Portland, Oregon is a city that has something for everyone, with so much to offer you could spend weeks exploring and still not see everything.
One of the most famous attractions in Portland is Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. Multnomah Falls are the tallest falls in Oregon and are well worth taking the time to visit.
While Multnomah Falls are free to visit, you will require a reservation before arrival. Reservations are available online and cost $1 per person. Reservations bookings are limited to 6 people per transaction, if you are planning to visit with a larger group you may want to consider booking a tour, as you may struggle to secure enough tickets in the same time slot.
Without further ado, let’s discuss your travel options to the falls.
Take a Tour
A great way to see any destination in any city is to take a tour. Portland has too many great tour providers to list here, so we have kept it to our favorites.
If you want more options, Travel Portland has an extended list, including several tours that visit Mt. Hood and Multnomah Falls.
America’s hub offers one of the more dynamic tour offerings of those reviewed. Many tour providers operate seasonally or based on demand, however, America’s Hub operates tours daily, year-round.
Their America’s Hub Mt. Hood Loop Tour has several pickup locations from popular city hotels and as the name implies, it includes a visit to Mt. Hood and Multnomah Falls.
A group tour is $130pp, but if you prefer smaller groups or one-on-one tours they can also accommodate you. A private individual tour costs $570, while for a couple is $290pp, a trio will cost $202pp and for a group of 4+, it is just $159pp.
An alternative to small group tours is to book with a larger operator such as Gray Line Tours. Gray Line offers a half-day luxury coach tour to Columbia River Gorge, starting at $90pp for the round trip. The trip operates year-round other than parade days on the 6th and 13th of June.
If you prefer the benefits of a small group setting and the ability to talk to your tour guide with fewer crowds, consider Wildwood Adventures Gorge Waterfalls Tour.
Available from April through October each year, this tour is similar to the Gray Line tour, focusing on the Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls. The tour is operated with a van, keeping group sizes smaller, and at $79pp it is cheaper than both other tours discussed.
The only public transport to the falls is that operated by CAT Bus. The Columbia Gorge Express service operates daily, a one-day pass is a very easy $10pp for travelers of any age.
For adults traveling with children under 18, it is even cheaper at $15pp for both travelers. The bus takes about 40 minutes each way and also provides the option of bringing your bicycle, although bicycle rack spaces are limited to just three.
The only negative to the shuttle service is that it leaves from the Gateway Transit Center, which is some distance from the city center in the East of Portland.
Fortunately, there are plenty of connecting services from the city center. The easiest connection is to take a TriMet on the Greenline, heading east from Union Station; the fare is $4 and the ride is only 20 minutes to Gateway Transit Center (Rome2Rio).
For those who don’t like the inconvenience of rigid-timetables such as public transport, a taxi or ride-share operator such as Lyft or Uber can provide you with more flexibility and door-to-door service.
Uber is the quintessential ride-share service provider and in Portland, they are also the cheapest. According to Uber’s price estimator, a one-way fare from Union Station to Multnomah Falls Lodge starts at $40.60 for a standard Uber or $53.98 for an Uber Assist or UberX option.
In addition, Uber has recently launched Uber Pedal in Portland, Uber Pedal provides a vehicle with a bicycle carrying capacity. If you want the convenience of your wheels once you get to your destination, Uber has an option for you.
Lyft is an alternative to Uber, though the same journey from Union Station to Multnomah Falls Lodge is estimated to cost $50-$60 for a basic ride or $105-$120 for Lyft Lux.
Taxis are safe and reliable, though a little more expensive. While no official fare estimator is available, Rome2Rio provides an estimated journey time of 34 minutes and a fare of $110-$130 each way.
Whether you drive your own car to Portland, hire a car in the city, or are a member of a car-share program, having access to your own vehicle is by far the most convenient and liberating transport option.
This is the obvious choice if you drove to Portland unless you are planning to take a tour. Taking your own vehicle costs only time and fuel, the journey is about 35 minutes and the only cost is $4-$6 on gas.
If you’ve flown into the city or come by another means of transport and do not have a vehicle, there is always the option to hire a car. A basic compact car from a provider such as Hertz will set you back $76/day, not including optional insurance or additional service.
For those seeking luxury, there’s also a variety of options available, for example, a 2021 Mercedes G Wagon from $220/day.
