Named one of Oregon’s official Seven Wonders, the Columbia River Gorge is Oregon’s crown jewel. Boasting more waterfalls than any other place in North America, parts of the Gorge are so lush that bright green moss grows on nearly every surface.
Whether or not you’re into hiking, the Columbia River Gorge is a must-visit for anyone sightseeing in Northern Oregon. Although there are plenty of challenging hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, several of the Gorge’s natural wonders can be seen just off the highway, too.
About Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is a National Scenic Area that stretches over 80 miles along the scenic Columbia River, which separates Oregon and the state of Washington. Carved by the Missoula Floods that tore through the Pacific Northwest at the end of the last Ice Age, the deep Columbia River canyon creates a lush and dramatically unique landscape.
What makes the Columbia River Gorge so spectacular is its steep cliffs along the Columbia River and its incredible biodiversity created by changes in elevation and precipitation across the Gorge. The Gorge ranges from 4,000 feet to sea level in elevation and from 10 inches to 100 inches of annual precipitation, depending on the geographical location.
The west end of the Columbia River Gorge is the wettest region with an average annual precipitation of 100 inches. This constant dampness creates the perfect environment for one of North America’s only temperate rainforests. Bright green mosses grow on every surface there and hundreds of waterfalls can be found throughout this region. Microclimates like this one have enabled many specialized plants and animals to prosper in the Columbia River Gorge—some are found nowhere else on Earth.
Visiting the Gorge
Driving the scenic Columbia River Highway and hiking in and along the Gorge are the best ways to see it. No sightseeing trip in the Columbia River Gorge would be complete without a visit to one of the Columbia Gorge Waterfalls, including iconic Multnomah Falls. Although this area is incredibly popular with tourists, the falls are truly spectacular and should not be missed.
Cascading down over 600 feet and over two tiers of basalt and igneous rock, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon. It’s also one of the most accessible! Located right off of the highway, visitors need only to walk a few hundred feet from their car to see the full splendor of the falls.
For a little adventure, walk up a small hill to the observation bridge beneath the falls. For a larger adventure, walk a steep mile to the observation deck that overlooks the edge of Multnomah Falls.
Another one of our favorite things to do in the Columbia River Gorge is to hike Mitchell Point. Although this trail is only 2.6 miles long, the elevation change is nearly 1,300 feet. Your burning legs will thank you when you reach the top of Mitchell Point, though, because the views of the Columbia River Gorge there are nothing short of spectacular.
Even if you need several short breaks to get to the top, the beautiful wildflowers that bloom in Spring and Summer will offer you encouragement along the way. Before you begin your adventure, be sure you’re feeling up for it. Small children or those who are afraid of heights may not find this trail to be suitable or enjoyable.
Wherever you decide to go sightseeing or hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, be mindful of signage. A fire in the summer of 2017 affected a large portion of the Columbia River Gorge and the Columbia Gorge Waterfalls, and many trails are still closed. Luckily, Multnomah Falls, Mitchell Point, and several other areas are still open to the public. For the most complete list of open hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, visit the Friends of The Columbia River Gorge website.
Stay with Hood River Vacations
Stay close to the outdoor recreation in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge by choosing a home located in the heart of it! Located at the center of the 80-mile stretch that comprises the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River, Oregon has long been a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and lovers of the Columbia River Gorge.
The spectacular homes we offer in Hood River are each designed to help relax and immerse yourself into the forest. Several of these homes even come with views of the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood! Book your next vacation rental home through Hood River Vacations today!