Tamanawas Falls

Mt Hood National Forest / Hood River / Mt Hood Town, Oregon, USA

About Tamanawas Falls


Hiking Distance: 3.6 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2 hours

Date first visited: 2017-08-18
Date last visited: 2017-08-18

Waterfall Latitude: 45.40114
Waterfall Longitude: -121.58934

Tamanawas Falls was one of the more pleasing waterfalls as Cold Spring Creek fell freely over a basalt lava cliff in a classic rectangular shape.

It’s said to drop 100ft with a width of about 40ft though I’ve seen a height figure of as much as 150ft tall in the literature.

Tamanawas_Falls_129_08182017 - Tamanawas Falls
Tamanawas Falls

Thus, it had a size that easily rivals the convenient waterfalls found on the north side of Mt Hood at the Columbia River Gorge.

Speaking of Mt Hood, Tamanawas Falls provided a bit of a more back-to-Nature experience as it was on the quieter eastern slope of this iconic volcano dominating Portland’s skyline when facing east.

After Cold Spring Creek lost contact with its underlying creekbed, it then crashed into the jumble of rocks below before continuing its eventual feeding of the East Fork Hood River.

Given the amount of recess behind the falls, it appeared to be in the advanced stages of waterfall formation as the back spray continued to chip away at the softer rock holding up the overhanging cliffs.

Tamanawas_Falls_088_08182017 - Tamanawas Falls with its deep overhanging basalt alcove behind it
Tamanawas Falls with its deep overhanging basalt alcove behind it

While there was no official trail to access that recess, I’m sure many hikers would find a way to scramble back there.

After all, it would yield that behind-the-waterfall experience that seemed to be a pretty common occurrence for many of Oregon’s waterfalls.

Experiencing Tamanawas Falls

In order to access Tamanawas Falls, I went on an out-and-back hike that was 3.6 miles round trip according to my GPS logs.

That said, in Gregory Plumb’s book as well as some local trail signage, they stated that the hike was more like 4 miles round trip.

Tamanawas_Falls_163_08182017 - Context of Cold Springs Creek and the Tamanawas Falls Trail
Context of Cold Springs Creek and the Tamanawas Falls Trail

Nevertheless, it took me a little under 2 hours to complete this hike.

The trail was pretty well-maintained for almost its entire length as major water crossings were bridged.

There was sufficient also signage at the junctions to not get lost.

However, there was a major rock slide at about a quarter-mile before the waterfall that was doable when I did the hike in August 2017.

Tamanawas_Falls_147_08182017 - Closer look at the rock fall obstacle about a quarter-mile before the Tamanawas Falls
Closer look at the rock fall obstacle about a quarter-mile before the Tamanawas Falls

The forest service had plans to rework the trail and finish the rework by Spring of 2018 so it might be cleaned up by the time you do this hike.

Tamanawas Falls Trail Description – from the trailhead to Cold Springs Creek footbridge

From the spacious pullout (see directions below), the Tamanawas Falls Trail passed by some picnic tables and signs.

One interesting sign talked about how log jams and large logs stabilize stream banks and improve fish habitat.

The trail then crossed over a sturdy bridge traversing the East Fork Hood River.

Tamanawas_Falls_006_08182017 - The Tamanawas Falls Trail traversing the East Fork Hood River over this bridge
The Tamanawas Falls Trail traversing the East Fork Hood River over this bridge

Apparently, this bridge was re-built as a result of a major flood that washed the previous bridge away in 2007.

Beyond the bridge, the trail briefly meandered through forested terrain before it started climbing as it rose high enough to overlook the Hwy 35.

During this stretch, I also noticed some pronounced basalt formations high up on the cliffs above the opposite side of the road.

The trail then descended towards a smaller footbridge over Cold Springs Creek at about 0.6 miles from the trailhead.

Tamanawas_Falls_021_08182017 - Looking across the Hwy 35 towards basalt columns high above it from the Tamanawas Falls Trail
Looking across the Hwy 35 towards basalt columns high above it from the Tamanawas Falls Trail

Beyond the bridge, I then went left to follow the trail upstream along Cold Springs Creek.

It also appeared that the trail went right (i.e. downstream from the bridge) though it was said that other trail went to the Polallie Trailhead.

Tamanawas Falls Trail Description – following along Cold Springs Creek to the rockfall

Anyways, from here on out, the Tamanawas Falls Trail would continue to follow along the northern banks of Cold Springs Creek.

For much of the next mile, the trail continued to skirt very closely to the Cold Springs Creek.