If two wheels is more your style, there are several local motorcycle rental options. The cheapest is to use a peer-to-peer hire service like Twisted Road, here a 2014 ZX-10R can be had for as little as $59/day, you couldn’t finance a bike for that!
If you want the assurance of a commercial provider, a Vstrom 650 from Motoquest, the cheapest commercial vendor, will cost you $100/day in fall or winter and $140/day in spring and summer.
Alternately to renting, there is also the option of using a car share program. The main care-share providers who operate in Portland are:
Both providers operate fleets of shared cars around the city, there’s likely to be one at a convenient location when you need it.
If you choose to drive yourself to Multnomah Falls you will no doubt need to know where you are going, getting there is thankfully straightforward. Simply drive East on the I-84 and take exit #31 for Multnomah Falls.
It is noted on many review sites that parking is very limited, even when you have a reservation for the falls. The most common alternative parking is noted as being at Rooster Rock State Park, exit 25.
Parking here will cost $5 for the day and a free shuttle bus will take you to the Multnomah Falls entrance. Another location with $5 parking and a free shuttle bus is Cascade Locks, located further down the I-84 East (Travel Awaits).
If you are looking for the less common option, something that is not available on every other blog about Multnomah Falls, try getting there by boat.
There are two main cruise operators that visit Multnomah Falls. American Queen operates their Columbia River and Snake River Cruise.
This 7-day round-trip departs Vancouver, WA, (across the river from Portland) and tickets are a modest $1599pp. The journey to the falls is an optional off-cruise experience available for $69 on day 3 of the journey.
Alternately, UnCruise offers their Columbia River Cruise ‘Rivers of Adventure and Wine’, departing from Portland for $4900pp. This 7-day cruise is heavily focused on the wine experience in the surrounding region but still features a short visit to Multnomah Falls.
If you like to mix fitness and fresh air with your Portland adventure, there are plenty of bicycle-friendly options available.
As discussed above, the shuttle bus has bicycle racks to make bringing pedal-power with you much easier and Uber also offers their bicycle-friendly Uber Pedal service.
If you enjoy cycling but haven’t brought your bicycle with you, you can always rent a bicycle in Portland. There are several rental providers, however, Everybody’s Bike Rentals is the cheapest with a good variety of modern bicycles.
Their rentals start from $45/day for a road bike or hard-tail MTB. $75/day will see you upgraded to an MTB with suspension. While E-bikes are also available from $60/day.
The most common cycling route to Multnomah falls from Portland is to follow the Historic Columbia River Highway, this provides an amazing scenic journey that includes several other waterfalls, as well as many motorized vehicle free sections (Travel Portland).
Columbia River Gorge Bike Tours
If you want to see the falls by bicycle but also love the knowledge of a skilled local guide, consider a bicycle tour. The two options below represent some of the best Portland has to offer:
- Around Portland, tours have a half-day tour available for $85pp. This Hike and Bike option is great if you prefer pedal power, but still want to get off for a short hike and get close to the falls.
- E-bike Multnomah Falls offers a great ride for those looking for something a bit more laid back, their afternoon rides are a 3-hour Guided Sunset tour, available daily at 4 pm. You will visit five waterfalls on this ride and due to the later time, you will see them with fewer crowds!
There are many ways to get to Multnomah Falls, regardless of your preference there will be something that suits you.
Whether you choose to cycle, drive, catch a taxi or an Uber, a bus, or even a boat; your time in Portland and your visit to Multnomah Falls will be one to remember!
Remember, Multnomah Falls is operated by the parks service and it is a natural wonder. Before you head out, check with USFS for the most up-to-date information on alerts, conditions, and trail closures.
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Gary is an award winning full time professional photographer and videographer with too much wanderlust for his own good. Fuelled by strong coffee, you’ll often find him wandering well off hiking trails in search of interesting photographic subjects or scenery to video. Self taught and with the use of pioneering digital techniques, he quickly built up a strong client base and has worked with many prestigious organisations, including GQ, BBC, London Fashion Week, Grazia, Sky, Metro, Vogue Italia. He specialising in evocative images of people, places and cinematic videography and his goal is to make the viewer look twice and engage. As well as a penchant for good design, the ketogenic diet and Hungarian Vizslas, he also has a huge affection for Chicago, Bucharest, Scandinavia, Croatia and absolutely everywhere in Italy. Find him on Instagram @garynansome, Twitter @garynansome and his website https://garynunn.co.uk/