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.
Carved by the great Missoula Floods, the Columbia River Gorge is a stunning landscape full of breathtaking vistas and abundant waterfalls. With its charming orchards and vineyards and Hood River’s laid-back, surf-town vibe, the area seems like another world, though it’s only an hour from Portland’s downtown. Begin your explorations with this two-day gorge itinerary.
Day 1: Views, Falls & Hood River
Strike out in the morning driving east from Portland on Interstate 84, then onto the Historic Columbia River Highway and The Vista House at Crown Point, a scenic viewpoint opened in 1918 that provides panoramic views of the gorge. With a museum, gift store and espresso stand, it may be the most awe-inspiring rest stop you’ll ever visit.
As you continue eastward on the highway, waterfalls and trailheads will beckon you to pull over. Be sure to answer the call of Multnomah Falls, the 620-foot-tall beauty that’s both accessible and immense. Whether you wander the trails here or just stay at the bottom, don’t feel you have to stretch your legs — it’s only another 40 minutes’ drive to Hood River, where you’ll spend the rest of the day.
Know Before You Go
Starting July 20, 2021, advance tickets are required in order to visit Multnomah Falls through September (tickets won’t be required if you shuttle or take a guided tour instead). Here is everything you need to know about how to book your tickets to Multnomah Falls.
Upon arrival in Hood River, you’ve got decisions to make: If it’s breezy, and you want to try kiteboarding at the sport’s most windswept location, take a lesson from one of the many board shops. If the air is still, ask about a stand-up paddleboard rental, a popular way to enjoy the water and work those abs.
If you’re done for the day, head to Full Sail Brewing located right on the river. Sipping Session Lager in the sunshine is a great way to finish out an afternoon.
If you’re ready for more, grab a healthy bite at Basik Açai Café or a globally-inspired taco from The Downwinder . Then bask in the spray of Tamanawas Falls or enjoy the panoramic view from Mosier Plateau.
When the day is done, enjoy a sunset meal at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel before turning in for the night.
Day 2: Fruit, Wine & Dinner
Start off the day exploring the hotel grounds, which feature gorgeous gardens full of native Oregon plants and the spectacular Wah Gwin Gwin Falls tumbling into the river below.
There’s also plenty to see in downtown Hood River, so grab breakfast and coffee downtown at Ground and explore. Hood River’s streets were made for strolling, and there are plenty of shops and galleries worth your time.
If you’re the type of traveler who likes to get off the beaten path, head to The Heights. Along 12th street, you’ll find Pine Street Bakery and other spots mostly frequented by locals. Schedule a hair sparkling appointment at Lucky Locks Sparkle Bar for a magical souvenir that will keep you smiling even after your vacation has ended.
When you’re ready, hop in the car and head to the Hood River County Fruit Loop, a 35-mile scenic drive full of farm stands, vineyards and fields, all in view of majestic Mount Hood. Eat your way along the loop by sampling seasonal fresh fruit or purchasing fresh-made jams and pastries. If lavender is in season, don’t miss breathing in the sweet air at Hood River Lavender Farms. It’s a sensory experience that will stay with you forever.
Before returning to town, pick up a bottle or two of wine to bring home with you. The gorge’s oldest winery, Hood River Vineyards and Winery, has been producing delicious reds and ports for more than 30 years. Cathedral Ridge Winery has an award-winning Pinot Noir and its numerous other varietals have received high marks from Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator.
As the trail brings you back to downtown Hood River, prepare your palate for the fresh flavors of the Pacific Northwest at Celilo or enjoy dinner and drinks with a side of live music at The Ruins. Settle in for another night at the hotel, or follow the sunset back to Portland.
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.
Explore the sunny and historic Columbia River Gorge town of The Dalles.
Explore the waterfalls of the national scenic area just east of Portland with a guide and driver.
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