Explore The Columbia River Gorge In Oregon

Explore The Columbia River Gorge In Oregon.jpg

We Headed For The Columbia River Gorge In Oregon

It was fun to explore the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. We did not plan enough time when we visited Oregon. But we were glad we got a taste of the beauty along this waterway.

Great Water Views In Oregon

We travelled along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) for road trips in California several times. The views were stunning. And this drive was high on many travel wish lists.

But the Oregon coast had similar stunning views. The Oregon Coastal Highway follows the coast. At times we were high over the water with views down over rocks and trees. We saw a large resort perched on the hill. And imagined how awesome it would be to stay there.

Oregon Coastal Highway - Explore The Columbia River Gorge In Oregon.jpg

Oregon Coastal Highway - Explore The Columbia River Gorge In Oregon.jpg

Coastal Highway.jpg

When the highway came down to water level, we got views of crashing waves. And quiet inlets with sand.

Coastal Highway.jpg

Coastal Highway.jpg

The coastal drive in Oregon was certainly one of the reasons to visit.

Head Inland Along The Columbia River Gorge

We chose to get explore the Columbia River Gorge by car from the Oregon side. Although we heard there were some great options to travel at the water level.

State Route 14 followed the Columbia River on the Washington side and Interstate 84 (I84) was on the Oregon side. There were four bridges that crossed from one side of the river to the other. The bridges are located at Cascade Locks, Hood River, The Dalles and Biggs in Oregon and Stevenson, Bingen, Dallesport, and Maryhill in Washington.

From Portland, we headed to I84. Across the river was Vancouver, Washington. We always found it strange to find Vancouver in Washington. Since we spent so much time in Vancouver, British Columbia!

There were many exits along I84 to see different sights along the Columbia River. We left I84 at exit 22 to travel along the Historic Columbia River Highway (HCRH). This Oregon Scenic Byway is 74 miles long. Although we only travelled part of this on our first visit.

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We were on our way to explore the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

Viewpoints Along The Columbia River Gorge

The highway climbed up and away from the river. There were several places to stop for panoramic views over the river gorge – the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint and Vista House At Crown Point.

When we stopped we had a great view of the entire Columbia River basin. We started our drive early in the day. So the view was still a bit hazy in the distance.  But by 10am the haze was all burned off.

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Our first view certainly excited us to explore more.

Hiking To See The Waterfalls

Bridal Veil Falls State Park was located near milepost 28. We parked the car and headed for a short hike along the path.

The short trail started out paved but changed to gravel. We crossed the Bridal Veil Creek on a wooden bridge. We saw the water as it ran across the rocks and then heard the water cascading down the falls. A small set of steps took us to a viewpoint opposite the falls.

Bridal Falls.jpg

Bridal Falls - Explore the Columbia River Gorge.jpg

We stopped several other times at points along the Oregon Scenic Byway. There were a number of trails to explore rated from easy to difficult.

Spend Some Time At Multnomah Falls

On this visit, we really wanted to see Multnomah Falls. This waterfall cascaded down 620 feet from Larch Mountain. We read that it was the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States.

The water levels varied during the year. So we were happy to find the flow high as it fell down the rock face and under the iconic Benson Bridge. This was the picture that everyone wanted!

Multnomah Falls Sign.jpg

Multnomah Falls - Explore The Columbia River Gorge In Oregon.jpg

Multnomah Falls - Explore The Columbia River Gorge In Oregon.jpg

We got our views of the waterfall from the bottom. There were walking paths that took us to both overlook points and to the falls directly.

But from the information centre a 2.4 mile round trip trail climbed to the top of Multnomah Falls. This trails provided great views of the falls and the Columbia River Gorge. It was then possible to hike for another six miles to the top of Larch Mountain or take the six mile Wahkeena Loop trail.

We spent some time as we explored this beautiful waterfall. Multnomah Falls was definitely one of the reasons to explore the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

Turned Around At The Bonneville Dam

We only had a short day to enjoy the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. So we decided to turn around at the Bonneville Dam.

The Bonneville was the first dam on the Columbia River and a national historic landmark. Built in 1937, it allowed ocean-going vessels to navigate upriver past the treacherous Cascade rapids. The main visitor centre was located on Bradford Island off of I84. There was also another visitor centre on the Washington side off Washington Highway 14. Both visitor centres had different displays.

We stopped at the Bonneville Dam to marvel at the engineering. And we saw an underwater view of the fish ladder.

Bradford Island Bonneville Dam Sign.jpg

Bonneville Dam.jpg

Bonneville Dam - Explore The Columbia River Gorge In Oregon.jpg

We took the fast route back along I84. It was a short but interesting day trip.

Explore The Columbia River Gorge In Oregon

We were glad we took the opportunity to explore the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. But when we went out for the day, we did not understand there were so many stops along the route. And so much to see and do.

There were also ways to explore the Columbia River Gorge by boat. And companies like UnCruise Adventures offered 7 night cruises that other travel bloggers raved about.

