Not far from the bustling city of Portland, Oregon you can find some of the most amazing natural beauty in all the Pacific Northwest. What is it?
The Columbia River Highway. Stretching approximately 75 miles it runs between Troutdale and the historic town of The Dalles in Oregon. The road was originally built between the years 1913 ad 1922 and was used extensively until the modern highway I-84 was finished in 1950.
Included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, this small, meandering two lane road still maintains most of it’s original charm. It’s easy to see how the designers of the highway were able to evoke the same feel as their inspiration, the scenic mountain and riverside roads of Europe.
Even though the road is only 75 miles long, when you do decide to travel it, give yourself a full 3-5 hours for the full experience. The reason you’re going to want more time, especially in the summer months, is because there are lots of places you’re going to want to pull over and explore.
There are at least eight different places you can stop and take in some of the many waterfalls that line the Columbia River Highway.
The most famous is Multnomah Falls, with water that cascades down a cliff over 600 feet, it’s quite the site. Here, you’ll also find a large visitors area with plenty of parking, a lodge, gift shop, and a few places to grab snacks. Of course there are a number of hiking trails up and around the falls.
Other lesser crowded falls you’ll find along the way that also have hiking trails and great photo opportunities include Shepperd’s Dell Falls and Wahkeena Falls.
If you want to see more of the river side of things, then be sure to head to the Crown Point Vista House. Perched up on a cliff 733 feet above the Columbia River it affords spectacular views of the surrounding areas.
Built in 1917, it was originally set up to be a rest stop for weary travelers who wanted a break from their Model T’s along the way. Now, the Vista House has been revamped to include restroom facilities, a small gift shop, and a short historical display.
Of course, few trips down the Columbia River Highway are complete without trying out a few water sports on the river. There are many areas around the smaller state parks like Rooster Rock and Benson Lake dotted along the river that allow you to do a little swimming, kayaking, boating, and paddleboarding.
If you want to try out a little excitement, then make sure to stop in Hood River and do a bit of windsurfing. You can rent equipment as well as take lessons, or simply take a seat on the beach and enjoy the view!
Try the Local Food and Beer
One last thing, as you’re heading along the highway, don’t be afraid to pull in and have a relaxing lunch and dinner at one of the many saloons or local restaurants along the way. And a big reminder, especially around Hood River, there are plenty of amazing local breweries to try as well, if you want to stay over and make a weekend trip.
Did we forget anything? Let us know what some of your favorite spots are along the Columbia River Highway in the comments.