18 Stunning Places to Visit in the Columbia River Gorge

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The Columbia River Gorge stretches for nearly 80 miles from Portland into Eastern Oregon and is a playground of natural wonder for travelers making their way through this gorgeous area. At nearly 4,000 feet deep in places there are steep cliffs, deep canyons, and dozens of waterfalls to explore.

If you’re looking for hiking trails through lush forests and expansive viewpoints, then the Gorge has you covered. These trails range from short, paved hikes to nearby waterfalls to multiday backpacking adventures that will take you deep into the wilderness of the forests and mountains surrounding the Gorge.

So pack your car, and let’s take a drive into this natural playground that separates Washington and Oregon.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls in Oregon
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Multnomah Falls stands at an impressive 620 feet tall and is one of the most popular sights in the entire state of Oregon. Millions of visitors come to this waterfall each year to hike the trails up to the bridge separating the first and second stages of the falls, photograph this enchanting area, and visit the historic lodge that sits near the parking lot.

Those looking for a workout can climb to the top of the falls, but be warned that this trail is steep and should not be attempted in snowy or icy weather.

Hood River

Lavender Field in Hood River
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One of our favorite cities in Oregon, Hood River offers the perfect combination of small-town charm with nearly unlimited outdoor adventure opportunities. To top it all off, it is the starting point for the famous Fruit Loop, a scenic drive that takes you through apple orchards, lavender farms, and wineries that dot the hills above the city.

While you’re there, make sure to stop into Broder Ost for an incredible Scandinavian breakfast.

Crown Point and Vista House

View of Crown Point and the Vista House and the Columbia River Gorge national Scenic Area in the fall season.
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The Vista House at Crown Point is located at the western end of the Columbia River Gorge and offers one of the most scenic views you’ll find anywhere. It sits 733 feet above the Gorge and was originally constructed in the early 1900s as a rest stop for travelers making their way through this scenic area. Today, the reconstructed building serves as a museum and a stopping point for travelers looking to take in the stunning views.

Latourell Falls

Scenic fall view of the Latourell Falls along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Beautiful golden and red leaves can be seen in the pictures.
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Latourell Falls consists of two separate waterfalls, the upper and lower falls. The lower of the two falls sits right off the highway and can be seen from the road. This is a great spot to make a quick pit stop and take in one of the less visited falls within the Columbia River Gorge.

Visitors who want to see the Upper Falls must hike the 2.4-mile loop trail, which winds its way across the creek, through the forest, and finally up to the viewpoint Gorge’sbase of the stunning waterfall.

Horsetail Falls

Horsetail Falls Columbia River Gorge scenic area Oregon.
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Horsetail Falls is another of the Gorge’s easy-to-access waterfalls, as it sits right off the highway. This waterfall takes its name from its shape, which resembles a horse’s tail as it flows over the basalt cliffs above. These falls also serve as the trailhead that takes you up to the stunning Oneonta Gorge (more on that in a second) and Ponytails Falls, which is notable as the trail takes you directly behind the falls.

Oneonta Gorge

Oneonta Gorge, Columbia River Gorge National Secenic Area
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Gorgeta Gorge is a narrow, sheer-faced gorge covered in moss and ferns and ends at the stunning Oneonta Falls. After the Eagle Creek fire, the gorge was shut down due to hazardous conditions and overuse prior to the fire. Today, visitors can look into the gorge from the Oneonta Trail, but entry into the narrow canyon is strictly prohibited.

Beacon Rock

Beautiful view of the Columbia River and Beacon Rock, Washington on a sunny summer day
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Beacon Rock stands as a, well, beacon on the Washington side of the gorge. This towering monolith rises nearly 850 feet directly from the shoreline of the Columbia River and serves as the namesake for the surrounding Beacon Rock State Park.

There are two ways to the top of this rock: by trail that winds its way up the side or by climbing right up the rock face!

Wahkeena Falls

Columbia River Gorge's Fall, Wahkeena fall, Oregon
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Getting to this stunning Columbia River Gorge waterfall requires only a short quarter-mile walk from the parking lot, although the trail continues uphill, where you can take in expansive views of the gorge. The waterfall twists its way through a narrow slot in the rocks and erupts out, creating a wide cascading waterfall that has its own unique look amongst the other waterfalls in the area.

If you want to visit both falls, you can actually hike Wahkeena and Multnomah Falls as a 5-mile loop!