There were 26 waterfalls and 3 different dams. Over 40 different hiking trails offered something for everyone with all levels of difficulty and length. There was definitely so much more to see than what we got on a one day trip.

Have you taken the opportunity to explore the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon? Did you drive or explore on the water?

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About TravelAtWill 557 Articles
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31 Comments

  1. I love hiking in the PNW, especially if I can find waterfalls 🙂 Multnomah Falls is just stunning, and you got some great shots! Exploring the Columbia River Gorge would be a blast – I forgot that UnCruise did an itinerary there, as you mentioned. I did one of their Alaska routes last year and it was just amazing.

  2. I love Portland and the Columbia River Gorge. It’s great to see the area has recovered from the fire. I have been wanting to plan a trip with my mom to the wineries in the area.

    • Sherianne, We certainly did not realize how much there was to do around the Columbia River Gorge. A quick trip on a travel day was definitely not enough time. But just means we need to go back. And winery visits will be a must! Linda

  3. Did an Oregon coast road trip a few years ago and loved it! Made it inland to Portland and McMinnville, but did not have enough time to visit the Columbia River Gorge unfortunately. Would love to go back one day 🙂

  4. Enjoyed reading through your drive to Columbia falls! It brought back nostalgia of our drive through the historic route five years ago. The pictures of the falls are stunning! I would love to do this drive once again! 🙂

  5. The Columbia River Gorge looks awesome. What spectacular views. I could almost feel the spray from the waterfalls. The picture of the Benson Bridge with the waterfall in the background is lovely. What a great and unforgettable experience it must have been exploring this paradise.

  6. Have travelled extensively through the States, but not yet made it to Oregon and I only hear good things about the place. The River Gorge looks amazing and just my cup of tea. When the world returns to some sort of normality, I will plan a trip out that way!

  7. I’ve been to many states but I have never explored Oregon. The Pacific Northwest is gorgeous and the photos of the coastline are stunning. The waterfalls and hiking looks like an amazing experience as well. I definitely need to make a trip to the region.

  8. This looks like an awesome drive. All the photos I see of the Pacific Coast are gorgeous and these are no exception! Multnomah Falls is beautiful, I love hiking and waterfalls so this would be perfect for me. I have been planning a West coast road trip, I will have to make sure I save some time to travel to this area.

    • Melissa, We were so glad we decided to drive up the Columbia River Gorge. But one day was not enough. I hope you do add it to a west coast road trip. So many great spots in Oregon. Linda

  9. I really love areas of natural beauty that can be explored and enjoyed by car. With limitations on mobility, I don’t many areas harder to access, so it’s great to read about your route accessing the rubber gorge from the Oregon side. I would hope I could manage some of the walks in to see the waterfalls too. Beautiful!

    • Kavita, Road trips are certainly a great option these days. We are reviewing all the great ones we have taken and are looking to repeat and enhance many on return trips. But we did need more than a day to see it all in the Columbia River Gorge. Linda

  10. I stumbled upon the picture of the falls and the bridge several times and I have always wondered where it was. It looks like from Tolkien´s books! We were really looking forward to drive along the western coast of the USA during our Panamerican highway trip, but sadly we had leave our car in South America and return home to Europe. We hope to come back again and drive all the way to Alaska. Mostly we were looking forward to California and Washington and didn´t think much of Oregon, but you make us excited about it! 🙂

    • I hope you finally are able to finish your drive up the west coast to Alaska. It will be a stunning trip. I am glad to have added Oregon to your thoughts for travel planning. Great spots on the coast and inland. And great wine too! Linda

  11. Columbia River Gorge experience through your eyes was truly spectacular. The views are just stunning. Multnomah falls coming down from Larch Mountain with the Benson Bridge in sight is so beautiful. No guesses why everyone would love to click a few pictures here. Although a short trip you certainly seemed to have a great time visiting.

  12. Wow the gorge looks spectacular. I love exploring gorges and hunting down the waterfalls within the gorges. They are the most beautiful untouched beauty you can get. The waterfalls that you have captured is amazing.

  13. Oregon Coast really has some stunning views. And I would definitely love to stay at that resort perched on the hill top after looking at it. Colombia River gorge look so spectacular. I would love top go hiking to the watrefalls. The Multnomah Falls looks spectacular. This road trip sounds so exciting. I would love to explore this part of the world some day!

    • Amrita, The Columbia River Gorge is definitely a spot for exploring. A half day only gave us a small taste test. Next time we will spend more time. Hope you get to visit one day. Linda

  14. Wow! Your photo of the Multnomah Falls is wonderful. I agree that it’s definitely a perfect reason to explore the Columbia River Gorge. Anyway, we’ll make sure to visit should we get to be in the Oregan area in the future. It would also be exciting to see the dam. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Clarice, We were happy to get a view of the Columbia River Gorge and the waterfalls. Even if we di don’t have enough time to see it all. It will be exciting to return and see what is further up-river. Linda

  15. I lived in Portland for a few years, and I always thought that the Gorge was one of the most beautiful spots that I had ever visited. I would go hiking there often. Great to see pictures of it again!

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