If you see one waterfall in Oregon's Columbia River Valley, make sure it's Lower Oneonta Falls.
The Gorge is accessible year-round and can be visited any time. However, the real hike - starting at the big rock and logjam (see review below) - can only be done when the water is low enough and not as freezing as in winter or early spring. This is a unique hike where the river is the trail!
Weather and Water:
Hiking is almost impossible from late fall / early winter until early spring. In the winter and early spring, the water is freezing cold and even a wetsuit might not be enough. In the spring the water is also very high and streams are flowing at their strongest: That means there is a high chance of serious injury and it is indeed life threatening. Some try the hike as early as in May, which is possible. But still, the water is very cold then and will take your breath away. Temperature wise the best months are late June until mid-October.
Avoiding the Crowds:
The entrance is ridiculously crowded with Disney like queues, particularly during the extremely busy summer months. In general it’s very busy from spring until fall on weekends and on public holidays. In the summer you should avoid weekends or be there early, between 7:00 and 7:30 AM. Preferably combine both: Get up early and visit during the week. The best months to avoid crowds are September, after Labor Day (first Monday in September) until mid-October: The summer tourists are gone, the weather is pleasant and the fall foliage is just stunning. But still: Get up early for a much quieter experience.
Stunning waterfalls with a total height of 621 feet (189 m)! It’s the tallest waterfall in Oregon and the second tallest in the United States.
Breathtaking! Multnomah Falls in Oregon is open again and definitely the most stunning waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge. However, it's a tourist trap with massive crowds almost year-round. Spring, summer, and fall bring the most crowds. Especially when the weather is pleasant.
Read our helpful season guide below or jump directly to the tips section:
- Where to Stay and Why
- Hikes at Multnomah Falls
- Multnomah Falls Lodge and Visitor Center
- Must-Know Tips
- From Portland to Multnomah Falls
Special Tip: If you're looking to do more than visiting Multnomah Falls in the Portland region, you'll love this Oregon guidebook: Fodor's Travel Oregon - Portland - Wineries - Waterfalls - Mountains. You'll also find sites in there, you probably couldn't have found without a guide. Now: Let's dive into the top tips before visiting Multnomah Falls:
How to Avoid the Crowds
- Avoid weekends and public holidays: Visit mid-week if your schedule allows it. There are even fewer people when the weather is bad, especially during pouring rain: It's a great experience to hike to the top in quality rain gear. The worst time in terms of crowds are the summer months (June, July, August). However, it usually starts to get extremely busy in spring (March, April, May) and it's still crowded in the fall (September, October). Visit during the week if you can!
- Be there early in the morning: The earlier you get there the better your chances of fewer tourists and getting a space to park. Maybe even right before sunrise, which is beautiful. Check times at Sunrise Sunset Troutdale. If you visit on a weekend be there around 7 a.m.! As of 2019 visitors report that it's already crowded around 9 a.m. and still quiet at 7 in the morning.
- Visit in the winter from November until February: It's usually much less busy. But still, try to be there in the morning to ensure a solitude experience. Winter is also beautiful snow covered. Check the winter photos below. Quote from an employee: ' In winter, I have sat in the visitor information office and not had 4 people all day'. However, that was a while ago. As of 2019 winters became a little busier. Still much less than in the warmer months.
Combine 1) + 2) and it's possible to have the place almost for yourself even during high season. Make sure to hike the very top and not just walk to the bridge like most people. Even better: Hike the Multnomah - Wahkeena Loop (see below) to get away from the crowds at any time.
Highlight (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter)
Peak flow is in late winter and spring: Higher water levels increase the flow and intensity. In summer months the waterfalls aren't flowing as much. However, it does not dry up as much as other falls. And while there is less flow in the summer, the falls seem higher in the 'dry' season. Less water does emphasize the height of the falls. In the winter months, on the other hand, you can take amazing photos with a gorgeous waterfall covered in snow and ice. To sum it up: Regarding the waterfall itself, there isn't a bad season or month. Every season offers different but equally stunning photo opportunities.
Smith Rock State Park has stunning scenic views of deep river canyons. It’s a very popular destination for climbers.
The park is a fantastic year-round destination. However, the best seasons for hiking and climbing are spring and fall; while spring weather might be unpredictable sometimes. The most stable weather outside of high season is usually from mid-September until mid-November. If you’d like to avoid the crowds at all costs and still experience pleasant temperatures go in OCTOBER: The heavy crowds are gone and the weather is still nice: Average high 62°F (17°C).
Weather and Crowds
Smith Rock State Park benefits from minimal rainfall and mostly sunny weather throughout the year. It has its own microclimate: The highs average some degrees warmer than recorded at the closest weather station. Monthly weather: Scroll down to the chart
March - May (Spring): Usually pleasant temperatures for hiking and climbing, especially in May. However, spring weather is sometimes unpredictable. Particularly April can still be tricky, because of the snow and rain. Quote from a local: 'April and May here in Central Oregon is some of the strangest weather months.'
June - August (Summer): Extremely hot, especially in July/August! With temperatures that often crack 100 degrees in midsummer, you have to start your hike early and bring plenty of water. It’s also ridiculously busy. Particularly narrow tracks like Misery Ridge get very crowded, even more on weekends.
September - mid-November (Autumn): Stable weather, pleasant temperatures. Perfect months for hiking and climbing. It's still crazy busy in September.
December - February (Winter): If you don’t mind the cold (dropping below 32°F / 0°C) and want to experience pure nature without any crowds go in the winter. Hiking or even climbing is a great experience. An excellent winter report: Smith Rock State Park in Winter
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
Most of the time it’s heavily crowded from May until September. Even in April, the weekends are already jam-packed. Only in OCTOBER, the crowds start to dissipate. If you visit in late spring, summer or early fall: Avoid weekends at all costs. Instead go early and on a weekday. Otherwise, the park gets ridiculously busy. The parking lots fill up extremely quick, and trails are crowded as well. However, especially in spring and fall, you should be able to get away from the crowds after hiking a few miles.