Tamanawas_Falls_164_08182017 - Looking back at the footbridge over the Cold Springs Creek to continue the Tamanawas Falls Trail
Looking back at the footbridge over the Cold Springs Creek to continue the Tamanawas Falls Trail

In a couple of sections, it looked like Cold Springs Creek could be eating away at parts of the trail when in high flow.

Along the way, there were some exposed roots and some fairly eroded parts sloping into the creek.

However, for the most part, the gradual climb was hardly noticeable.

At about a half-mile from the footbridge over Cold Springs Creek, I started noticing some attractive intermediate cascades on the creek.

Tamanawas_Falls_155_08182017 - An attractive intermediate waterfall on Cold Springs Creek spilling into a dark pool
An attractive intermediate waterfall on Cold Springs Creek spilling into a dark pool

In another 0.1 mile, I then saw a small waterfall spilling into a dark pool.

Some use trails leading down to it suggested to me that some hikers might have used that pool to dip and cool off.

At about a mile from the footbridge over Cold Springs Creek, I reached a trail junction where a temporary yellow sign pointed me to keep left for the Tamanawas Falls.

The path on the right was apparently for the Tamanawas Tie Trail.

Tamanawas_Falls_057_08182017 - A fork in the Tamanawas Falls Trail where the rock fall traverse descended to the left while the Tamanawas Tie Trail ascended to the right
A fork in the Tamanawas Falls Trail where the rock fall traverse descended to the left while the Tamanawas Tie Trail ascended to the right

Immediately after this junction, I then encountered the big rock slide where giant boulders had obscured whatever trail was once there.

I could see that this landslide moved an old bridge all the way down to Cold Springs Creek down below.

Tamanawas Falls Trail Description – from the rockfall to the waterfall

At first the scramble seemed pretty straight forward as I looked for relatively flat boulders to stand on.

However, the further I went, the more jumbled the boulders were and the trickier the scrambling became.

Tamanawas_Falls_068_08182017 - Forest Service sign to direct traffic to minimize the erosion damage at the big rock fall on the Tamanawas Falls Trail during my August 2017 visit
Forest Service sign to direct traffic to minimize the erosion damage at the big rock fall on the Tamanawas Falls Trail during my August 2017 visit

Some flags and signs were erected to make a switchback out of the scramble (to minimize the already existent erosion).

Then, after switching back once more, I made it up to the continuation of the original dirt trail.

In the remaining quarter-mile, the Tamanawas Falls Trail skirted high above Cold Springs Creek while re-entering the forest.

Next, the scenery opened up with Tamanawas Falls making its dramatic plunge up ahead at the head of the canyon.

Tamanawas_Falls_084_08182017 - Context of Tamanawas Falls and the trail continuing closer to its base
Context of Tamanawas Falls and the trail continuing closer to its base

After getting through one more small grove of bush and trees, I was then on the talus slopes peering right at the impressive rectangular waterfall flanked by overhanging cliffs.

Although it appeared possible to continue scrambling onto the slippery wet rocks to get through the waterfall’s mist and behind the falls itself, I was content with my views.

Thus, I turned around and headed back the way I came.

On the way back, I only encountered a handful of hikers/

Tamanawas_Falls_170_08182017 - Returning to the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead, where I noticed more cars than when I got started, but it still lacked the crush I saw in the Columbia River Gorge on my August 2017 visit
Returning to the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead, where I noticed more cars than when I got started, but it still lacked the crush I saw in the Columbia River Gorge on my August 2017 visit

So while this trail was said to be heavily-used, it didn’t seem to quite get the crush that I’d typically see in the Columbia River Gorge.

It was either that or maybe I got an early enough start to even beat the rush on the return hike to the trailhead.

