Tamanawas Falls is a beautiful waterfall that cascades into an icy amphitheater near the base of Mt. Hood. Snowshoeing up to the waterfall is a beautiful endeavor along a raging creek and through a beautiful forest. Waterfalls can seem a little more magical in the winter, and your chances of having them to yourself are greatly increased. Tamanawas Falls is no exception. Also, because of the relatively low elevation of the falls, heading up in the dead of winter when the snowpack is the deepest is recommended.
Begin your trek from the pullout at the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead along Highway 35. Depending on how recently is has snowed, you will likely find a pretty worn path marking the trail. Head out of the west end of the parking area and quickly come to a log bridge over the East Fork of the Hood River. This bridge can be a little tricky to cross, depending on how much snow there is. If you have a good 3 feet or so, the hand rails are at about ankle height and this isn’t the widest bridge in the world, so take your time. The river looks really cold to fall into and I can’t imagine swimming with snowshoes would be very fun.
The trail heads down alongside the East Fork Hood River for about half a mile as it climbs up and down a couple of small hills. At that point, you will turn sharply to your left and begin climbing up Cold Springs Creek towards Tamanawas Falls. You will soon have to cross another, smaller bridge over Cold Springs Creek. Once over, the trial splits, with the right junction heading towards the Polallie Trailhead. Head to the left towards the falls.
The trail follows the creek for the next mile has it heads up towards Tamanawas Falls. The creek boils around below you, with numerous little cascades and rapids. About 0.1 miles before reaching the falls, you will encounter a large boulder field. There will usually be a path carvered through it and this section can actually be easier to get through in the winter than the summer, with many of the smaller rocks buried in the snow.
After the boulder field, things can get a little dicey just before the falls. The slope towards the creek can get pretty steep and there isn’t a flat spot to walk on as you traverse towards the falls. There are also little groups of trees you have to get around. A slip here could send you sliding right into the creek about 50 feet below, so be careful. Once past this steep area, the side slopes mellows back out and you can march right up to the waterfall.
Tamanawas Falls drops a total of 100 feet, and can be as wide as 40, although much of that width is frozen in the winter. Icicles hang down all around the basalt cliff from which it drops. Be careful getting too close as this falls can generate a lot of spray and being that you are snowshoeing, it is probably winter and cold, and that spray will likely not feel like bath water. So find a spot to plop your butt down, take a shot of fireball, and enjoy the view.
To reach the Tamanawas Trailhead to begin your snowshoe, head north on Highway 35 from the junction with Highway 26, just south of Mt Hood. Head 16 miles on 35 and the trailhead will be on your left. If you are coming from Hood River, head north on 35 for 24 miles and watch for the parking area on you right.
Passes: An Oregon Sno-Park permit is required November 1 through April 30.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: As long as there's snow. This is a lower elevation area, so snow can be a little ify sometimes, but it is also on Mt. Hood, which makes for fairly consistent dumps. If you are looking for a snow-free description, click here for more details.
Hazards: Always be aware of avalanche potential, especially if you are messing around on some of the steep side slopes of the canyon.