Know Before You Go
COVID-19 Update: the most popular Columbia River Gorge destinations are open and welcoming visitors.
For information regarding what trails and campsites are open, please visit the U.S. Forest Service; Ready, Set, Gorge; Friends of the Gorge. For road conditions and closures, visit ODOT.
Travel 30 miles (48 km) east of Portland and you’ll discover the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, a deep canyon forged by the Columbia River that’s home to gorgeous waterfalls, epic vistas and seemingly endless options for outdoor recreation. Along the way, historic landmarks and small towns provide places to rest and relax while exploring this one-of-a-kind Oregon destination. Read on for our top picks on what to do when visiting the Columbia River Gorge.
Located just 30 miles (48 km) east of downtown Portland, Oregon’s tallest waterfall attracts visitors of all ages and abilities for stunning year-round sights of cascading water with complimentary flora and fauna.
Crown Point Vista House
Called the crown jewel of the Columbia River Gorge, the Crown Point Vista House is a century-old observatory, rest stop and museum. Enjoy a 360-degree of the gorge and a bird’s-eye view of the Columbia River.
Sweeping dry grasslands and jagged rocky outcroppings dominate a golden horizon on your way to explore the sunny and historic Columbia River Gorge town of The Dalles.
Biking in the Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is a recreational biker’s paradise, with options including car-free blacktop, smooth single-track flows and canyon trails with tricky switchbacks.
Windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge
Grab your board and head to the Columbia River Gorge, the windsurfing capital of the world, located a short drive east of Portland.
Brewing in the Gorge
Take in the outstanding beauty of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area while enjoying five outstanding brewpubs.
Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
The gorge has hiking trails for all ages and abilities. There are short treks to waterfalls hidden from the road and challenging uphill hikes to scenic vistas. Some hikers reach the Columbia River Gorge by following the Pacific Crest Trail from California.
Friends of the Columbia Gorge has a hiking trail tool that can help you narrow down your list of options. Sort by distance, elevation, and other factors.
Some of the most popular hikes have limited parking and may require a permit. Avoid disappointment by scouting out your options and planning ahead.
Know Before You Go
The gorge draws more than two million visitors a year. To get the most enjoyment out of your trip, we recommend:
– Traveling car-free
– Explore east of Hood River
– Use The Oregon Department of Transportation’s Trip Check website to look at current road conditions
The Columbia Gorge is one of the most famous kiteboarding and windsurfing locations in the U.S. World champions soar over the water, while beginners hone their skills in an enclosed lagoon known as “The Hook.” Visit one of the many outfitters in Hood River for lessons and equipment rental. Read more about windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge.
If flying above the water while clinging to a sail doesn’t sound like fun, you can rent a paddleboard or kayak instead. Gorge Paddling Center offers a popular sunset kayak tour every evening from May through mid-September.
The White Salmon River empties into the Gorge not far from Hood River, Ore. But before the little river spills into the mighty Columbia, it takes whitewater rafters on an exciting ride. Outfitters based in White Salmon, Wash., offer half-day and full-day guided rafting trips on class III rapids with an optional class V waterfall.
The stretch of Interstate 84 between Troutdale, Ore., and The Dalles, Ore. is one of the most scenic drives in the United States. You can see a lot from the freeway; but for a truly spectacular view, take the road less traveled.
Off the Historic Columbia River Highway atop a 733 foot (223 m) cliff stands Crown Point Vista House. Get a birds-eye view of the Gorge from the parking lot and snap postcard-worthy pics.
Want more? Jump back on the freeway and head east to Hood River, Ore. On a clear day, you can see Mount Hood to the south and Mount Adams to the north. Drive the Hood River County Fruit Loop and enjoy fresh produce and award-winning wine with a side of majestic mountain views. Discover more things to do in Hood River.
Stretch your legs and enjoy one last scenic view by traveling 12 minutes east of Hood River to the town of Mosier. Follow the Mosier Plateau Trail through the pioneer cemetery, past the small waterfall, and up some stairs and switchbacks to a panoramic view from the plateau. The 2.7-mile (4.3-km) round trip hike is especially beautiful when spring wildflowers are in bloom but can be prohibitively hot on summer afternoons.
Learn More About the Columbia River Gorge
Can you see Multnomah Falls without hiking?
Where does the Columbia River Gorge start and end?
What are the top things to do in the Columbia River Gorge?
There’s a lot to do for foodies too. Local breweries, wineries, and U-pick farms are a great place to connect with local makers and literally enjoy the fruits of Mother Nature.
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