Authorities

Tamanawas Falls resides in the Mt Hood National Forest near Hood River in Hood River County, Oregon. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Tamanawas_Falls_003_08182017 - Some signage and picnic tables at the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead
Tamanawas_Falls_009_08182017 - Looking along the East Fork Hood River from the first footbridge on the Tamanawas Falls Trail
Tamanawas_Falls_013_08182017 - Beyond the first footbridge, the Tamanawas Falls Trail entered a forested area in a mostly flat hike
Tamanawas_Falls_015_08182017 - Not long after the sturdy bridge (i.e. the first bridge), the Tamanawas Falls Trail started to ascend above the forest floor
Tamanawas_Falls_017_08182017 - The Tamanawas Falls Trail continued climbing as it rose higher above the Hwy 35
Tamanawas_Falls_020_08182017 - Context of the Tamanawas Falls Trail climbing high above Hwy 35
Tamanawas_Falls_027_08182017 - The Tamanawas Falls Trail then descended towards this bridge over Cold Springs Creek
Tamanawas_Falls_028_08182017 - Going left after the bridge, the Tamanawas Falls Trail then skirted alongside Cold Springs Creek heading upstream
Tamanawas_Falls_029_08182017 - The Tamanawas Falls Trail continuing to follow Cold Springs Creek upstream
Tamanawas_Falls_033_08182017 - Here was a part of the Tamanawas Falls Trail where it traversed this jumble of tree roots as this area might have seen erosion from a flooded Cold Springs Creek at one point
Tamanawas_Falls_036_08182017 - The Tamanawas Falls Trail continuing to skirt alongside Cold Springs Creek with some intermediate cascades along the way
Tamanawas_Falls_038_08182017 - This part of the Tamanawas Falls Trail appeared like it was prone to erosion as parts of it was sloping (sliding?) into Cold Springs Creek (as seen during my August 2017 hike)
Tamanawas_Falls_040_08182017 - The Tamanawas Falls Trail continuing alongside Cold Springs Creek and some intermediate cascades further along my August 2017 hike
Tamanawas_Falls_042_08182017 - Obstructed view towards some interesting intermediate cascades on Cold Springs Creek en route to Tamanawas Falls
Tamanawas_Falls_047_08182017 - Context of the Tamanawas Falls and an interesting side waterfall that might be suitable for a swimming hole when it's warmer
Tamanawas_Falls_053_08182017 - This was one of the rock slopes next to the Tamanawas Falls Trail, but it wasn't the major rock slide that destroyed part of the original trail
Tamanawas_Falls_061_08182017 - Traversing the major rock slide en route to Tamanawas Falls
Tamanawas_Falls_073_08182017 - Higher up on the rock slide as I was now looking the other way on the informal switchback en route to Tamanawas Falls during my August 2017 hike
Tamanawas_Falls_143_08182017 - Looking down at the destroyed bridge that was once part of the original Tamanawas Falls Trail as seen during my August 2017 hike
Tamanawas_Falls_075_08182017 - Resuming the main Tamanawas Falls Trail as I was finally starting to see the Tamanawas Falls
Tamanawas_Falls_079_08182017 - Context of the Tamanawas Falls with an intermediate cascade coming out between its fronting bush
Tamanawas_Falls_094_08182017 - Zoomed in look at Tamanawas Falls from before the last grove of bush and trees as seen during my August 2017 hike
Tamanawas_Falls_103_08182017 - Finally at the end of the trail with an open view right at Tamanawas Falls on my August 2017 hike
Tamanawas_Falls_126_08182017 - Last look at Tamanawas Falls on my August 2017 visit before it was time to turn back
Tamanawas_Falls_145_08182017 - Going back across the rock slide on my way back from Tamanawas Falls during my August 2017 hike
Tamanawas_Falls_169_08182017 - Looking downstream along the East Fork Hood River when I returned to the sturdy footbridge on the Tamanawas Falls Trail

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Since I was based in Portland, I’ll describe the driving route to Tamanawas Falls from there.

Basically, I headed east on the I-84 towards Hood River for about 80 miles (about an hour drive) before taking exit 64 for the Mt Hood Hwy leading to White Salmon and Govt. Camp.

Tamanawas_Falls_002_08182017 - When I first showed up to the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead, there was plenty of trailhead parking
When I first showed up to the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead, there was plenty of trailhead parking

Turning right at the off-ramp, I then remained on the Hwy 30 going south for about 24 miles (passing through Mt Hood Town en route) and eventually arriving at the large pullout for the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead.

This pullout was right off the right side of the road (west end).

It was 5 miles south of the Pollallie Trailhead and a quarter-mile north of the Sherwood Campground (so if you made it out to there, you missed the nearest trailhead).

This drive took me about 90 minutes.

Tamanawas_Falls_172_08182017 - When I came back to the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead after completing the hike, the parking spaces were filling up
When I came back to the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead after completing the hike, the parking spaces were filling up

For some geographical context, Portland was about 49 miles (over an hour drive) west of Cascade Locks, 75 miles (90 minutes drive) west of Hood River, 80 miles (1.5 hours drive) east of Cannon Beach, 112 miles (under 2 hours drive) north of Eugene, 274 miles (over 4 hours drive) north of Medford, 173 miles (about 2.5 hours drive) south of Seattle, Washington, 440 miles (7 hours drive) west of Boise, Idaho, and 423 miles (6.5 hours drive) north of Redding, California.

Comprehensive video showing the geology surrounding the falls before panning up and down the falls itself


180 degree sweep from downstream to upstream of the falls on the approach

Tagged with: hood river, mt hood, mt hood national forest, hood river county, oregon, waterfall, sherwood campground, cold springs creek, east fork hood river



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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