From Portland to Multnomah Falls: 5 Best Ways to Get There

Written by Brad Lane
Updated May 26, 2022
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Multnomah Falls is less than 30 miles from Portland or a 45-minute drive. Public transport from the city takes about twice that time. It's by far one of the most popular waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, and crowds tend to gather. Though the summer is typically the busiest season, the waterfall flows the heaviest during winter and spring.

The fastest way to Multnomah Falls from Portland is by car. This area receives over two million visitors each year, and parking at the falls routinely hits capacity. Parking gates close when the lot fills, adding potentially more time to travel. These congestion issues make public transportation, like the Columbia Gorge Express, the best way to travel.

Organized tours of Multnomah Falls from Portland are also available. Guided excursions from Portland leave the driving and trip planning to a professional guide. With downtown hotel pickups available, a guided tour is the easiest way to see Multnomah Falls. These tours also make other scenic stops in the Columbia River Gorge and come with a professional guide who shares insights about the area.

Intrepid explorers can reach Multnomah Falls from Portland by bicycle. The Historic Columbia River Highway is bike-friendly, with far slower traffic than the adjacent Interstate 84. It's approximately a 30-mile bike ride to Multnomah Falls, depending on the starting location within the city.

1. From Portland to Multnomah Falls by Organized Tour

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls

Offering the easiest way to explore Multnomah Falls from Portland, a guided tour takes out the stress of driving and trip planning. Organized expeditions like the Multnomah Falls and Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls Tour hit all the hot spots within a half day. This 3.5-hour tour departs in the morning and offers a pickup service from most downtown hotels.

With an experienced tour guide behind the wheel, the trip proceeds to the western part of the Columbia River Gorge and a view from Crown Point. The tour makes several scenic stops throughout the gorge before arriving at Multnomah Falls. Passenger favorites include the 249-foot Latourell Falls and the unbeatable view at Vista House.

One of the tour's last stops is Multnomah Falls. Passengers have 30 minutes to snap photos and crane their necks at the towering spectacle. The tour stops at one more waterfall, Horsetail Falls, before heading back to Portland. At under four hours long, this organized tour leaves the rest of the day to explore Portland.

2. From Portland to Multnomah Falls by Car

Columbia River and Interstate 84 towards Multnomah Falls
Columbia River and Interstate 84 towards Multnomah Falls

It's relatively easy to drive to Multnomah Falls from Portland by hopping on Interstate 84. It's approximately a 45-minute drive from the city. But congestion is a real issue, particularly in summer, and can add complications to an otherwise easy drive. One of the biggest challenges is the limited amount of parking available at the falls.

Over two million people visit Multnomah Falls each year. The heaviest season for visitation is the summer. The entrance to Multnomah Falls is off Interstate 84 (Exit 31), and a gate automatically closes when the parking lot is at capacity. Look for highway signs that will announce these closures. It is illegal to wait at the closed gate entrances.

A better solution comes from taking the Columbia Gorge Express bus line (see below: Portland to Multnomah Falls by Bus). This fee-based service transports passengers from Portland throughout the Gorge, including Multnomah Falls. Portland bus riders can access the Columbia River Gorge Express by traveling to the Gateway Transit Center.

If you decide to drive, arriving at Multnomah Falls before 8 am will give you a pretty good chance of getting a parking spot. Weekdays are still busy at Multnomah Falls but see fewer crowds than the weekends.

Winter is the best season to visit Multnomah Falls to avoid the crowds. The winter also provides extra precipitation for booming waterfalls. Check road conditions before traveling in any season. And carpooling is always recommended if you're traveling with a group of people.

3. From Portland to Multnomah Falls by Bus

Aerial view of the Colombia River near Rooster Rock State Park
Aerial view of the Colombia River near Rooster Rock State Park

The Columbia Gorge Express is the best way to get to Multnomah Falls from Portland by bus. This fee-based service travels from the Gateway Transit Center in Portland to The Dalles. The service makes a direct stop at Multnomah Falls along the way. Columbia Gorge Express is operated by Columbia Area Transit.

Visitors looking to catch the Columbia Gorge Express need to make their way to the Gateway Transit Center. TriMet offers several ways to get to the Gateway Transit Center from within the city. The Transit Center also has available park-and-ride parking spots.

It costs $10 one way to hop on the Columbia Gorge Express from the transit center. An all-day Gorge Pass costs $15 and covers one adult and one child. It's about a 45-minute bus ride to Multnomah Falls. Google Maps and Apple Maps are helpful resources for planning a trip by bus.

The Columbia Gorge Express also makes stops in Troutdale, Cascade Locks, and Hood River. The service is offering additional departure times throughout the summer as part of the new Falls-to-Locks program. These additional running times make the same stops but run more frequently throughout the day.

4. From Portland to Multnomah Falls by Bicycle

Fall along the Historic Columbia River Highway
Fall along the Historic Columbia River Highway

Multnomah Falls is accessible from Portland with just over a 30-mile bike ride. The key to safely exploring the Columbia River Gorge on a bicycle is hopping on the Historic Columbia River Highway. The alternative corridor, Interstate 84, has limited shoulder space to share with fast-moving vehicles.

Cyclists still share the road with vehicles on the Historic Columbia River Highway, though the roadway has a maximum speed limit of 35 miles per hour. And much of this paved route follows the pedestrian-friendly Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.

Several routes from the city connect to the Historic Columbia River Highway. Nearly every direction goes through Gresham and Springdale. A common connector is the Springwater Corridor Trail. A city-wide bike and walking trail map is available through the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

The 2017 Eagle Creek Fire significantly impacted the Columbia River Gorge, including the Historic Columbia River Highway and Multnomah Falls. Immediately after the event, closures affected this biking route to Multnomah Falls from Portland. As of 2022, the route has been re-opened to vehicle and bicycle travel. Check out the latest conditions before planning a trip.

5. From Portland to Multnomah Falls by Taxi or Transfer Service

Multnomah Falls in spring
Multnomah Falls in spring

A taxi or ride-share from Portland to Multnomah Falls is one of the only private transfer services available. The ride costs a minimum of 50 dollars but will take you directly to the trailhead. For those without a car, the Columbia Gorge Express is a more economical option.

Some rideshare companies may offer a carpooling option, enabling a shared transfer service, and making for a more affordable ride.

Portland Airport shuttle companies, like Wind Van Shuttle, also accommodate private transfers to Multnomah Falls. These private rides are also considerably more expensive than the Columbia Gorge Express. For those interested in private transfer services, booking ahead of time is the only way to guarantee a ride.