Know Before You Go
Head east from Portland and you’ll see the landscape shifts dramatically. Sweeping dry grasslands and jagged rocky outcroppings dominate a golden horizon. Driving on I-84, you’ll reach Rowena Crest Viewpoint, part of Mayer State Park, where you can hike amid colorful wildflowers to lofty 1,700-foot McCall Point for panoramic views of Mount Hood and the Columbia River. Continue to the town of The Dalles, 84 miles (135 km) east of Portland, and you’ll learn:
The Dalles only gets 15 inches of rain per year. It is the closest point to Portland with this kind of arid climate, meaning sunny days and rolling hills for cyclists and explorers.
As one of the oldest settlements on the West Coast, The Dalles is steeped in history, and the residents are proud to preserve it. A visit to the Wasco County Historical Museum and the Fort Dalles Museum reveal collections of well-preserved buildings, wagons and artifacts that give insight into the cultural history of the Gorge and the settlement of the American West.
The picturesquely situated Columbia Gorge Discovery Center sheds light on how this beautiful gorge came to look the way it does today, from the turbulent volcanic eruptions and Ice Age “mega-mammals” of the prehistoric era to the explorations of Lewis and Clark and the hearty pioneers who followed throughout the 19th century. Additionally, their Raptor Program brings rescued birds of prey (who cannot survive in the wild) up close for visitors to see.
There are plenty of opportunities for sipping and snacking inside the handsomely restored Sunshine Mill, a century-old, 125-foot-tall former wheat mill that now houses two wineries: premium Quenett — the barbera and zinfandel are highly acclaimed — and more affordable Copa Di Vino, which produces everyday wines in single-serve bottles. You can sample wines, order appetizers in the Boiler House Bar and admire artifacts and photos documenting the building’s history.
The Celilo Inn, a renovated motel, sits high on a hill with sweeping views of the gorge, an outdoor pool and hip decor. In the summertime, they offer free shuttle service to guests who have tickets to summer concerts at Maryhill Winery. Near the winery, visitors can also check out the Stonehenge Memorial, a World War I memorial and an astronomically aligned replica of England’s famous standing stones.
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.
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.
Some of the most picturesque waterfalls line the Columbia River Gorge, just a short drive from Portland. But these cascading natural wonders are even closer to Portland from the Willamette River to the Cascade Mountain Range.
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