Plan Your Trip
When you plan your trip to the highway make it the experience you want to have. Take as long as you need, and soak in the Gorge’s many attractions. Explore this site with our suggested stops to make your stay all it can be.
If you’re flying in to Portland take a day and explore the city’s local flavor before driving out to Troutdale. Take Interstate 84 east to Troutdale (Exit 17) and stop at the Barn Museum for the full history of the highway, its creators and those who have preserved it. After enjoying the town’s attractions move on to the King of Roads itself as it leads east, right out of town.
Plan your stay at the beautiful Edgefield Hotel, just outside of Troutdale. Edgefield’s 74 acres are host to a 3-par golf course, sprawling vineyard, multiple restaurants and a glass blower you can visit to watch work.
Expect rain September through June, so pack accordingly. Make sure to bring warm clothes no matter the time of year due to the high powered wind that blasts through the Gorge. Hiking boots are encouraged as well, as many of the most magnificent sights are through the Gorge’s many engaging hikes. And no matter what you do, make sure you bring a camera.
Take your time. Make your story.
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The Essential Sights
Make the best of a short stay. See the best of the Gorge in a full day. This itinerary won’t overschedule you. We know you want to enjoy every minute of your hard earned vacation. In addition to the spots outlined below we encourage you to stop at any viewpoint that catches your eye, or just stop somewhere to have coffee. It’s up to you.
Housed inside of the volunteer built and run Barn Museum, the King of Roads exhibit exists as the ideal entry point to your travels. Immerse yourself in the Highway’s history with restored photographs and never before heard tales of the people behind one of the greatest engineering marvels of the century. Learn about the byway’s impact and legacy, and the story of those who saved it. Finally set off on your own and make your own story.
Just outside of Troutdale is the Portland Women’s Forum. Sporting a massive view of the gorge and Vista House the Portland Women’s Forum is not a stop to miss…
The view from the Vista House at the peak of Crown Point will take your breath away. It is one of the most photographed locations in Oregon, and surprisingly it was planned simply as an restroom for the highway. With its marble steps and ornate stained glass windows it will be the most beautiful outhouse you’ll ever see.
At 620 feet, Multnomah Falls is not only the nation’s second tallest year round waterfall, it is one of Oregon’s biggest attractions with around 3-million visitors a year. Take a short walk from the parking lot to the Multnomah Falls Lodge where you can dine in view of the waterfall. Walk up to the Benson Bridge and feel the cool mist on your skin. If you’re up for it, there is a mile long path up to the top of the waterfall. Stand at the top of the falls and look out over the highway to the mighty Columbia.
If you’re looking for more, follow the signs outside of the lodge to Wahkeena Falls. It’s a quick half mile hike to a smaller, less visited falls. While today Wahkeena is overshadowed by its larger brother its name, meaning “most beautiful”, hints that things may have not always been this way.
Further along on I-84 is the Bonneville Dam where you’ll see a fish hatchery, one of the largest hydroelectric generators in the United States and more as the mighty Columbia rolls on – all around you. Go in for a tour of the plant, feed a large rainbow trout, see sturgeon or watch salmon spawning in the Fall.
Cascade Locks, a small, inviting town makes an important stop along the road. Sit a while and fish in their award winning waters, or take a stroll around the town for it’s galleries and shops.
For a further look into the history of the Gorge, visit the Cascade Locks Historical Museum. Learn about the untamed Columbia of old, and the Native American’s who lived there. The museum also holds the first steam locomotive built in the Northwest, and is built next to the original river locks that give the town its name.
Make a stop in Hood River to stretch your legs and take a stroll around town. Surrounded by farmland and vineyards Hood River is home to a classically delicious flavor.
If you’re in Hood River on a Saturday take in everything the town has to offer including local produce, music, entertainment and more with the Saturday Market from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 8th to October 9th in downtown Hood River.
No matter what you do in Hood River make sure before you leave town that you stop at the Panorama Point County Park and Viewpoint for the best view of Mt. Hood and the Gorge around.
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Hit the spots the whole family can enjoy. These spots make great stops to supplement the Essential Sights. Everything here is hands on and fun for kids.
Shepperd’s Dell State Natural Area
Shepperd’s Dell is a quick, beautiful stop that the whole family can enjoy to its fullest. As you cross the Shepperd’s Dell bridge look across to the bell shaped waterfall, and pull into the parking lot for a closer look. Take the short walk down past lush greenery to stand a few feet from the where the water falls.
Rooster Rock State Park
With three miles of riverside beaches it’s hard to beat Rooster Rock on a sunny summer day. During the cooler seasons there are trails to be hiked, and two disc golf courses are open at all times. Windsurfing is popular among the adventurous park goers, especially in the winter when Gorge winds cap off at 110 mph. There is a $5 day use fee.
