Oregon Wild Hikes: Tamanawas Falls
A component of the Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness proposal, Tamanawas Falls is located on the east side of Mount Hood in Hood River County.
Part of the Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Proposal
Distance: four miles
Elevation Gain: 300 feet
Season: spring, summer, fall *
Maps: see below
About the Hike
An accessible highlight of the wilds along the east side of Mount Hood is Tamanawas Falls, located off Highway 35 on the Mount Hood Loop. This 100 ft. waterfall isn't as well known as its rivals in the Gorge, but is equally as breathtaking. Besides delighting in this beautiful waterfall, hikes in this area take you through lush vegetation and critical wildlife habitat.
The water that spills over Tamanawas Falls is from Cold Spring Creek; a clear, cold creek that is a tributary to the proposed Wild and Scenic East Fork Hood River. This area, which includes nearby scenic Polallie Creek, hosts winter and summer steelhead runs, and these cold waters also help keep the East Fork of the Hood River cool for the river's threatened Coho salmon.
While you're noticing the creek's ideal steelhead habitat, be sure to look up and notice the area's diverse vegetation. The Tamanawas Falls area has remnant old-growth Pondersa Pines along with a mix of Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir trees.
You especially don't want to miss Tamanawas Falls in the fall, as the area's Western Larch and Cottonwood trees turn brilliant shades of yellow, gold and red that contrast nicely with the area's abundant evergreens.
Elk enjoy the vegetation of this area too, as they benefit from the old-growth forests that provide protection and a corridor to other wild areas of the forest.
Oregon Wild and other conservation groups are currently working to gain Wilderness protection for the Tamanawas Falls area as part of the proposed Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness. While the falls were not included in the 2009 additions, wilderness protection here would forever safeguard the land from logging, mining, and other development while preserving the public's right to enjoy the backcountry recreation here.
How to Get There
From Hood River:
From I-84 take exit 64 to the junction of highways 30 and 35 (the China Gorge restaurant is a great landmark at this intersection). Take Highway 35 south. The turn off for Tamanawas Falls is on your right, about 1.5 miles south of Polallie Creek campground. If you reach the Sherwood campground you've gone too far and need to carefully turn around.
From Portland via Government Camp:
From U.S. Highway 26 go past Government Camp and take Highway 35 towards Hood River. The turn off to Tamanawas Fall is on your left about a quarter mile north of the Sherwood Campground around mile post 72. If you reach Polallie Creek campground you've gone about 1.5 miles too far.
For the easiest route to Tamanawas Falls, head north from the parking area on the East Fork Trail #650 for a half-mile. Turn left (west) on Tamanawas Falls Trail #650A. This hike will take you to the base of Tamanawas Falls. (easy, four miles round trip)
If you're interested in a ridgetop view of Tamanawas Falls, follow the trail uphill away from the creek and Trail #650A. When this trail meets Trail #645 at the top of the ridge, turn left (south) and follow #645 until you see Tamanawas Falls. (moderate, five miles round trip)
Another possibility is to take a longer loop back to the parking area. If you visited Tamanawas Falls from the creekside trail, take the trail that heads up and away from the creek and turn right on Trail #645 at the top of the ridge. This trail will take you back down to the East Fork Hood River. At the East Fork Trail #650, turn right (south). Continue on this trail past the turn off to Tamanawas Falls trail and a half-mile later you will arrive at the parking area. (moderate, five miles round trip)
* The creekside trail is accessible in the winter by snowshoe if there is snow (this area is in the rainshadow of Mount Hood and therefore gets less snow than other locations in the forest).
For More Information
Contact Oregon Wild's Portland office at (503) 283-6343, or visit our Wilderness pages. The Forest Service's Mount Hood website also contains useful information.
Photos by Tommy Hough.