A three-day itinerary of hiking and wine tasting in the Columbia River Gorge.
About an hour’s drive outside of Portland, Oregon is spectacular waterfall hiking in the Columbia River Gorge area. It’s the largest national scenic area in America and features the greatest concentration of waterfalls (over 90) in America.
The canyon through which the mighty Columbia River runs through stretches for more than 80 miles. The nearby snowcaps of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams are a feast for the eyes, and there’s a nice little wine tasting region nearby as well. So naturally I had to spend a few days exploring this wonderful nature and wine lover’s paradise.
As a good central location, I stayed at the Cascade Motel in the town of Cascade Locks. It’s a charming property that’s been around since 1947. It’s situated on three acres of lawn and has nice views of the Cascade Mountain range. All the rooms are individual stand-alone units (almost like cabins) and have bathrooms and air conditioning. In the evenings, there’s a fire pit with chairs where many guests gather around
My first day I hiked the Angels Rest Trail. This 4.8 mile out and back hike gains 1,500 feet in elevation as it climbs up to a blufftop viewpoint with incredible panoramic views of the gorge. It’s a workout with a big reward! There’s a bit of rock scrambling at the very top. However, if you’re not in the mood, you’ll still get incredible vistas of the Columbia River Gorge.
Then, the second day I hiked Wahkeena Falls to Multnomah Falls Trail. It’s 6 miles with about 1,600 ft. elevation gain. This trail is a waterfall lover’s paradise. There are six officially named waterfalls as well as countless cascades and intermittent falls. Towards the end of the hike, you’ll be high above the grand Multnomah Falls (Oregon’s tallest), where you can see all the people below at the viewing platform. After hiking down to the platform, there’s plenty of spots for that award-winning Instagram pic.
After the hike I drove over to the Hood River Valley Wine Region. The arid landscape and favorable weather in the Columbia River Gorge create ideal growing conditions for grapes like Pinot Noirs. The rainfalls in the region and the high elevation helps to produce a plethora of wines. I did a tasting at Mt. Hood Winery and the juxtaposition of the vines with Mt. Hood in the background was beautiful.
On my last day there, I hiked Horsetail Falls to Oneonta Falls Trail. It’s 3 miles with only about 350 ft. elevation gain. There’s a tall waterfall right at the trailhead on this hike. Also, about half a mile up is another waterfall that you can walk behind. There are some nice viewpoints along the way as well of the Columbia River Gorge.
At some point while you’re in the Columbia River Gorge area it’s fun to cross the Bridge of the Gods. The bridge is part of the Pacific Crest Trail connecting Oregon and Washington. You may recognize it from the 2014 film “Wild” about a lady trying to heal who sets out alone to hike the Pacific Crest Trail — one of the country’s longest and toughest through-trails. There’s a $2 each way fee to cross the bridge in your car.
If you’re an avid hiker AND like waterfalls I’d say the Columbia River Gorge area should be at the top of your list to spend some time at. The best time of year to visit (i.e., least chance of rain) is July through October. Enjoy this wild and beautiful area of the Pacific Northwest.
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