Things to Do in Oregon

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
A 1243 mile long river with 80 miles of canyons. Located between the states of Oregon and Washington.
Duration: More than 3 hours
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4,637 reviews
Very good

Oliver T
Blaine, MN177 contributions
Oct 2021 • Family
Love seeing all the beautiful waterfalls! I suggest driving all the way up to horse tail and then making your way back, don’t stop at Bridalveil, keep going to Vista house, view is amazing. There can be some long waits for the parking lots, just wait it out, it really doesn’t take that long. Used on X off-road trail map for the hiking of the trails.Only bathrooms available are at Multnomah Falls and Bridalveil Falls
Written October 16, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Ann W
Bethlehem, PA476 contributions
Jun 2018 • Family
We traveled Route 84 East from Portland. We exited the highway at Exit 22 and moved to the Historic Columbia River Highway. Soon after getting on the Historic Highway there is an overlook. From this point you have a nice view of the Columbia River Gorge and Vista House.

We wanted to take Larch Mountain Road. I read that from the end of this 14 mile road you can see Mt Hood, Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier,.... Unfortunately this road is inaccessible right now due to the 2017 fire. That was a little disappointing. So we moved onto Vista House. Be sure to stop and go inside. There is an information desk where you can get information about the road closures. The architecture of the building is beautiful. There is a gift shop and little coffee shop in the basement.

You can continue on the Historic Highway to Latourell Falls. There is a nice view of the falls from the highway. There is also a loop hike you can take that is about 1.5 miles. It starts to the left of the falls and goes back to an upper falls that is very pretty. You then cross the creek and come back on the other side. I would consider this hike to be moderately strenuous.

You can then proceed to the Bridal Veil Falls. There is a short walk down to these falls very pretty. There is a teeny tiny post office in Bridal Veil Falls that future brides sometimes use to mail their wedding invitations.

Just past Bridal Veil Falls the Historic Highway is closed due to the fire. So you have to get on Route 84 West and go back to Exit 25. Get off and get back onto 84 East and proceed to Exit 31. Exit 31 exits to a parking lot that allows you to walk under the Interstate and view Multnomah Falls. This is just beautiful. You have access to the gift shop, the snack bar and the Falls. You are not allowed to do any of the hikes or go onto the bridge because of the fire damage.

From Multnomah Falls you can get back on Route 84 East and get off at Exit 35 to rejoin the Historic Highway.

We choice to stay on Route 84 and got off at Exit 40 to see the Bonneville Dam. This was a very interesting side trip and there is no charge. I would highly recommend it.

We then got onto Route 84 east again and got off at Exit 69. We traveled the Historic Highway from there to the Dalles. The was very scenic. There are some overlooks with beautiful views and there many cherry orchards along the road.

I loved the Columbia River Gorge. I hope this overview will help you to navigate it successfully.
Written July 10, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Portland, Oregon57 contributions
Dec 2012
A day trip up the Columbia River Gorge is one of the best you can take from Portland. The Gorge starts just 20 minutes from downtown and offers a wide variety of sights and activities for just about any age.

I recommend getting a relatively early start from Portland, with a brief side trip to the McMenamins Edgefield Manor at the beginning of the trip. You can check out this fantastic historic estate that is now a part of the McMenamin brothers' craft brewing, restaurant and inn "empire". Grab a snack at one of the restaurants, sample their craft beer, wine or spirits and stroll the gardens and vineyanrd for a few minutes.

Whether or not you stop at Edgefield, be sure to take the exit for the Columbia River Scenic Highway, which winds it's way through the most beautiful sections of the Gorge above Interstate 84 (you can certainly take the Interstate if you have less time). The Scenic Highway offers gorgeous views, including stops at the amazing Vista House perched on a pinnacle of rock with the best views in the region.

Both I-84 and the Scenic route take you directly to Multnomah Falls, the second highest cataract in North America. You can stop for a few minutes to hike up to the base of the falls and take in their majesty, or take a hour to hike the mile up to the top to be utterly amazed. By the way, you are now just 30 minutes out of downtown Portland!

Another 20 minutes up the road are the Bonneville Dam - also worth a stop to see one of the great wonders of human engineering. The on-site fishery and Salmon ladder viewing are also fun.

A few minutes further is the town of Cascade Locks, with the soaring Bridge of the Gods - a really cool high altitude bridge soaring above the mighty Columbia River. Drive across and back just for kicks - or to be totally amazed or terrified!

Another 20 minutes further down I-84, and you'll be in the Town of Hood River, a wonderfully picturesque river town with excellent dining, shopping, attractions and views. It's also the home of Full Sail Brewing, with a good tour and tasting room. Hood river is a great stop for lunch after your tour up the Gorge, or a great place for dinner if you have taken your time getting there. It's a short hour drive back to Portland.