Bridal Veil Falls

Upper Bridal Veil falls along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge at sunrise.  The rays and greens give the location a magic feeling.
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Bridal Veil Falls sits at the site of an old lumber mill, and although the mill is long gone, you can still find relics of its past scattered throughout the area. The falls themselves are actually downhill from the parking lot, so you’ll find yourself hiking down steep switchbacks to get the best views, followed by a climb back to the car. This reverse hike is worth it, though, as this 120-foot-tall waterfall is one of the nicest in the gorge.

Rowena Crest

beautiful sunrise and wildflowers at rowena crest viewpoint, Oregon.
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Rowena Crest is located further east down the gorge between Hood River and The Dalles. This area is extremely popular during the spring as it is one of the first places where wildflowers start to pop. Trails loop throughout the high hills overlooking the gorge making it a great place for a leisurely stroll on a warm spring day.

The road winding its way up the hill to the lookout is also an extremely popular spot for its hairpin turns that are Instagram-worthy.

Bonneville Lock and Dam

Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River was built during the Great Depression. It is a place appreciated by tourists and locals with picnic tables
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The Columbia River is one of the most heavily dammed rivers in the country with dozens of hydroelectric projects on the main river and its tributaries. The lowest and oldest dam in the system is the Bonneville Dam and Lock. Visitors can take in this engineering marvel from picnic areas along the banks of the river or by taking a self-guided tour of the facility. On the tour you can see the inner workings of the hydroelectric generation facility as well as watch salmon make their way past the dam through fish viewing windows.

Maryhill Museum of Art and Stonehenge Replica

Maryhill museum of art Columbia River Gorge in Washington state.
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Waterfalls and the Columbia River aren’t the only attractions in the Gorge. In Maryhill, a small town on the Washington side of the Gorge, you can visit a life sized replica of the famous Stonehenge as well as take a tour through the Maryhill Museum of Art. Here, you can view rotating exhibitions by regional artists focusing on the wildlife, landscapes, and people that make up the Pacific Northwest.

Elowah Falls

Elowah Falls, Columbia Gorge
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Elowah Falls sits across the Gorge from Beacon Rock and features a beautiful 213-foot waterfall that thunders into a natural amphitheater. Getting to the falls requires a relatively easy 2-mile loop, although folks looking for a little more of a workout can add the spur trail to Upper McCord Creek Falls, which requires a bit of climbing through some steep switchbacks.

Mosier Twin Tunnels

The Twin Tunnels Trail runs between Mosier and Hood River, Oregon. It is part of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.
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The Mosier Twin Tunnels are one of the most unique features along the 4.5-mile section of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail that runs between Hood River and Mosier. This car-free trail follows the original road through the gorge and is now a great place for hikers and bikers to enjoy a day of exploring. The tunnels were blasted straight through the rock lining the gorge, with windows blasted into the side to allow light into the space.

Punchbowl Falls

Punchbowl Falls on Eagle Creek near Portland Oregon
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Punchbowl Falls is an extremely popular recreation destination along the Eagle Creek Trail. This waterfall flows directly over a basalt ledge into a deep pool below and is a popular spot for cliff jumpers and kayakers. You can view the falls from above along the trail or by climbing down onto the riverbed. The view from this spot is one of the most iconic in the gorge and is a must-visit.

Getting to the falls requires a 3.8-mile round-trip hike with some elevation gain, but it is doable for most folks.

Dog Mountain

A color image of hikers reaching the top of Table Mountain in Washington state's scenic Columbia River Gorge.
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Dog Mountain is home to one of the most well-known wildflower meadows in the entire Pacific Northwest. Each spring, the meadows on the upper portion of Dog Mountain explode into a field of yellow and have gotten so popular that permits are now required during peak wildflower season. Don’t let its popularity fool you, though, as this hike is a tough one. Almost immediately, you’ll find yourself heading uphill at an almost impossibly steep grade that doesn’t let up until you’ve reached the top.

Lyle Cherry Orchard

Lyle Cherry Orchard Trail in The Columbia River Gorge in Early Spring
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Located on the eastern end of the Gorge on the Washington side, the Lyle Cherry Orchard offers a look back into the past of this area along with stunning views and marvelous early-season wildflower displays. Trails through the area pass by old road beds and long abandoned orchards where a few cherry trees have managed to hold on. Keep your kids and pets close, as this area is known for its ticks and rattlesnakes.

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest