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.
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.
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 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
"My knapsack on my back!"
Magical gaping maw.
This tree makes me feel like I'm in a human-sized Fairy Garden