Road Trip: The Columbia River Gorge

Nothing is more gorgeously majestic than the Columbia River Gorge.

Whether you’re driving west from the Oregon desert, or east from Portland, as soon as you come upon the forested cliffs of the gorge on Interstate 84, you feel very tiny indeed. In a good way, of course!

Driving straight through the Gorge takes about an hour, but to truly savor the experience, there are many stops along way: hiking, fishing, picnicking….and epic waterfalls! This makes the Columbia River Gorge the perfect day trip from Portland.


A Small Fish in a Big River

To your north is the mighty Columbia River. As you drive down the highway and survey its large expanse of shimmering water, you can imagine the thousands of salmon swimming below.  Visit Bonneville Dam and their visitor’s center to get interesting and detailed information about the history of the area, and their conservation efforts with respect to the precious salmon population.

On any given day in the summer months, you will see sailboats, speedboats, and jet skis. There is world-class fishing to be had, and it is THE place to enjoy a relaxing couple of hours on an old fashioned paddle boat, complete with brunch!

To your south is where most of the action happens. Nestled in the tree-covered cliffs are endless miles of trails, peppered with breathtaking waterfalls.

Everybody knows that the crown jewel of the Gorge is Multnomah Falls. It is by far the highest and most spectacular waterfall on this stretch of highway. As a result, it can get crowded with people.  And I highly recommend stopping by if you haven’t been. If you’re reasonably fit, climb up over the crowds (literally) and hike 1 mile up the Larch Mountain Trail to the very top of the falls.

Switchbacks, baby!


Then Look Down…whoa!

It’s so worth it! Don’t worry, you won’t fall…there are railings!

Now that you’ve done Multnomah Falls, I insist that you get off the beaten path and drive the Historic Columbia River Highway (which runs alongside the interstate. (don’t get back on I-84). If you’re coming from Portland, get on this highway by exiting I-84 at Corbett. Coming from the east, exit at Dodson. Following this route leads you to several other spectacular falls and hiking opportunities. And did I mention the killer views?

Columbia River Gorge


Horsetail Falls

Yeah, it really does look like a horse’s tail. I won’t be posting any pictures of the falls here. You will just have to seem them in all their glory up close and personal.


Oneonta Falls

This is a moderate 0.8-mile hike, mostly uphill (but that just means you can walk downhill all the way back!). The trail is pretty rocky, so watch your footing. But it’s sooooo worth it.

Columbia River Gorge


Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls


Bridal Veil State Park

This area is more like a park and less of a forested trail. You can bring your picnic lunch and stretch out on the grassy areas. The waterfall here is less of a single stream and more of a spread out spray of water. Hence the name!


Latourell Falls

Located in Guy W. Talbot State Park, this is one of the more secluded areas of the Gorge, and many people don’t know about it. Seclusion equals fewer people! Bring your picnic lunch here, as well

Vista House

A museum on a cliff. History and killer views collide as volunteers offer tours of the historic building and talk about the region’s many attractions.



Vista House

Courtesy of


Columbia River Gorge

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