Bridal Veil Falls
Enjoy this quick and easy hike to the majestic Bridal Veil Falls. At around a half mile round trip even small kids should be able to enjoy the trail.
If you have time the Bridal Veil Loop is another short, fun paved trail that takes you up on a path to a bluff with a grand view of the river and highway. For plant lovers there are trailside signs to point out native plant species like trillium and bleeding heart.
Mt. Hood Railroad
Based in Hood River the Mt. Hood Railroad is a scenic ride through orchards, fields and forests around the Mt. Hood scenic area. Take one of many trips on the train where you can view Mt. Hood in all its white-capped glory.
The railroad offers many delightful activities for kids and everyone who enjoys some old fashioned fun. Depending on the season take your kids to either a dinosaur train themed ride or a polar express experience complete with a visit from Santa. In addition year round they offer a Wild West Train Robbery, a Murder Mystery evening ride, and a romantic ride accompanied by an Elvis tribute artist.
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Even More Adventure
Looking for even more? Here’s a place to start, and once you’re in the gorge and on the highway we’re sure you’ll find endless opportunities for adventure.
Oneonta Gorge is home to not one, but four waterfalls!
For the adventurous, tackle Lower Oneonta Falls. There is no trail, rather you must walk up the creek bed, and up to your waist (or depending on the season chest) in water through the gorge to finally reach the crown jewel. Be extra careful when crossing the log jam as it can be extremely slippery. Choose a warm summer day to make your trip. The trip is worth the challenge if you’re up to it, if not for the view then for the trek itself.
For those not so inclined, the alternative path is no less rewarding. Take the Horsetail Falls Trail and within a few minutes you’ll have left the sounds of civilization behind you. You’ll pass by Horsetail Falls, Ponytail Falls and the tiny Middle Oneonta Falls. From there the path splits and you may either return or continue on to Triple Falls. While the hike to Triple Falls can be steep at points, the path is oh so worth it. Not only is there a view of these three waterfalls, but you can easily walk to and sit atop the waterfall for a feeling of serenity.
There is nothing quite like it.
John B. Yeon State Scenic Corridor
A hikers paradise, the John B. Yeon State Scenic Corridor holds two of the most cherished waterfalls in the northwest. Both Elowah Falls and the McCord Creek Falls are only short hikes away, and both are worth taking the time to see. Despite the fact that these trails are easy and appropriate for beginners they tend to not get much traffic. Take advantage of these quick, amazing trails.
Fruit Loop at Hood River
If you’re more of a hands-on person hop back in the car and take the fruit loop, a 35 mile scenic drive through the more than 30 farms and vineyards. Stop and pick up some of the best apples and pears in the world under the white capped majesty of Mt. Hood. Expect to stop at the Cascade Alpaca Ranch to touch, and the Hood River Lavender Farm for the view and the unforgettable smell. Finally stop at the winery with as many awards as the highway has years. Yes with over 100 awards the Cathedral Ridge Winery makes a great tasting stop on your tour.
Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum
Located in Hood River the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum holds one of the largest collections of working antique aeroplanes and automobiles in the country. You’ll have access to over two acres of beautifully preserved history.
Mayer State Park
Just a little ways past Hood River on the Historic Highway is Mayer State Park: a great place to make a day of adventure. It’s a great stop whether you’re there to drive up to the top of Rowena Crest and feel the wind behind your back as you soak in the view, or to swim at a quiet spot at the river. Take the time and explore the Tom McCall Nature Preserve’s few short trails including the McCall Point trail that leads up 1,000 feet for a magnificent secluded view of the world.
Mayer State Park also contains opportunities for boating, fishing, and windsurfing. There is a $5 day use fee.
Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail
Looking for an invigorating bike ride or walk? While the entire Highway is open to cycling, the State Trail is closed to motor vehicles giving you peace from the roar of passing cars. The trail consists of three segments totaling twelve miles of paved bicycle bliss.
The first, between Cascade Locks and John B. Yeon State Scenic Corridor, is a lush pathway full of green ferns and flowers lining the road. Expect to pass several trailheads along the way, any one of which may lead to an unexpected, exciting adventure. Take exit 40 in the middle of the trail to the Toothrock Trailhead and Bonneville Dam.
The second section of State Trail is one mile between Starvation Creek and Viento. In 2015, construction will begin on a mile-long extension to the west, to Lindsey Creek.
The third segment of trail lies between Mosier and Hood River. This five mile path, Twin Tunnels, passes through an awesome ponderosa pine forest into the Mosier Tunnels themselves. Watch the geology closely and see if you can tell how glaciers and floods cut through this land to make the Gorge thousands of years ago. The path ends at the Mark O. Hatfield trailhead overlooking the river.
There is a $5 day use parking fee at the Mosier Tunnel trailhead.