Horsetail Falls is Waiting for You

Horsetail Falls is severely underrated.

On a recent sunny Saturday, Brian and the kids and I trekked out to the Columbia River Gorge to do some hiking. We chose Horsetail Falls because while the first 1/4 mile is a bit steep, the remaining 1/4 mile or so to Ponytail Falls is meandering and flat, and that seemed perfect for two pre-schoolers and a not-quite-fully-leash-trained-puppy. We drove by the line-up of cars waiting to try to find parking at Multnomah Falls, and felt sorry for all those people for whom Multnomah Falls is their only experience in the Gorge.

After admiring Horsetail Falls, right off the Old Highway, and checking out the hiker advisories, we set off on our trail.

Horsetail Falls

176' tall Horsetail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

Oh, it was gorgeous! It was Brian’s choice to do this particular hike, and he was spot-on in terms of distance and difficulty for the kids. We were surrounded by majestic trees and delicate wildflowers, and after only half a mile or so, we arrived at the magical Ponytail (upper Horsetail) Falls.

Ponytail Falls, also known as Upper Horsetail Falls

Approaching 80' tall Ponytail Falls

So I wondered, why are all those people clambering to visit Multnomah Falls, when this gem is right down the highway?

I get how big Multnomah Falls is. It’s spectacular. But seriously people, if it’s a sunny weekend and the parking lots are full, save yourself the frustration of that whole situation and go to Horsetail Falls instead. It’s an easy hike, and you get two beautiful waterfalls. The coup de grâce is walking behind Ponytail Falls. The kids were absolutely enchanted to be behind a waterfall.

Kids & I behind Ponytail "Upper Horsetail" Falls

Kids and I behind the falls

Save Multnomah Falls for when the crowds are somewhere else. The majesty of nature shouldn’t be marred by throngs of tourists wanting to take a picture  and move on. Instead, explore Horsetail Falls and become part of the scenery. It’s magical.


Trail Note: You can continue on past Ponytail Falls for another .8 miles to connect with the Oneonta Gorge trail, which loops around the dramatically steep canyon of Oneonta Gorge. Total loop around Oneonta Gorge and back to the trailhead is only 2.7 miles; perfectly doable for most amateur hikers.

Geology Note: the cave behind Ponytail Falls was formed by a pocket of soil between the layers of lava when the gorge was formed. The water has washed the soil away forming a charming cavern.

trees, trees everywhere


The view of Ponytail falls from the other side.


Giant slug looked like a poo. There was much oohing and ahhing.

My favorite: Maidenhair ferns

Seeing which plants to expect along the paths

I love to go a-wandering, Along the mountain track, And as I go, I love to sing, My knapsack on my back. Chorus: Val-deri,Val-dera, Val-deri, Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha Val-deri,Val-dera. My knapsack on my back.

"My knapsack on my back!"

Magical gaping maw.

This tree makes me feel like I'm in a human-sized Fairy Garden

Valderi, Valdera!





Filed under Family, Fitness, Nature

7 responses to “Horsetail Falls is Waiting for You

  1. miQ

    thanx for the ever-available quick reply tonight Krista!…..ive been wanting to take the kids out into the Gorge so they can start really appreciating what we have in our “backyard”…..but wanted to wait till Bela was old enough to at least “ride daddy” in the back pack, and enjoy what was around her. my go to’s for the Gorge have always been Eagle Creek, M.Falls, Rooster Rock, and a couple fringe places inbetween them all……so im vowing to get the fam out there and see whats beyond the tour buses. thank you as always for the guidance……we are lucky to have you as a neighbor and trusted council…..looking forward to next friday!

  2. You should be very conscious about family fitness with this kind of news. it’s so sad that parents have become irresponsible about their children’s health which is now resulting to a serious case of child obesity in our society. Stop them from eating to much sugary food!Parents should recognize their roles in the lives of their children to healthy living since children will not be kids forever they will be much prone to sickness such as diabetes and heart ailements and we don’t want that!

  3. Absolutely beautiful! And what great photography! 🙂

  4. Ooh, we might have to do this one when we come in October. I had been thinking Multnomah Falls – but what do I know? Obviously! 🙂

  5. What a great story about a family outing Krista!
    I loved reading it and the pictures told a story of their own. Beautiful green in the photos. Love the waterfall one but love the one with Brian walking and kids.

    • Thanks, Vivian! It was so incredibly beautiful out there, and the kids wanted to stop and take pictures of just about every wildflower. 🙂

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