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Columbia River Gorge

714 Cascade Ave., Hood River, Oregon

The Columbia River Gorge, one of the great natural treasures of the Pacific Northwest with its many dramatic waterfalls, channels the mighty Columbia River through the Cascade Range to the Pacific Ocean, marking much of the border between Oregon and Washington. The gorge figures in early United States history, as it was here that the Lewis and Clark expedition completed its final stretch in 1805. Today the area is popular with hikers, windsurfers, and wine lovers.

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is an accessible day trip from Portland. Join a hiking or biking tour and you'll be guided to the best trails, or you can opt for a winery tour or a cruise on the river. Of the many waterfalls to see, Multnomah Falls, Latourell Falls, and Wahkeena Falls top the list.

  • Wear sturdy shoes for any hiking or biking tours, as trails may be steep or slippery.

  • Bring layers, even in the summer, as it can be windy year--round, and trail temperatures are often lower than those in the city.

  • During the busy summer season, cars heading to the parking area at Multnomah Falls can back up onto the Columbia River Highway. Tour vans have reserved parking, avoiding the traffic hassle.

  • Trails are not suitable for wheelchairs or strollers, but there is some wheelchair accessibility at Multnomah Falls.

The Columbia River Gorge runs from Troutdale to Biggs on the Oregon side of the Oregon–Washington border and from Vancouver to Maryhill on the Washington side, starting about 16 miles (26 kilometers) from downtown Portland. The easiest way to visit is by car or on a tour. There are several points of interest not far from I-84, the main highway running along the Oregon side of the gorge, but the older, meandering historic Columbia River Highway offers more scenic views.

The summer months, especially July and August, offer the best visibility. The gorge can be foggy and gray in the winter, as well as during some of the fall and spring. Winery tasting rooms are open year-round, but the fall harvest season is a popular time to visit the orchards, vineyards, and wineries. With the right clothing and gear, hikers and windsurfers can get out in almost any weather.

Vista House, which overlooks the gorge at Crown Point near Portland, provides brilliant views in both directions on clear days, and the nearby Bonneville Dam showcases the power of the river, with a fish-viewing window to see spawning in autumn. On the Washington side, the Maryhill Stonehenge monument, a replica of the landmark in England, makes for an interesting stop.

You can visit the Columbia River Gorge on a tour from Portland, and both private and group tours are available. Tours include stops at scenic overlooks and waterfalls, including the famous Multnomah Falls. Some tours also include visiting nearby Mount Hood and the wine- and apple-producing town of Hood River.

Yes, the Columbia River Gorge is worth seeing. This scenic region is considered among the most beautiful spots in the Pacific Northwest, and there are lots of picture-perfect viewpoints and waterfalls, especially on the Oregon side of the river. It’s also an excellent place for hiking, with a mix of beginner-friendly and more advanced trails.

You can explore the Columbia River Gorge’s key attractions, including Multnomah Falls and the historic Vista House, in just a couple of hours, making it possible to visit the area on a half-day tour from Portland. However, you may prefer a few extra hours for a hike and a picnic.

No, you don't need a pass to go to the Columbia River Gorge; tickets are required for Multnomah Falls between Memorial Day and Labor Day Weekends. Entry permits used to be required to visit a stretch of road known as the Waterfall Corridor, but the practice was ended in 2023.

Yes, there are restrooms at the Columbia River Gorge—the Vista House was designed as a rest area. You'll find additional restrooms at Multnomah Falls and many day-use sites throughout the region, most of which have flush or vault toilets.

Spring is the best time of year to visit the gorge if you're coming to see waterfalls, as waters tend to be at their highest due to runoff from area mountains, leading to mighty flows. September is better for hiking, when there’s generally warm weather and fewer crowds than in summer.


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