Tucked away on the eastern flank of Mt. Hood lies Tamanawas Falls, a towering, misty veil of whitewater. The falls are formed by Tamanawas Creek hurtling almost 100 feet over a slab of overhanging basalt into the rugged canyon below. A deep cave behind the falls allows people to look out from behind the plunge and experience the falls from all angles. Although this waterfall is a spectacular sight to behold, its relatively remote location ensures light visitation. One might even have the pleasure of peaceful solitude.
The hike to this falls is moderate and follows a defined trail most of the way. After meandering through a dense forest of Douglas firs, the trail gains a bit of elevation and drops down to a footbridge over Tamanawas Creek. The trail follows the creek all the way to the waterfall. As the trail progresses, it passes by several scenic cascades and pools here amongst a lush old growth forest. After almost two miles, the trail intersects a massive rockfall that one must navigate around. Although the bouldering can be treacherous, it isn’t too difficult and it’s impossible to get lost: all you have to do is continue upstream. After passing the rockslide, the falls are closer than ever before! In a few twists and turns of trail, Tamanawas Falls comes into full view. This waterfall is stunning — pictures don’t do justice. One can also walk to the base of the falls or climb into the cave behind it. All angles provide unique and scenic views.
The name Tamanawas is derived from a Chinook word meaning “friendly guardian spirit.” This name is fitting as Tamanawas Falls appears like a powerful guardian, watching over the canyon below. The overhanging slab of rock that the water falls over is stronger than its underlying layers, allowing a cave to form behind the falls. The cave behind this waterfall was also formed due to a combination of seepage erosion and chemical weathering. Tamanawas Falls is a shaggy and unique place that I would highly recommend visiting.
Driving Directions: From Portland, follow I-84 E through the Columbia River Gorge to the town of Hood River. At Hood River, take exit 64 for OR-35 S. Continue along OR-35 S for 23.6 miles to the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead on the right. Park here.