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“Tips from a local for visitors to the Gorge”

Columbia River Gorge
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Columbia River Gorge Tour from Portland
Ranked #1 of 72 things to do in Hood River
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: The Columbia River Gorge, a 75-mile canyon through the Cascades, is a broad, picturesque river with water-controlling dams.
Reviewed August 23, 2012

I've been taking out-of-town guests on Gorge tours for quite a few years, and have mapped out a never-fail day trip that can be adapted to include a visit to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. Leave Portland as early as possible, take I-84 east to Troutdale and pick up the Old Columbia River Highway (Rte. 30), which rises to the top of the bluffs and takes you to Vista House, a great spot with dramatic eastern views of the first few miles of the Gorge. The volunteers at Vista House are very helpful with touring advice. Clean bathrooms (usually with fresh flowers), too. The road brings you down near river level, passing a number of marked and major waterfalls. Two falls are a gracious plenty. If parking is available at Multnomah Falls, stop there, get a latte, and enjoy the spectacular sight. Farther on, Horsetail Falls is a good bet, usually with easier parking. Back to I-84, which Rte. 30 joins. The next stop should be Bonneville Dam, more for the old and beautiful fish hatchery and sturgeon exhibit than for the dam itself, though the dam's visitor center is good. You experience a short security check (trunk open, etc.) to get to the dam's visitor center. Hood River should be your next stop, and it's a logical place for lunch unless you choose to drive from HR up to Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood (about 30-40 minutes). As you drive up toward Mt Hood, Mt Adams on the Washington side rises into view through the rear window of the car. In HR, the best river view and some very good food can be had in the restaurant of the Best Western Hood River, which is right on the Columbia just east of the bridge to Washington. The outside deck with sun shades is a great way to enjoy the scenery and folks trying to learn windsurfing. If you opt for the Timberline excursion, retrace your route back to HR and decide whether to continue east on I-84 to The Dalles. One good reason for doing so is the journey takes you to the dry side of the Cascades with marked changes in the ecosystems along the way. There is a very good Columbia River Interpretive Center just before you reach The Dalles, too. Between HR and Mosier, portions of the old highway are now pedestrian/biking routes with great views and tunnels with portals in the rock. The best place to access the route and tunnels is from Mosier. Either in HR or The Dalles, cross over to Washington on the toll bridge and take Route 14 back toward Portland. This gives you an entirely different (and most say better) view of the Gorge than the one from the interstate highway. If you are game for something special and have the time to extend the trip, continue past The Dalles and take the bridge toward Goldendale, WA. Turn west on Route 14 and visit the wonderful Maryhill Museum. It's too good and too unusual to spoil the fun by telling you what all is there. If you are traveling back in late afternoon or early evening, a great place for a meal is Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, which has good food and a commanding westward view of the Gorge. Few out-of-towners, it seems, are tuned up for hiking but the Gorge has some of the best trails in the US. Trails around the waterfalls can be very jammed, especially prior to Labor Day, but the closest good hike to Portland in the Gorge is the Cape Horn Trail, accessible from Rte 14 going east from Washougal. I recommend hiking up to Pioneer Point, a ledge with a great view or continuing another mile or two to the newly constructed overlook honoring Nancy Russell, founder of Friends of the Gorge. Return via the same route. The loop hike adds significant difficulty and time to the hike, and loop access is blocked much of summer because of nesting peregines. Altitude gain is about 800 feet to reach the overlooks.

11  Thank GeorgePortland_OR
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"vista house"
in 83 reviews
"fish hatchery"
in 22 reviews
"columbia river"
in 79 reviews
"both sides"
in 28 reviews
"crown point"
in 19 reviews
"historic route"
in 12 reviews
"cascade locks"
in 31 reviews
"beautiful drive"
in 40 reviews
"bridal veil falls"
in 11 reviews
"numerous waterfalls"
in 11 reviews
"hiking trails"
in 27 reviews
"lewis and clark"
in 10 reviews
"every turn"
in 14 reviews
"beautiful area"
in 29 reviews
"beautiful scenery"
in 31 reviews
"take your time"
in 18 reviews
"natural beauty"
in 16 reviews

833 - 837 of 959 reviews

Reviewed August 23, 2012

I had no idea how beautiful the countryside is along the Gorge. We drove the old highway and saw waterfalls, and so much more. I have been telling everyone I know to visit Oregon!

1  Thank Intheknow2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 19, 2012

We loved the breathtaking scenery and all the different towns along the way. Also, don't miss taking the old highway 30 whenever you can - it's a gorgeous drive!

1  Thank Marvox
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 16, 2012

We are fortunate to live very close to the gorge, so we always take friends from out of town along the beautiful gorge in all seasons. We always take the Old Columbia Highway to see the spectacular view from Portland Women's Forum lookout. We then go to vista house and drive by the falls to Multnomah Falls, We cross over the Bridge of the Gods and go back on the Washington side.

1  Thank MynBill
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed August 16, 2012

The whole Gorge is lovely, but especially out around Crown Point Vista and the Falls. Steep, volcanic cut cliffs accent the roiling and windy Columbia River while sunlight plays off the stories of the centuries written in colored rock layers.

1  Thank KaTe2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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