Travel Planner

Images along the Columbia River

Beautiful. Spectacular. Magical. Mesmerizing. These are just a few of the words used to describe the Columbia River Gorge, with Hood River at the center of a multitude of activities.

The enormous canyon cuts through the Cascade Mountains providing one of the most scenic and accessible destinations in the Pacific Northwest

The region, which spans the Columbia River is nestled between Mt. Adams in Washington and Oregon’s tallest peak – Mt. Hood, calls out to be explored.

Enjoy the beauty of the area by hiking along one of the many trails offering spectacular views at every turn, seek out waterfalls which plummet from steep cliffs, enjoy a day of rafting, kayaking or kiteboarding or take things a little slower and try your hand at fishing, enjoy a game of golf, tour a vineyard, visit a fine art museum or shop at unique stores in towns dotted along the Gorge.

There is never a bad time to visit the area. Mild weather throughout the year makes the Columbia River Gorge an outdoor playground for an array of activities whatever the season.

In the spring, wildflowers and flowering fruit trees dot the Gorge’s landscape while the dozens of waterfalls in the area receive a boost from melting snow.

Summer allows for full enjoyment of the hiking trails and waterways and fall brings warm colors to enhance the rich landscape.

Winter brings outdoor play from snowshoeing, downhill or cross-country skiing and snowmobiling

Getting to the Gorge

Photos along the Columbia River GorgeLess than an hour from Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington, the Columbia River Gorge is easy to access. The breathtaking views and friendly people who live in this recreational wonderland will make you question why you live somewhere else.

For a truly unique way to explore the Columbia River hop aboard a steamboat in Portland to learn about the area. Two steamwheelers, the Queen of the West and the Empress of the North, provide the elegant and modern amenities of a large cruise ship, but the ambiance and opportunity to get up-close only found on small ship cruises. A cruise on the ships takes visitors along the Lewis & Clark Route, Oregon Trail and through the Columbia River Gorge. During the cruise, see lush green forests, snowcapped volcanic peaks, granite cliffs and ancient Native American petroglyphs while learning about the rich history of the area. Opportunities to explore on shore as well as fine dining and entertainment are included with the cruise. For more information click on Majestic America Lines.

Mt Hood, the Crown Jewel of the Gorge

A 11,239 feet, Mt Hood features several ski areas and the ski season starts early. In fact, most areas open before Thanksgiving with plenty of natural snow to keep skiers, snowboarders, tubers and sled enthusiasts happy throughout the winter and beyond.

The largest ski area is Mt. Hood Meadows, which offers affordable deals throughout the winter. Copper Spur Mountain Resort, the only ski area on the mountain’s north side, features a supervised sledding hill and inner-tubing area making it the perfect destination for families.

Mt. Hood OregonThe historic Timberline Lodge, at Government Camp, rests at 6,000 feet and collects more than 400 inches of snowfall annually. Timberline operates the only year-round, lift-served ski area in North America. Mt. Hood Skibowl is the nation’s largest night skiing area.

For more information on the Mt. Hood area please visit these sites:
- Mt. Hood National Forest 1
- Mt. Hood National Forest 2
- Mt. Hood Railroad

Along the Columbia River heading to the Gorge

One of the easiest ways to enjoy the Gorge is by driving a loop from Portland to Maryhill, which will take you on both sides of the river. The loop takes about five hours to drive, but this depends on how many times you stop to enjoy the magnificent views and how many “self-guided loop tours” you create along the way.

Going west to east on the Oregon side of the river there are several areas you must stop and explore.

Getting to the Columbia River Gorge Travel along Highway 84 and watch for the well marked attractions you wish to explore.

Stop at Crown Point to understand the true beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. Vista House, called the “Jewel on the Crown,” overlooks the Gorge from the point situated 733 feet above the sea-level Columbia River.

Rooster Rock State Park features a long sand beach that offers swimming, picnicking, boat launches and plenty of opportunities to windsurf. The park is easy to reach, take Exit 25 off the freeway.

A visit to the Gorge would not be complete without a stop at Multnomah Falls, which is one of the most recognized and photographed waterfalls in the nation. At 620 feet, the waterfall is the second-highest year-round waterfall in the United States. The falls drop twice: once over a 560 feet notch in a vertical rock and again 70 feet over a basalt ledge. Various trails including one that leads to an arch bridge over the second falls allow exploration of the area. After wandering around the falls take a break at the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge. The lodge, built in 1925, features a restaurant and a gift shop. Exit 28 to the falls is well marked.

Continuing along the highway loop, look for Exit 40 to stop at Bonneville Dam which features a visitor center, educational exhibits and a fish ladder. A favorite thing to do is to watch barges and boats go through the locks. People can also learn about the importance of fish rearing in the region at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery or at the Cascade Salmon Hatchery.

Learn more at the Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce web site.

Hood River, Oregon

Images of Hood River, OregonIn Hood River, get out of the car and stretch your legs and consider taking a scenic rail tour through the Hood River Valley on the Mount Hood Railroad. Take the four-hour narrated trip from the Columbia Gorge to the foothills of Mt. Hood aboard the Excursion Train or enjoy a delicious four-course meal on the classic Dinner and Brunch Train.

