The Magical Reason This Western Hike Transforms Into One Of The Best In The Winter

Tamanawas Falls is a beautiful hike year-round; but during the winter months, it transforms into a spectacular winter wonderland that will have you feeling as though you've stepped into a fairytale. You can trek along the snow-covered trail through peaceful forests of evergreen trees sprinkled with soft white snow before arriving at a majestic waterfall that is 100 feet tall and 40 feet wide. In the cold weather, the water dripping from the cliffs surrounding the falls freezes into massive icicles — a photographer's dream come true.

The Tamanawas Falls are located on the eastern face of Mount Hood, about two hours outside of the bustling foodie city of Portland, Oregon. During the summer, the trail is often packed with hikers escaping from the big city to explore the pristine pools along Cold Spring Creek. In the winter, the trail is still popular but much more peaceful and uncrowded. Hikers willing to brave the cold will be rewarded with epic scenery the entire way. It's the perfect cold-weather activity for nature enthusiasts looking to experience the beautiful winter landscape of the Pacific Northwest or try out snowshoeing for the first time.

Preparing for a winter adventure

Mount Hood is the tallest Mountain in Oregon at 11,239 feet; and throughout the winter months, it is covered in thick layers of snow, making it a fun skiing destination. The hike to Tamanawas Falls has an out-and-back distance of 3.4 miles and an elevation gain of 580 feet. It takes about an hour and a half to complete in regular conditions, but expect it to take a little longer with snow on the ground. It is considered a moderately strenuous hike and can be more challenging in the winter, especially when snowfall is fresh.

Temperatures at Tamanawas Falls are pretty chilly during the winter, and lows can go below freezing, so you'll need to be well-prepared before you embark. Ensure you wear plenty of warm layers, and an outer waterproof layer is a good idea, too. You'll also want to bring a warm change of clothes for after the hike. As for footwear, many winter hikers use snowshoes or microspikes, but the snow is often packed down enough that you can get away with hiking boots, according to reviews on AllTrails.

"Amazing hike; conditions were perfect! Many people were just wearing hiking boots but we were glad to have micro spikes as there were a couple inches of snow on the trail and a few hilly sections. Not enough snow for snowshoes. Still some muddy spots," said AllTrails user Sophie Orban in a review posted on January 6, 2024.

Getting there

Before you visit, you will need to acquire a recreation pass from the United States Forest Service. An annual pass costs $30, and a day pass costs $5. You can purchase both online ahead of time and print out your pass to keep in your vehicle.

If you're traveling to Tamanawas Falls in the winter, checking road conditions is essential. If there is heavy snow, you may need chains on your tires. To reach the trailhead from Hood River, Oregon, drive 25 miles on Highway 35. After passing Sherwood Campground, you will see the trailhead for Tamanawas Fall on the side of the road. There is a parking lot, but it fills up on busy days. Amenities at the trailhead include picnic areas, garbage receptacles, and restrooms that remain open throughout the year.

You'll begin the hike at Tamanawas Falls Trailhead. Hop on the East Fork Trail from the parking lot, where you will cross over the Hood River. You'll pass through a beautiful forest full of Douglas firs. Eventually, you will cross over a wooden bridge where the Tamanawas Falls Trail begins. After hiking along the trail for a few miles, you will reach the stunning waterfalls and ice formations, where you can pause to enjoy the views before returning the way you came.