From our launching point in Portland, we spent a day of our Pacific Northwest Trip exploring the Columbia River Gorge and Hood River Oregon. Leaving Portland, the landscape quickly changes along the Columbia River where it cuts through the Cascade Mountain Range. The Columbia River Gorge is also home to the famous Multnomah Falls. The dramatic cliffs paired with impressive waterfalls make for a memorable day of exploration and an essential day trip if you are visiting Portland.
First thing in the morning, we stopped by Kure Juice Bar in downtown Portland to fuel up for the day. It was drizzly and overcast as we hopped on Interstate-84 east out of the city. Our first stop was at Exit #28 to explore the Wahkeena Falls. This 1.4 mile out and back hike combines rushing creeks, beautiful lookout views of the Columbia River Gorge and of course Wahkeena Falls. Early in the morning, the trail was relatively empty and very lush and green.
There is an option to complete the whole 5.7 mile trail ending at Multnomah Falls, but we decided against it. We got lucky with some clearing in the clouds as we peered out from the lookout over the Gorge at Lemmon’s Viewpoint. I would recommend this perfect introductory hike to get a feel for the area.
Multnomah Falls is a 620 foot waterfall that is one of the most popular recreation sites in the Pacific Northwest. The parking lot gets very busy so arrive early to guarantee a spot. Just a short walk up to the platform gives an outstanding view of the waterfall.
From the base, you can walk a steep paved path to the Benson Bridge for closer viewing of the upper falls and a view back over the visitors entrance and gorge.
After checking out the bridge, we did the additional one mile hike to the top of the falls. This portion of the hike is full of switchbacks and very steep, but it was worth the effort for the view from the top of the Columbia River Gorge. The small platform at the top of the waterfall looks over the edge of the falls. Viewing the 600 foot drop would not be a good idea for individuals with a fear of heights.
After some time hiking and checking out the waterfalls, we arrived in Hood River ready for lunch. We were seated at an outdoor table at Double Mountain Brewery and Taproom for beers and pizza. I found the little town of Hood River to be quaint and charming. It would be a nice place to stay the night while exploring the Columbia River Gorge. After lunch we headed down to the Hood River Waterfront Park. We were surprised to find a large crowd of kite surfers gathered. The wind was whipping, but the view was stunning so we stayed to watch some kite-boarders.
Mt Hood Winery
After exploring in Hood River, we decided to head up in the mountains to find a local winery. We sure stumbled on a gem! Mt Hood Winery has a wonderful view of the peak of Mt Hood from its tasting room and patio. It was a perfect finale to enjoy a glass of wine while taking in the stunning views of Mt Hood.
There is plenty more to explore along the Columbia River Gorge if you have more than a day. There are 90 waterfalls on the Oregon side alone. We only scratched the surface but it was one of the most memorable and beautiful parts of Oregon. If you have been, what were your favorite stops and sights along the Columbia River Gorge?
For more on Oregon, check out The Three Capes Scenic Route along the Oregon Coast and our Pacific Northwest Roadtrip Itinerary.