The Columbia River Gorge, in Northern Oregon, is a hiker’s paradise with breathtaking views, fairytale like forest scenes, and powerful waterfalls. The Columbia River, one of three rivers that connect the Columbia Mountain Range to the Pacific Ocean, formed this vast gorge in the mountains. One of the more popular attractions of the area is the extremely impressive concentration of waterfalls. On the Oregon side alone there are over 90 waterfalls, including the 620ft Multnomah Falls. In 1986, United States Congress named the gorge a US National Scenic Area.
This area of the Pacific Northwest has seen human civilization dating back 13,000 years when travelers from present day Asia crossed the land bridge to this region. This area has also been home to Salmon-fishers for nearly 10,000 years. The gorge has also been a great provider of transport, dating back to use by the Native Americans, and then continued use by Europeans in the steamboat industry. Today, the riverside is home to railway tracks and the Columbia River Highway.
HOW TO GET TO THE COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE
The Gorge, located near Oregon’s border with Washington state, is about 45 minutes outside of Portland. The easiest way to get to the Columbia River Gorge is by flying into Portland (Airport Code: PDX) and renting a car. There are two primary routes: the main highway or the more scenic Marine Highway. While it adds about 15-20 minuets to your drive, the Marine Highway route takes you right along the Columbia River providing scenic views throughout.
TIPS ON VISITING THE COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE
Be sure to bring a raincoat! Oregon lives up to its reputation of being a rainy place, and when you are close to the waterfalls the spray is fairly intense. Wearing layers is helpful, as some parts of the hikes are strenuous- being able to strip outer layers is very refreshing. Hikers should bring a backpack to carry extra clothes, trail snacks, and water. Hiking shoes or boots are also better than sneakers because the trails could be muddy and traction is helpful.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE
The Pacific Northwest is known for its moderate temperatures and frequent rainfall, however the rainfall is hardly incredibly heavy. The rainfall is most heavy in the winter months, so plan a visit in the summer. Summer months have an average high in the 60s and a low rainfall average of 1in. Near the waterfalls, temperatures are cooler around 50 degrees.
TOP TOURIST SITES IN OREGON
The waterfall loop at the Columbia River Gorge is about 7 miles from the bottom of Multnomah Falls, up to the top of the fall, around deeper into the forest, to the top of another large waterfall, and back down. Along the way you get incredible views of the gorge, the smaller waterfalls, and the hike itself is unbelievable. If you are not a hiker, that’s ok! There are shorter and more manageable options, including just looking at the waterfalls and driving along the highway. There is a short trail in between the two main falls. While in Oregon, be sure to also spend a a couple days in the charming city of Portland, visit Crater National Park (the only National Park in Oregon), and relax on the the picturesque Cannon and Bandon beaches.