascades to explore. Less-crowded alternatives include the 2.4-mile round trip to Wahclella Falls, the 4.4-mile out-and-back at Dry Creek Falls and the 1.4-mile out-and-back to Bridal Veil Falls.
More alluring sites await east, including the Bonneville Lock and Dam and the car-free Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Walk or cycle two favorite segments: the Wyeth Trailhead to Lindsey Creek and the Twin Tunnels Trail, named for long tunnels chiseled through the basalt as part of the original road, which ends in Mosier. From there you can discover wineries, U-picks and other farm-to-table treats along the East Gorge Food Trail.