If you do reach Hood river by lunch or mid-afternoon and you want to make a larger tour of it, you can either A) continue up the Gorge further, or B) take Highway 35 just outside of Hood River to continue on the scenic loop around the majestic Mount Hood. Hwy 35 will take you though some amazing mountain scenery for about 30 minutes before connecting with Highway 26 on the south side of the mountain. Heading back west on 26 toward Portland, be sure to visit Timberline Lodge, one of the finest mountain lodge hotels in North America (made famous in the movie "The Shining"). It is absolutely well worth the six mile diversion up the mountain from Hwy 26 to see this incredible craftsman-build masterpiece and explore its history. We usually stop for a cocktail or dinner in the lodge before heading back to Portland.

Written January 3, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Debbie T
Louisville, KY249 contributions
Mar 2014 • Couples
This is brand new river cruise that last 7 days and takes you through several towns and through the gorge. The scenery is beyond words. The river boat has great rooms,food, and staff.
Written April 2, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Will D
Portland,Oregon,USA15 contributions
Gorge-us! Head east on I-84 and take exit 22 to the original road east through the Columbia Gorge---Hwy 30. Start at the Vista House at Crown Point for an incredible view up the river. Continue on to experience multiple waterfalls, from 249 ft Latourell and 620 ft Multnomah Falls , 27 in all. Hiking trails abound. Continue on to the town of Cascade Locks where you can enjoy lunch on a Sternwheeler cruise, or purchase a nice salmon to BBQ from one of the Native American fisherman. Head east & visit Mt Hood, then back to PDX.
Written December 8, 2009
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

SIERRA MADRE96 contributions
Jul 2013 • Solo
I spent two days in the Gorge while on a solo vacation over the July 4, 2013 week. I wish I had double the amount of time. I did the speediest yet thorough version, starting from McMenamin's Edgefield hotel and driving the southern road out to Hood River. I stayed in a B&B overnight, and came back on the northern road the next day. So much to see and do!

I strongly recommend an early start to beat the crowds, traffic and tour buses. I wanted to eat breakfast at the 1925 Multnomah Falls Lodge and I wanted a view with my meal, so I went directly there via I-84, exit 31, and arrived before they opened at 8 am. I got the best table in the house, the only one with a good view of the falls (they have outdoor seating but it was damp and a bit cold) through the glass ceiling of the dining room. The food was great (I suggest the Hazelnut Crusted french toast). I hiked around the falls with a camera for a while, then backtracked to the first overlook at Women's Forum, then the iconic Crown Point Vista (any later than mid-morning summer days and you'll circle several times for parking. Still, be prepared to walk!).

After Crown Point vista, museum and gift shop, I retraced my steps back up the historic highway 30, stopping at each waterfall for a short hike and photographs: Latourell Falls, Shepherd's Dell (wonderful little walk around the basin to the top of the falls on moss-covered stone...take the stairs off the east end of the bridge), Bridal Veil Falls (another gorgeous hike to the bottom for a spectacular view--it's short but steep), Wahkeena Falls and back past Multnomah, which by then was packed with people.

I did not take the time to drive up to Larch Mtn. Unfortunately, I also had no time or change of shoes to be able to do Oneonta Gorge and see the 3 falls there, which does require wading and getting fairly wet. You'll need non-slip shoes, change of pants and a towel, much like the Narrows of Zion. Still, you can go down the old stone steps to the river bank and troop around a little. There's a trail that goes under that greaty bridge, and the restored 1914 tunnel shouldn't be missed either. Then a stop at Horsetail Falls, right after which the old historic highway and I-84 merge for a while (take the last right before the on-ramp to continue on what is now called Frontage Road).

I warn you to drive slow on the old 2-lane winding historic "highway." The stops and small parking areas come up fast and without warning; drive anything bigger than my rental Mini Cooper and you won't be able to easily turn around until you're a few miles up the road. You'll end up doing a lot of backtracking if you let stress-drivers pressure you to move faster than the speed limit. Stay on your toes but enjoy the scenery. There's a LOT of "sheeple" in the road at all times, especially at the popular spots, bad drivers, elderly, kids, dogs...slow down and take it easy.

