Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area



The spectacular gorge of the Columbia River forms the border between Oregon and Washington. The gorge is filled with high waterfalls, high dams and high winds. (To get a good overview of all there is to see and do in this region, cross the river into Washington and visit the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center near Stevenson.) The gorge extends for a long distance, but we think the section of the river that slices through the Cascades, from about The Dalles to just east of Portland, is the prettiest. The best views in the gorge are from the Vista House at Crown Point or from the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks.

The best way to experience the gorge is either to venture off onto one of the many hiking trails (especially the moderate 2-mi/3-km climb to Angels Rest) or to drive the awe-inspiring (and sometimes terrifying) Historic Columbia River Highway—no RVs allowed. To reach the highway, exit off Interstate 84 about 6 mi/10 km west of Bonneville Dam. The road was an engineering marvel in its day, and every turn offers gorgeous view of the gorge. Highlights of the drive include Oneonta Gorge, Horsetail Falls and Wahkeena Falls. If you can see only one cascade, though, make it Multnomah Falls, which is more than double the height of Niagara.

By far our favorite dam to visit along the Columbia River is Bonneville Dam. It has everything from a fish hatchery to underwater windows for watching fish navigate the dam's ladders. We highly recommend a stop. Also worth visiting is the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles. There, you can learn the history of The Dalles Dam and of the spectacular waterfalls and ancient fishing grounds that were flooded once the dam was completed. The spectacular stretch of the Columbia near Hood River is considered one of the windsurfing capitals of the world—steady breezes provide ideal conditions for windsurfing and the increasingly popular sport of kiteboarding. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area begins 20 mi/32 km east of Portland.

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