Why Tamanawas Falls is one of the best hikes near Hood River, Oregon
If you’re looking for a way to see Columbia River Gorge waterfalls no matter what season it is, head to Tamanawas Falls which is one of the best hikes near Hood River, Oregon.
Found in the Mt Hood National Forest, this spot is popular year-round thanks to the mesmerizing falls found at the end of the trail, which is on the east slope of Mt Hood and traces the path of Cold Spring Creek.
In the warmer months you can cool off at the base of the falls, which are 100 feet high and 40 feet wide, and framed by a rocky slope which is a great place to have a picnic. When snow falls, the area is transformed into a winter wonderland, with parts of the waterfall covered in ice crystals and the boulder-covered hills turning into a rock garden to snowshoe over.
How to get to the Tamanawas Falls trailhead
The parking lot to start the Tamanawas Falls hike is along Highway 35, about a 30 minute drive south of Hood River just past the Pollallie trailhead. You’ll see a pull out around a bend on the side of the road, and there are usually at least a few cars parked there so it’s relatively easy to spot.
Keep in mind there’s no cell phone reception in this area, so if you’re meeting someone be sure to coordinate everything before heading out. Vehicles must display a Northwest Forest Pass, or pay a $5 day use fee.
The Tamanawas Falls trail
Tamanawas Falls is one of the best hikes in the Gorge for families, since there’s only 560 feet of elevation gain on the well-marked 3.4 mile out and back trail. This means it can get quite crowded, especially during the busy summer months. Pets are also allowed, as long as they’re on leash.
The narrow, shaded trail traces the path of Cold Spring Creek, and starts with crossing over a wooden bridge before tying in with the main pathway and winding over a log bridge and a talus slope. The thick forest includes cedars, large Douglas fir and Engelmann spruce trees, and even wildflowers during summer.
It’s not too much farther to the falls once you reach the large boulder field, and once you make it to the water you can enjoy the view from below or test your footwork by climbing over the rocks to reach a grotto found behind the falls.
It’s easy to see why Tamanawas Falls is one of the most beloved Columbia Gorge waterfalls, and one of the best hikes near Hood River.
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Tamara Elliott is the travel editor and founder of The Gorge Guide, which highlights the best experiences in the Columbia River Gorge. She’s an award-winning writer based in Hood River, Oregon, who particularly loves the area wineries and waterfall hikes. Tamara is also the founder of Globe Guide, which offers savvy tips for exploring destinations around the world.
This is NOT an accurate description of this waterfall hike! First, the full hike is closer to 5.5 miles round trip. Second, there is steady and significant elevation gain. Finally the path is VERY rocky, especially the last mile towards the falls (so two miles round trip) which includes climbing on lots of rocks, over rocks, and that sort of thing. It’s one of the rockiest hikes (which wasn’t tagged as such) that I’ve ever been on. It also has likely gotten worse since the description above since one path appears to have been wiped out by a more recent rock fall and a new path has been made, although it’s very rocky. This is definitely NOT a “family hike”, unless you’ve got very rugged, athletic children. I and my hiking partner were both exhausted and sore by the end. We were very disappointed at the mischaracterization of this as a relatively easy hike. We noted other hikers also had to turn back before getting to the falls for some of the same reasons.