Waterfalls, volcanoes, ravines, and mountains. These are just a few of the reasons you should add the Columbia River Gorge to your “Must-See” list of travel destinations.
The Columbia River Gorge is a little gem in the upper-left corner of the United States. Dividing Oregon and Washington state, the Columbia River Gorge is the result of millions of years of volcanic activity, lava eruptions, mudflows, floods, and rising mountains.
Prior to obtaining a job in this part of the country, I had not known much of its existence. This special place is where Clay and I had the opportunity to spend two whitewater seasons (April – October) exploring all of its offerings. From countless hikes to endless whitewater runs, this is the outdoor adventurer’s haven. Urbanites will not be disappointed as Portland is a funky-fresh town, and beer connoisseurs will revel as Oregon ranks #2 in number of craft breweries per capita by state. Friends, the Columbia River Gorge has it all.
Here are the top 10 Must-Do’s when making your trip to the Columbia River Gorge! (In no particular order, because who can pick favorites in a place like this.)
1. Lower Lewis Falls
Lower Lewis River Falls is located in Skamania county – the county claiming the most Sasquatch sightings in the U.S. This place undoubtedly feels exotic. Park at the top of the falls and take a short, steep trail down to the base of the falls. Bring a picnic lunch and a bathing suit. Prepare to be chilled!
2. Wahclella Falls
Enjoy this short, simple hike to a magnificent waterfall. Lush, vibrant PNW foliage awaits you.
3. Steamboat Mountain
This steep, but short, hike offers astounding views. On a clear day, you can see not only the peak of Mt. Adams, but the peaks of Mt. Hood and occasionally Mt. St. Helens as well. The peak of this mountain makes a great camping spot with nice, flat land. And a stunning sunrise over Mt. Adams awaits you.
4. Mt. Hood
Exploring Mt. Hood is an absolute must while visiting the Columbia River Gorge. Time willing, my all-time favorite experience in the CRG was my two day, 40 mile trek circumnavigating this impressive volcano. The Timberline Trail takes you around the base of Mt. Hood (sounds flat, right?)- but don’t be fooled – we gained more elevation in circumnavigating this bad boy than we would have by summiting. Hands down my favorite, multi-day hike. For adventurers looking for something a bit more tame and less time consuming, check out hikes to Ramona Falls on Mt. Hood and Tamanawas Falls.
5. White Salmon River
Raft the White Salmon River with Wet Planet, of course! And while you do, say hello to all of my friends and former coworkers, please! This class III-IV river is a splashy blast. If you go when water levels are low enough, brace yourself to raft off of the tallest waterfall in the continental U.S.
6. Oneonta Gorge
Are you in New Zealand?! Nope – just the upper left portion of the United States! This gorge will make you feel like you are in an exotic, far-away place. Bring your hiking shoes and plan to get wet on this short, scrambly hike! Enjoy it – because you will never want to leave.
7. Spirit Falls
Hike to this magnificent waterfall just off of Cook-Underwood Road, just off of Highway 14. This magnificent waterfall is off the beaten path. Prepare for a short, yet steep hike down to the river bed. Bring your camera and a sweatshirt and enjoy the views. Keep your eyes open for kayakers flying off the lip of Spirit Falls!
8. Dog Mountain
Brace yourself for some awe-inspiring views and a quad-busting hike! This steep, six mile round trip hike is undoubtedly worth the work. Enjoy the feel of being completely engulfed by quintessential PNW flora, and enjoy the well-earned views gazing West down the Columbia River Gorge. If you complete this hike in May or June, chances are you’ll be greeted by fields and fields of wildflowers at the top.
9. Beacon Rock
Beacon Rock is a well known, well photographed state park. Climb switchbacks along the side of this famous rock mountain until you reach the top. Bring your camera and enjoy the views! Embrace the burn.
10. Deschutes River
Raft the Deschutes River and experience the dry, arid side of the Columbia River Gorge. Embark on a day trip – or even better – an overnight raft trip. Enjoy class II and III whitewater fun. And don’t forget your river pup!
So, what are you waiting for?! Enjoy the adventures, the food, the beer, and the people. The Columbia River Gorge will always have a special place in my heart.