I set my eyes to Portland, Oregon for many reasons. Historically, it marks the climactic finale of Manifest Destiny, the idea that we as a nation were meant to expand from sea to sea, possibly as a testament to our American restless nature. It’s also the self-proclaimed beer capital of the U.S. with over 60 local breweries. Portland also is home to some of the finest walking and hiking trails that even Lewis and Clark couldn’t pass up.
As Portland would have it, there are several natural trails that run through national parks within an hour radius of the city. Possibly one of the most famous sits at the foot of Multnomah Falls, an enchanting year round waterfall located off the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Greeting the giant
To get to these trails, you’ll drive for about half an hour east on highway 84 towards the Columbia River Gorge and simply follow the signs on the left that lead you to the trails. Upon arrival, you’ll notice that the long line of cars ahead of you are searching impatiently for openings near the park, so you may have to do a few circles to swoop in on an available parking spot. Just fight the urge to follow other bad example visitors who are parking behind patrons because you will be greeted by a distraught visitor or a nice heaping fine.
Once you’re fortunate to find a space you’ll see that the bottom bridge overlooking the money shot is also congested with visitors taking plenty of selfies. Kindly await your turn as people shuffle on and off the Benson Footbridge routinely. Take your memory preserving photos here as a lot of awe and wonder start from that very bridge, so you’ll definitely want to keep moving.
Tackling the trail
As you start your way up the steep incline, a plethora of natural habitat and man made switchbacks and pavement allow for an endearing walk. Moss covered trees stretch high into the sky and shade nearly every inch of the trail. Walking in the fall allows for mesmerizing foliage as leaves of burnt orange and yellows litter the grounds and offer seasonal color for your enjoyment.
A rewarding view
Yes, after ascending 620 feet you may find yourself breathing a bit heavy and wondering how the heck some of these children were able to make it up. While the path itself is smooth and paved, the constant incline and switchbacks are challenging to someone who is not accustomed to physical activity or has had prior issues with their knees or feet. And after countless zigzags and areas where the trail seems way too narrow to allow for opposite foot traffic, the finale that awaits is well worth the foot pain. Endure it as the bird’s eye view from the top inspires a refreshing sense of accomplishment as you peer out into the Columbia River Gorge and the vast green scenery that makes Oregon unique and beautiful.
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No rest for the wicked
If the innate restlessness inside you keeps you from enjoying the view and craves more, you’ll want to follow the trail that lines the cascades. Rushing water and about a dozen more falls lie upstream from the Multnomah drop off as well as a collection of smooth boulders formed from lava hundreds of years ago. The path goes on for several miles, but be wary as it gets less formed, more wet, and steeper in certain areas. If you’re still up to the challenge, many more photo opportunities await as less patrons make it up that far. And if you’re fortunate to catch the elusive Sasquatch be sure to take a snapshot and bring confirmation to the world that the mystical creature exists.
Every step of the way
The Multnomah Falls and trails offers an exciting opportunity to enjoy the great Pacific Northwest upon every step. Be sure to grab a cup of coffee or water at the cottage house at the foot of the falls and take pride in the mile and a half uphill you just endured for the sake of exploration. I would also suggest that you prepare by lightly stretching and hydrating before climbing uphill. If you’re up to it, many more trails around the area await you if you’re up to the challenge. Godspeed on your next adventure. Onward!
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