If time allows, stroll around the International Museum of Carousel Art, which contains the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of antique carousel art.

Hood River is known for providing a great view of the snowcapped Mt. Hood, growing some of the best apples, pears, cherries and other fruits in the country and for being the wind surfing capital of the world.

Arrive in Hood River on a Saturday to enjoy an open air market featuring locally grown produce, music entertainment, artists and more. The Saturday Market is held between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. May 8 to Oct. 9 in downtown Hood River at the intersection of 6th and State streets.

Enjoy learning about the rich agricultural practices of the region on a tour of the Hood River Fruit Loop, a consortium of about 24 farms and orchards located within the Hood River Valley. Or stop at one of the wineries to savor a glass of locally produced wine to truly appreciate what the weather of the area can do for grapes.

Discover the best of the Gorge on a loop drive

Along the Columbia River GorgeFor a view of the Hood River Valley, Mt. Hood and the Gorge like no other, stop at Panorama Point County Park and Viewpoint. The view includes thousands of acres of sprawling orchards and vineyards illustrating the region’s agricultural economy. The park provides a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch and interpretive signs highlight the geologic history of the Hood River Valley.

At Cooper Spur, enjoy downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snoeshoeing and tubing at the Copper Spur Ski Area in the winter and mountain biking and hiking trails during the summer months.

Take Cooper Spur Road up to the closed Cloud Cap Inn for mountain and forest views as well as camping and interpretive programs. Tilly Jane Campground, about a mile below, offers historic buildings and an amphitheater and is a great place to camp or just enjoy a quick picnic.

For some of the best photo opportunities, take the Historic Columbia River Highway – a 9-mile scenic route which parallels I-84. The route climbs the Rowena Plateau to Rowena via the Rowena Crest Overlook.

Back on the loop drive, stop in Bingen at the Gorge Heritage Museum to learn about the rich and diverse history of the area. The Columbia River Gorge has provided homes for Native Americans, explorers, fur trappers, settlers, fruit farmers, miners and loggers for hundreds of years.

Recorded history in the Gorge dates back 1,100 years. Learn how devastating floods shaped the Columbia River Valley and created the Gorge, the famous Lewis and Clark expedition and more.

To enjoy some of the best windsurfing in the area or to simply watch the colorful sails move across the water stop at Swell City, a small windsurfing park located just west of Spring Creek Hatchery.

However you choose to explore the Columbia River Gorge you will enjoy your trip and likely be planning to return before too long. We hope you take home wonderful memories from your visit to one of the most beautiful places on earth – our backyard.

Best Driving Trips

The Best of the GorgeWhen driving west to east on the Washington side of the Gorge there are a few stops you must make.

You must stop at Beacon Rock – the exposed core of an ancient volcano which stands more than 800 feet above the mighty Columbia River. The rock is the largest geologic formation of its kind in the nation. From the Beacon Rock trail you can view Pierce National Wildlife Refuge. An impressive view of the region awaits at the top of the rock where you can see for hundreds of miles in all directions.

For a magical view of Mt. Adams, make a stop in Trout Lake. The city rests in the shadow of the 12,276-foot mountain and is a wonderful place to enjoy a bike ride. An array of hiking trails provide great opportunities for birding and wildlife watching.

A side trip to the ever-changing Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is also needed. The area can be accessed easily in Skamania and Clark counties, which are considered the gateways to the famous volcano which erupted May 18, 1980 and continues to be active today. Only 28 miles north of Carson, this is one sight you will not want to miss.

See how surviving plants and animals have grown out of the volcanic ash. A variety of trails and lookout areas provide great ways to view the United States most famous volcano.

Lyle is the perfect base camp for an array of recreational activities including fishing, cycling, kiteboarding, windsurfing, rafting, bird watching, kayaking and horseback riding. In the spring, the wildflowers at nearby Catherine Creek will rival any in the state.

A great place to stretch your legs is at the Chamberlain Lake Viewpoint, a rest area on Highway 14 west of Lyle. The rest stop provides an overview of the Columbia River Gorge and an ancient Native American ceremonial site and burial ground called Melamine Island.

For star gazers a stop at the Goldendale Observatory Interpretive Center near Lyle is a must. The facility caters to the general public and provides numerous telescopes, including a 24.5 inch scope, that can be used in the evening for public viewing.

In Mosier, located between Hood River and The Dalles, enjoy walking among historic buildings or take in Mosier Falls in Pocket Park, which is just a short walk from the City Center and beautiful any time of year. Or bike or walk along a 3.5-mile paved trail through the Historic Columbia River Highway Twin Tunnels for great views overlooking the river.

From Mosier head south on I-35 to Parkdale for a view of lava beds. Located about two miles southwest of Parkdale enjoy walking along interesting rock formations.

However you choose to explore the Columbia River Gorge you will enjoy your trip and likely be planning to return before too long. We hope you take home wonderful memories from your visit to one of the most beautiful places on earth – our backyard.

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