Columbia Gorge, OR
Multnomah Falls - is probably the most photographed spot in the Pacific Northwest, with over 2 million visitors each year. When you walk up on the falls for the first time, you will understand why.
The double falls are simply magnificent, falling a total of 620ft., which makes it the 2nd highest waterfall in the United States. One of the difficulties you will face photographing Multnomah Falls are the crowds. The Columbia Gorge has many beautiful waterfalls and Multnomah Falls is the one easiest to access, which adds to the congestion. The best time to photograph these majestic falls is when the crowds are not there (early morning, late evening, or bad weather days). Otherwise, just wait your turn and be patient.
Trail Difficulty - EASY
I would rate the difficulty of this trail as a 1 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The primary shooting platform for Multnomah Falls is a very easy 100yd. walk from the parking lot. If you choose to walk up the bridge, it is another ½ mile round trip up with a modest incline.
Download KMZ Trail File
Click Here to download the KMZ file for this location.
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
80 Ft Elevation
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click link above to view location in Google Earth
Multnomah Falls is by far the busiest tourist location in the Columbia Gorge area. For this reason there are two separate parking spots. One is just in front of the falls; the other is a dedicated parking area on I-84.
To get to the parking lot in front of the falls from Portland, OR, travel east on I-84 for approximately 25 miles and take exit 28. After exiting, take the Historic Columbia River Hwy. for 3.3 miles and you will see a very large parking lot on the left and the Multnomah Falls on the right. It is hard to miss.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
The best time of day to shoot this location is very early morning or late afternoon/evening (after the sun has crested the ridge behind the falls).
Best Time of Year to Shoot
Spring, summer, and fall are all good times to shoot this nice little falls. However, late fall would be the very best time to shoot, as the trees and brush around the falls turn golden and add a great color to this iconic image.
What Lens(es) Do You Need
The above shot was taken with a 16mm lens. Depending on the composition you are looking for, you can use anything from a 11mm to a 35mm lens..
There are no permits required.
Direction of the Shot
The direction of the shot is south at 150°.
Special Nuances of Shot
For the most part, this shot is pretty straightforward from the tourist viewing area. You can also take a compression shot from the trail walking up the bridge.
Special Equipment Needed
You will need a tripod, a polarizer, and a neutral density (ND) filter to reduce your shutter speed to ½ second or longer to create the silky water flow. Also, because of the mist generated from the falls, I would recommend some kind of rain sleeve for your camera and lens cloth to wipe down your lens.
You may also want use a tilt/shift lens to compensate for the keystone effect while pointing up at the falls.
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
Multnomah Falls is one of the most popular tourist places in the Columbia gorge area. It is rare when you are not surrounded by tourist and photographers. Patience is a requirement at this location.
It rains a great deal in this part of the country, so make sure you travel with rain gear. It can get cold in spring and fall, and winters are usually wet and very cold. Make sure you travel with the appropriate cold weather equipment in spring, fall, and winter.
I use Verizon, and the cell service is strong at this location.
Multnomah Falls is located between Cascade Locks, OR (13 miles east) and Troutdale, OR (15 miles west). The closest city is Portland, OR (45 miles west). The Portland metropolitan area has many choices for lodging. Cascade Locks and Stevenson are smaller towns but do have several lodging options.
For camping, I stay at either the Eagle Creek campground or Ainsworth State Park. Eagle Creek campground is very convenient, but small (16 sites), does not have RV hookups and fills up quickly. Ainsworth State Park is a tradition campground with about 40 RV hookups and tent sites.
Nearby camping and lodging
Camping - click on the campground below for directions
Eagle Creek campground (currently closed due to the 2017 Eagle Creek fire)
Ainsworth State Park (currently closed due to the 2017 Eagle Creek fire)
Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review
Best Western Plus Columbia River Inn
735 Wa Na Pa St, Cascade Locks, OR
1131 SW Skamania Lodge Way, Stevenson, WA
Columbia Gorge Riverside Lodge
3200 SW Cascade Ave, Stevenson, WA
Cascade Locks, OR, is a nice little community. My favorite place to eat is the Cascade Locks Ale House. They have GREAT pizza with a good selection of local brews.
Stevenson, WA, is a nice little town with some good places to eat. I have had many a good meal and cold beer at the Big River Grill directly across for the Stevenson Elementary School. It is nice place with good food and friendly folks. Also Joe’s El Rio Mexican Café across the street has very nice people, pretty good Mexican food, and great margaritas.
Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review
Cascade Locks Ale House
500 NW Wanapa St, Cascade Locks, OR
515 NW Portage Rd, Cascade Locks, OR
Big River Grills
192 2nd St, Stevenson, WA
El Rio Mexican Cafe
193 2nd St, Stevenson, WA
There is a self-service laundry mat attached to A&J Market in Stevenson, WA.
Eastwind Laundry at 225 2nd St., Stevenson, WA
Other Photography Opportunities Around
The closet airport is in Portland, OR. Portland International airport (PDX) services most of the major airlines in the US.
Area Guides and Workshops
If you were looking for a GREAT photography guide for Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington areas) - I can highly recommend Mark Metternich. I have taken workshops with Mark in the past and he has been hosting workshops in the Pacific Northwest for many years.
Mark knows all the VERY best places to take you and just the right time to be there - to help you get the shot. He is a great photographer, an expert at photoshop, an excellent guide/instructor and a super nice guy.
The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location.