Pacific Northwest Day Trips: The Columbia River Gorge

Set out on a journey through time and beauty in the natural wonder of Washington and Oregon’s shared river gorge

CORBETT, Ore. — Fall is on it’s way, but there is still plenty of perfect weather for a journey through the natural beauty of the Columbia River Gorge.

This time on the ClarkCountyToday.com Day Trip Series, we travel past towering waterfalls, breathtaking lookouts, rugged trails, jagged cliff sides, rushing water, and rich history.

Dozens of wonderful spots can be found in the gorge, on both the Washington and Oregon side of the river. We’ve mapped out some of our favorites, and created another short film to give you a taste of what’s out there waiting for you.

Be sure to let us know what your favorite locations are, and share your pictures with us on social media using the hashtag, #cctdaytrip. 

From all of us at Clark County Today, we hope you have incredible adventures day tripping across your home, here in the Pacific Northwest.

Here are our favorite spots to check out:

1. Troutdale Exit to Scenic Highway

  • The gateway to all the wonders of the Oregon side
  • Large swaths of land covered in trees, flowers and trails
  • Easily accessible directly from I-84 East
  • Some trails damaged/closed due to 2017 fires, see website above  
The Columbia River Gorge at dawn, looking east. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Columbia River Gorge at sunset, looking east. Photo by Mike Schultz

2. Women’s Forum Viewpoint

  • First stop on the drive through the Oregon side
  • Good parking, and excellent view looking eastward through the gorge
  • Historic plaques and walking area
The Vista House on Crown Point can be seen here from the vantage point of the Women’s Forum Viewpoint. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Vista House on Crown Point can be seen here from the vantage point of the Women’s Forum Viewpoint. Photo by Mike Schultz

3. Vista House at Crown Point

  • Over 100-year-old rest area along U.S. 30
  • Now houses museum, store and café
  • Large balcony with superb views looking west and east through the gorge
  • Adequate parking during the week and on weekends
The over 100-year-old Vista House , seen here, was originally a rest stop, and now serves as a viewing area and museum. Photo by Mike Schultz
The over 100-year-old Vista House , seen here, was originally a rest stop, and now serves as a viewing area and museum. Photo by Mike Schultz
Seen here is a view of the Columbia River Gorge looking eastward from atop the Vista House. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Seen here is a view of the Columbia River Gorge looking eastward from atop the Vista House. Photo by Jacob Granneman

4. Latourell Falls

  • Easy hike with accessible roadside parking
  • Beautiful waterfall, falling nearly 250 feet
  • Rugged trail end, with the option to go right up to the cascading water
Latourell Falls is the first waterfall along the U.S. 30 route. Photo by Mike Schultz
Latourell Falls is the first waterfall along the U.S. 30 route. Photo by Mike Schultz
Reporter Jacob Granneman, braves the icy spray of the falls here, in order to film the waterfall from below. Photo by Bailey Granneman
Reporter Jacob Granneman, braves the icy spray of the falls here, in order to film the waterfall from below. Photo by Bailey Granneman
Latourell Falls, seen here in winter, drops nearly 250 feet. Photo by Mike Schultz
Latourell Falls, seen here in winter, drops nearly 250 feet. Photo by Mike Schultz

5. Bridal Veil Falls

  • Large rest area with parking and accessible viewpoint of the gorge
  • Multi-level waterfall with gravel trails ascending and descending the hillside
  • Near Shepard’s Dell viewing area and historic bridges
Bridal-Veil-Falls-Columbia-River-Gorge-01) Shown here is a long exposure of Bridal Veil Falls, which lies on U.S. 30 just past Latourell. Photo by Mike Schultz
Bridal-Veil-Falls-Columbia-River-Gorge-01) Shown here is a long exposure of Bridal Veil Falls, which lies on U.S. 30 just past Latourell. Photo by Mike Schultz

6. Wahkeena Falls

  • Roadside parking and concrete path with gravel trail leading up to the falls
  • Smaller waterfall, with the ability to get up close and feel the spray of the water
  • Eastern trailhead actually takes you to the Multnomah Falls parking area, and is a great walk to see the Washington side cliffs 
Wahkeena Falls is the third waterfall along U.S. 30, and is easily accessible up close. Photo by Mike Schultz
Wahkeena Falls is the third waterfall along U.S. 30, and is easily accessible up close. Photo by Mike Schultz
Massive pine trees can be seen here near Wahkeena; many of which were scorched in the 2017 forest fires. Photo by Mike Schultz
Massive pine trees can be seen here near Wahkeena; many of which were scorched in the 2017 forest fires. Photo by Mike Schultz

