The historic Columbia River Highway was the first scenic highway in the United States and is designated a National Historic Landmark. The highway is about 75 miles long between Troutdale and the Dalles in Oregon and travels through the Columbia Gorge, transitioning between temperate rainforest to dry grasslands in only 80 miles. The area is best known for its high concentration of waterfalls but is also a popular destination for hiking, mountain-biking, fishing, watersports and sight-seeing. The Columbia River Gorge is the perfect day trip from Portland on a hot summer's day or worth road tripping out to spend a week or two to fully explore the area.
Bridal Veil Falls
Lower Oneonta Falls
Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls: This is an easy and very popular hike. It is 3.8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 500 feet. This trail leads to Punchbowl Falls where you can rewards yourself a the end of the hike with a swim in the crystal clear water.
Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls: This trail continues past the Punchbowl Falls and is a little more strenuous. It is a 12 mile roundtrip hike with an elevation gain of 1640 feet. The trail leads to a tunnel built behind a waterfall (hence the name) which plummets to the creek below. It makes for an excellent climax to the hike!
Oneonta Gorge to Lower Oneonta Falls: This is an incredible hike through a slot canyon and is a little bit like Zion National Parks' The Narrows. It is an easy hike of 0.6 miles roundtrip with 400 feet elevation gain. On this hike, the creek is the trail so you need to wade in waist deep water and scramble over log jams until you reach Lower Oneonta Falls.
Hole In The Wall Falls Loop: This hike is 2.5 miles round trip loop with an elevation gain of 600 feet and leads to a man-made waterfall.
Beacon Rock: This hike is 1.8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 680 feet. There are great views from the top of the river below including Bonneville Dam. Beacon Rock is an icon of the Columbia River Gorge and should not be missed!
Angels Rest: This hike is 5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1500 feet. The trail is on the western end of the Columbia Gorge and leads to spectacular 270 degree views of the gorge including Beacon Rock.
POINTS OF INTEREST
The Bonneville Dam is the oldest dam on the Columbia River. There is a Visitors Center which is a great place to take the kids. There is an underground viewing area which allows you to get a better view of the fish passing by and a fish ladder for the salmon making their way upstream.
Bonneville Fish Hatchery
Bonneville Hatchery raises millions of Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon and Steelhead trout every year. This is a great place to visit with the kids where they can feed rainbow trout in the display ponds and view a 10 foot sturgeon named Herman.
Bridge of the Gods
Bridge of the Gods is a steel truss bridge that spans the Columbia River between Cascade Locks in Oregon and Washington State. The bridge was seen in the film "Wild' with Reese Witherspoon and is part of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Eagle Creek Campground: This campground has 17 campsites which must be booked online. The campgrounds feature flush toilets (no showers) and drinking water. Campsites are situated between large trees atop a bluff above Eagle Creek and the Columbia River. There are no RV hookups. Eagle Creek campground is situated adjacent to Interstate 84 and railroad tracks so may be too noisy for some.
Wyeth Creek Campground: This campground offers 13 sites in a beautiful setting surrounded by Douglas-fir and Big-leaf maple tree's. This is a popular campground so book early! Exit the I-84 at Wyeth road and drive 1/4 of a mile.
KOA Cascade Locks: This campground offers tent camping, RV sites and cabin accommodations. This is our favorite of the campgrounds because their amenities include a swimming pool, hot tub, games room, snack bar and laundry facilities. When we stayed, they also offered all you can eat pancakes on the weekend for $5!
BEST TIMES TO VISIT
SPRING: Best for less crowds & hiking
SUMMER: Best for swimming, watersports & berry picking
AUTUMN: Best for seeing fall colors & photography
WINTER: Best for viewing frozen waterfalls
DIRECTIONS: From Portland head east on the I-84 until you reach Troutdale where the Columbia River Highway begins
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Two Aussies road-tripping across the USA. Our goal is to discover America's wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment. Read more