Columbia River Gorge Sightseeing
If you are visiting Portland, no doubt you have a long list of things to do and places to see. A top contender for your time (regardless of whether you consider yourself to be a hiker) should be the Columbia River Gorge! Approximately 40 minutes east of downtown Portland by car, the gorge takes shape alongside the majestic Columbia River, forming dramatic cliffs and rock formations that provide the landscape and structure for its many amazing waterfalls. Set aside a half-day to ensure you see all the major highlights, but if you’ve got more time, you can also turn this adventure into a full-day experience!
From Portland, the quickest way to get there is to head east on Interstate 84. Once you hit the little town of Troutdale (affectionately known as the “Gateway to the Gorge”), we suggest ditching the freeway and making your way to the Historic Columbia River Highway, a scenic highway that was constructed between 1913 and 1922, and an attraction in and of itself! You can access the highway through downtown Troutdale and follow its twists and turns as it meanders deeper and deeper into the gorge. Just a note, if you’re visiting from May to September, a timed permit is required to access and drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Once you are on the Historic Highway, you’ll have direct access to some top-notch sights that you won’t want to miss! Start with the Crown Point Vista House, a historic landmark perched high above the Columbia River with views that can’t be beat! If you are looking for some epic backdrops for your vacation photos, this is your opportunity! From there, continue east along the same road, and get ready for some truly wonderful, dazzling waterfalls!
Now, most folks have heard of or seen pictures of Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s tallest waterfall and one of the most visited recreational sites in the Pacific Northwest, but did you know that a trip to the Columbia River Gorge is (quite literally) overflowing with other amazing waterfalls to explore? As you continue on your adventure, make sure to stop at some of the lesser-known gems that you’ll find along your route: Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Wahkeena Falls are all impressive and totally worthy of a stop.
Of course, no trip to the gorge would feel complete without a stop at Multnomah! However, to access this top attraction, you’ll need to first completely bypass the falls on the Historic Highway, continuing east until you reach Ainsworth. From there, use the freeway entrance to hop back on I-84 headed west, exiting at Multnomah Falls to reach the designated parking lot.
Keep in mind that reservations are required to visit Multnomah Falls between May and September (in addition to the highway entrance permits), when crowds are at their most saturated. Tickets for timed entry are easy to purchase online at recreation.gov! Once you’ve managed to find parking and have walked the short path from the parking lot to the main entrance, head on up to Benson Bridge, a well-positioned footbridge located between the upper and lower sections of Multnomah Falls. It’s the perfect place to stage a great photo! The hike to the bridge uses a paved pathway and is easy to navigate, making it fun for both experienced and novice hikers alike. You’ll be rewarded with amazing views and the refreshing spray of Multnomah Falls on your face!
All of this can be accomplished with your own car, but if you are visiting Portland without one (or just feel like letting someone else battle traffic for you), consider taking a guided tour! Our half day, four hour Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls Tour departs from downtown Portland and will take you to all these highlights, and then some! Hop on board one of our luxury passenger vehicles, and be guided by a local expert through this nationally recognized scenic area. You can check out the full itinerary and see our live calendar with options to reserve seats online at our website or by calling our office directly. We are always happy to help and can’t wait to explore with you!