Elowah and Upper McCord Creek Falls Trail was one of my favorite short hikes. It's only 3 miles and fairly easy (less than 700' climb). There are some rocky parts, so you can't run the entire thing, but it's fine to take the kids. Elowah's a stroll of less than a mile through the forest; beware the area around the splash pool of the 220' falls is wet, slippery and muddy. If you backtrack a little to the trail spur to Upper McCord Creek you get even more: a virtual rainforesty fern-filled canyon to the shorter twin falls, features like a cliff-edged catwalk at the top with vaulted views of the gorge, history (the trail and the hand-chiseled ledge were built in 1890 to hold a large iron water pipe--remains of which you must step over sometimes--to power a pulp mill at the bottom), scenery, and best of all--empty. The parking area is easy to miss and therefore not subject to the usual crowds. I highly suggest saving an hour for this hike.

I took in a fascinating tour of the Bonneville Lock and Dam, especially the fish locks, where the sight of a hundred lampreys suctioned to the glass will haunt my nightmares for years. Then with the afternoon waning I boogied on to Hood River to shop, eat, and visit winery tasting rooms. I highly recommend Naked Winery tasting room: best selection, merchandise, pourers and tasting menu on the planet. The glass is free but if you're traveling by air ask for a stemless to avoid breakage. Another beautiful spot for a view is the 1904 Columbia River Gorge Hotel on the cliff on the edge of town. They have gorgeous grounds and sassy geese and a rocky viewing platform out back where you can spend some time watching the famous kite boarders on the river. Great spot for dinner or a glass of wine.

I also recommend doing at least part of the "Fruit Loop" if you are spending a day here and you like fresh fruit, farm produce, jams, baked goods, lavender, etc. Pick up a map in Hood River that leads you south out of town. I was able to squeeze in my top half-dozen farms close by in a couple hours.

Coming back to Portland on the north side of the gorge allows you to get great views of the waterfalls from afar, several at once. Without a doubt, stop at Beacon Rock and climb one the largest monoliths in the U.S. (single piece of rock) at 848 feet. The trail is only 3/4 mile and was built in 1915, a series of interlocking ramps, stairs and 51 switchbacks hanging onto the rock face. The views are 360 degrees at the top, although it was a very cramped and wooded peak. Don't neglect to buy a parking pass at the stand in the lot; this is a state park and they need the revenue, and you could get a ticket if you don't.

A late lunch at the Skamania Lodge with a table by the window for the last of the endless views of the gorge, and I followed the highway out past Camas and back to Portland. Awesome.
Written June 25, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Bellevue, WA206 contributions
Apr 2018 • Friends
I took friends to the Gorge a couple of weeks ago and was surprised by the limitations on travel and trails, due to the Eagle Creek Fire last fall. If you visit from afar, please check on what is open and also know that if you are traveling during tourist season, it may be crowded, including problems with parking. Silver Falls State Park, east of Salem, is a bit further but is full of impressive waterfalls and hikes. Even has a lake you can swim in. This is an alternative you may want to consider.

We went first to Vista House and got a map of the closures - very useful. We went during the week, in April, so there was no problem with crowds and we had a great day. We hiked at Latourell Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. The hike to Latourell Falls is about 2 miles and the falls are stunning. Bridal Veil Falls is a shorter hike. After Bridal Veil Falls, the scenic highway is closed due to fire damage. When you leave Bridal Veil Falls, you can head east a little to the closure of the Scenic Hwy, and head north to I-84. When you get to I-84, you have to go west. At the first exit you get to, you can loop around and head back east to continue on to Multnomah Falls on I-84. The parking on I-84 is open, but not on the Scenic Hwy. The restaurant and gift shop are open. The restaurant is a nice stop. Food is okay. Building is historic and great! You can see the falls from the bottom and they are beautiful, of course. The trail to the first bridge is closed at the bottom, so you can't go up at all. The rest of the scenic highway is closed to the east, so you can't access other falls and trails.

After a brief view at Multnomah Falls and lunch, we continued east to the Bonneville Dam. Tours are at set times and we missed the last one, but there was lots to do without the tour. We saw the movie on the Columbia River, wandered around looking at the fish ladders and watched sea lions go after salmon in the white water from the spillways (surprised they came so far up river!). We also went to the Bonneville dam's fish hatchery and enjoyed seeing the baby salmon swimming around and the big pond with Herman the giant Sturgeon.

That took a full day and it was a fine day. But, like I said, summer will be crowded so expect that if you want to go....Or try Silver Falls State Park, the Oregon Coast, Mt Hood loop.... Lots to do. Don't be sad.
Written May 2, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Portland, OR6,303 contributions
Jul 2017 • Solo
The Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area is the first and only Scenic Area in the United States.

