Horsetail Falls is part of the wonderland of waterfalls cascading down along the Columbia River Gorge between Oregon and Washington. Located just a few miles east of the Multnomah-Falls-tourist-machine, this trail is certainly popular, but don't let that keep you away. The payoff is well worth the effort – three major waterfalls (one of which you can walk behind!) in little more than two miles of hiking. Brave the crowds and check it out.
Although this trail is called Horsetail Falls, it should be said that Horsetail Falls is actually the starting point of the hike, not the destination. This hike will take you to two more waterfalls above Horsetail Falls: Upper Horsetail Falls (sometimes called Ponytail Falls) and Middle Oneonta Falls.
From the road, admire 200-foot-tall Horsetail Falls and then start your hike at the clearly signed trailhead to the left (east) of the falls. The well-maintained trail climbs away from the highway on a series of moderately sloped switchbacks. At 0.20 miles, head right at the signed junction and at just under a half-mile, reach the shooting spout of Upper Horsetail Falls. A real highlight of the trail, you'll walk right behind the falling spray for a wonderful perspective of the falls.
Continue to an unsigned junction at 0.75 miles. Head right on a short spur for a nice overlook of the Gorge with views to the north and east. After regaining the main trail and descending into a lush valley via a series of quick switchbacks, the trail crosses over a metal bridge and reaches Middle Oneonta Falls. This is your destination. Enjoy the rushing torrent of water as it drops in front of you, swirls beneath your feet, and disappears over a 100-foot ledge that is just out of view to the north from where you stand.
If your waterfall thirst has been quenched, turn around and head back to your car. For those wanting more, we highly recommend you continue up the trail a short distance and hookup with the Oneonta Trail heading to Triple Falls, another 1.2 miles to the south.
Permits & Tips
No parking permits required. No toilets or water available at the trailhead, but you can head west (three miles) to the Multnomah Falls Visitor Center for full facilities and more info about hikes in the area. Don't leave valuables in the car, this area is notorious for prowlers. Watch your step at the lookout point above the Gorge as the edge is a very steep drop. This trail can also be done as a loop by hooking up with the Oneonta Trail and heading back down to the road. The last half-mile is road-walking back to the car, which isn't our favorite thing to do.
How to get there
From Portland, head east on I-84/US-30 to exit 35. Stay on the exit ramp as it bends to the right 180-degrees. Continue on for another couple hundred yards to a stop sign.
At the stop, turn left onto the Historic Columbia River Highway and proceed west 1.2 miles to the Horsetail Falls parking lot and trailhead.