7. Multnomah Falls

  • The mighty king of waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge; soaring down over 600 feet
  • Plenty of parking is available, but make sure to plan ahead since weekends and holidays are very busy
  • Large walkways and a beautiful footbridge surround the falls
  • A gift shop, several food vendors, coffee, and the fancy restaurant inside the Multnomah Falls Lodge are all great parts of the experience   
Shown here is the famous Multnomah Falls; Oregon’s second most visited site. Photo by Mike Schultz
Shown here is the famous Multnomah Falls; Oregon’s second most visited site. Photo by Mike Schultz
Visitors to Multnomah Falls can be seen here on the small footbridge that spans the lower falls. Photo by Bailey Granneman
Visitors to Multnomah Falls can be seen here on the small footbridge that spans the lower falls. Photo by Bailey Granneman
In the winter time, Multnomah Falls is often frozen over, as is seen here. Photo by Mike Schultz
In the winter time, Multnomah Falls is often frozen over, as is seen here. Photo by Mike Schultz
Multnomah Falls cascades down a whopping 600 feet, and has a viewing platform at the very top accessible via trail. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Multnomah Falls cascades down a whopping 600 feet, and has a viewing platform at the very top accessible via trail. Photo by Jacob Granneman

8. Horsetail Falls

  • Another easily accessible adventure, with parking, picnic tables and even a swimming area at the base of the falls pond
  • A magnificent cascade of switchbacked water, falling over 175 feet
  • Several stone viewing spots make for great photography opportunities
  • Several trails can take you up to the smaller more intimate Ponytail Falls, just above Horsetail 
Just past Multnomah Falls, is the beautiful Horsetail Falls, shown here. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Just past Multnomah Falls, is the beautiful Horsetail Falls, shown here. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Horsetail Falls is a great place to stop and eat lunch since it is less busy than Multnomah Falls and has picnic tables. Photo by Mike Schultz
Horsetail Falls is a great place to stop and eat lunch since it is less busy than Multnomah Falls and has picnic tables. Photo by Mike Schultz

9. Bonneville Dam

  • An easily accessible and fascinating historic landmark, with the opportunity to learn new things
  • Education opportunities about hydroelectric power and the construction of the dam are inside
  • Stunning views of the scope of the dam within the gorge
  • Fish hatcheries are nearby, and you can learn about the conservation efforts for the river 

10. Dry Creek Falls

  • This one is only accessible via trail, but offers some remarkable views and a great wilderness experience
  • The falls are a gentle cascade rippling aver logs and rocks as it meanders down the hillside
  • Some of the area was affected by the 2017 forest fire, but the amenities remain open
Shown here is Dry Creek Falls, which lies further east into the Columbia River Gorge. Photo by Mike Schultz
Shown here is Dry Creek Falls, which lies further east into the Columbia River Gorge. Photo by Mike Schultz
Dry Creek Falls was adversely affected by the 2017 fires, but is now open again. Photo by Mike Schultz
Dry Creek Falls was adversely affected by the 2017 fires, but is now open again. Photo by Mike Schultz

11. Wahclella Falls

  • This is one of the larger falls, which sits at the end of a 0.7-mile trail; the two-tiered cascade of water drops some 350 feet
  • There is a portable restroom on site, and a $5 day pass or Northwest Forest Pass is needed to park in the area
Wahclella-Falls-Columbia-River-Gorge-01) Seen here is Wahclella Falls, the final major waterfall along the U.S. 30 route. Photo by Mike Schultz
Wahclella-Falls-Columbia-River-Gorge-01) Seen here is Wahclella Falls, the final major waterfall along the U.S. 30 route. Photo by Mike Schultz

12. Wind Mountain Trail

  • This trail is a spectacular climb up to a breathtaking view of the gorge from high on the Washington cliffsides
  • The hike crosses 2.3 miles and gains some 1,100 feet in elevation
  • The trail is rugged, with fallen logs and drop offs; dogs must be kept on a leash

13. Beacon Rock State Park

  • Long rugged trails, waterfalls, rock climbing, and a magnificent switchback trail up the over 800 feet of Beacon Rock, all await you here
  • The park is easily accessible with lots of parking and picnic areas; a Discover Pass is required for entry
Beacon Rock State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, is a great place to explore, rock climb and hike the 800-foot rock, seen here. Photo from Public Domain
Beacon Rock State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, is a great place to explore, rock climb and hike the 800-foot rock, seen here. Photo from Public Domain

14. Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum

  • A shining exhibit near Stevenson, WA featuring an OMSI-like experience regarding the history and exploration of the Columbia Gorge
  • Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children

15. Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum

  • An immense museum of natural history, this center sits just outside of the Dalles in the gorge
  • The massive public areas can be rented for event spaces as well
  • Taxidermy animals of all kinds native to the region are featured throughout various exhibits
  • Native American cultures and artifacts are also present for discovery and learning    
We'd love to hear your comments!

About The Author

Jacob Granneman is a filmmaker and writer from Clark County. He is a recent graduate of Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College, where he studied media production. He has produced documentary stories all over the Pacific Northwest and in Argentina. His passions range from loving people, to cinematography, to going on adventures in the most beautiful place on earth, i.e. his backyard. He lives with his wife in Vancouver, WA.

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