It is Oregon’s beautiful gem that attracts people from all around the world to marvel at its beauty. the major sites and waterfalls are densely packed together between Troutdale and Ainsworth State Park. It’s awesome, beautiful, and has truly marvellous, breathtaking views up and down the Columbia River Gorge. That you can see from at least two view points on the Scenic Highway. The first one as you travel east is at The Portland Women’s Forum Scenic Viewpoint located at Chanticleer Point. From here where you can see The Vista House off in the distance standing on top of Crown Point. The other view point ids at The Vista House itself. It stands on a bluff that is about 730-feet above the Columbia River. Both view points provide awesome views up and down the Columbia River Gorge. But Crown Point is the best by far.

The Vista House is open during the summer as a rest-stop, refreshment shop, gift shop, and view point for travellers. It is open on weekends during the winter, weather permitting. It was built as a memorial to the Oregon Trail pioneers with a 360 degree view of the Columbia River.

You can enjoy many of the waterfalls and sites from your car. Or you can be more adventurous and hike the many trails that take you further than just the parking lot. Where you can see the hidden beauty hidden from the road. Some of the many waterfalls you can see are: Latourell Falls, Shepperd’s Dell, Bridal Veil Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Multnomah Falls and the lodge Gift Shop and Restaurant where you can dine with a view of the waterfall, Oneonta Gorge ( which is like a visit to an enchanting botanical garden out of a magical fairy tale), and Horsetail Falls where you can take the trail and actually hike to a recess in the rock wall behind the waterfall for a unique view. Or hike much further on the trail to the hidden waterfall– Triple Falls.

For the more adventurous there are some nice hikes you might like to do. You could hike up to Angels rest. A 5 mile round trip hike with a 1,500 elevation gain. Another nice hike is the Multnomah Falls- Wahkeena Falls loop that takes you up to the top of Multnomah Falls and to various other waterfalls higher up and on your way to the Wahkeena Falls parking lot There are a total of eight named waterfalls along this trail so it is well worth the effort of taking this hike. From the Wahkeena Falls parking lot you take a short trail back to the Multnomah Falls parking lot. This trail is parallel to the Scenic Highway and is here to keep you safe from road traffic.

I drove into the Columbia River Gorge via Troutdale. I crossed a narrow bridge over the Sandy River just east of Troutdale. This is one of the Eastern entrances to the Scenic Area. The other entrance is via the Stark Street Bridge from Gresham, Oregon.

I ended up driving onto I-84 West and parked in the Multnomah Falls parking area in the lot located in the middle of I-84 East and West bound lanes. It’s just like a rest stop on any other Freeway. From here you walk to a tunnel under the East bound lanes that takes you right to Multnomah Falls Lodge. Handy if you only want to see that only. Otherwise you need to drive the Scenic Highway in order to take in all the sites along the “waterfall corridor.”

A very good tip if you want to visit this National Scenic Area is to start out early in the day. Especially if it is a weekend or a holiday during the summer months this is when there is the largest crowds and the heaviest traffic. It can be literally Bumper-to-Bumper.

You can avoid the huge crowds of tourists if you start off early in the AM. And if you pick weekdays and non-summer seasons for your visit in the waterfall corridor of this scenic area.
Written January 16, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Bella Vista, AR24 contributions
Sep 2014 • Couples
My wife and I boarded the S.S. Legacy which is one of the Un-Cruise company's ships and cruised the Columbia and Snake Rivers. We boarded in Portland, Oregon and cruised to Clarkston where we took a speed boat ride into Hell's Canyon. We then cruised all the way back to Astoria. We stopped at several ports both coming and going one being the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It was a very interesting and educational trip that traced the travels of Lewis and Clark.
Written November 11, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Cerritos, CA172 contributions
May 2018 • Couples
My husband and I had some concerns whether we would be able to enjoy some of the waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge given that we have tricky backs and cannot do a lot of walking, let alone hiking. But we thoroughly enjoyed the day we spent in this area. We made it a point to get to Multnomah Falls early (8:00) since it was a Saturday--no crowds! It was very easy to park and then take the tunnel and walk up fairly close to the falls. We might have been willing to try the path to the bridge, but it was closed due to a fire the previous fall (good idea to check that in advance).
It was a short drive to La Tourell; it was almost deserted! The path down to the bottom of the falls was not too steep and I'm so glad we managed it--the splashing water and spray were very impressive.
We almost missed Shepherd's Dell. We parked in a cut-out and walked across the road onto the bridge where we could look down and see the water bounce off a rock ledge and then form a small stream. Very pretty!
From here we went to Crown Point for breathtaking views of the Columbia River. It was a bit overcast, but the clouds creeping across the tops of the mountains was very cool. There is a nice gift shop downstairs and a place to get cappucinos.
Even with the few stops we made, we were able to appreciate the beauty of this area. Don't think it's out of reach just because you're not a hiker!
Written May 16, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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