Stretching over 80 miles from east to west along the Washington-Oregon border, the Columbia River Gorge is a massive 4,000-foot-deep canyon filled with adventure and beautiful scenery. Visitors can visit the many cliffs and viewpoints in both Washington and Oregon overlooking the spectacular Columbia River as it cuts through the Cascades.
There are so many things to do, see and taste in the Gorge, from waterfall hikes to kiteboarding, and local breweries to fruit orchards. Take a look at some of our favorite things to do in the Columbia River Gorge, whether you’re visiting for the first time or you’ve lived here for years!
Go to the Hood River Lavender Farm
Photo Courtesy of the Hood River Lavender Farm
There is nothing quite as relaxing and refreshing as the scent of lavender. Breathe it all in at the Hood River Lavender Farm, an organic lavender farm offering the purest, chemical-free lavender in the Gorge. Opt to pick your own lavender from April through October, or simply stop by to peruse their handcrafted items for sale, including bath and body products, culinary items, and 100 percent pure lavender essential oil.
Drive Along the Historic Columbia River Highway
It may sound ordinary to drive on a highway, but trust us — the Columbia River Highway is anything but ordinary. This 70-mile highway extending from Corbett to Dodson is considered one of the most scenic drives in the country. Along the way, you will discover waterfalls, historic monuments and buildings, fish hatcheries, and a number of jaw-dropping overlooks.
Head to Hood River, also known as the “Windsurfing Capital of the World” to try your hand at windsurfing or kiteboarding, two similar yet different sports. If you’re new to either sport, be sure to get lessons from a professional instructor at one of the many schools in town, including Cascade Kiteboarding, Gorge Kiteboard School, Brian’s Windsurfing, Kite The Gorge, Hood River WaterPlay or New Wind.
Visit the Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center
Get to know the area even more with a visit to the Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center, the official interpretive center for the national scenic area. This beautiful museum in The Dalles covers the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Corps’ activity in the area, the unique geology of the Gorge, Native Americans, the Oregon Trail, the pioneer era, and much more.
Take in Views at the Vista House
Get a healthy dose of history and exceptional views at the Vista House, a house built in 1917 as a place for travelers to rest and refresh themselves on their journey along the Gorge. Today, visitors can learn about the architecture and history of the Vista House, the Historic Columbia River Gorge, the local area, the flora and fauna of the region, and much more.
See a Dam
As you can expect from a massive river, the Columbia River has lots of dams, which help with flood control, navigation, stream flow regulation and much more. In fact, there are a total of 14 dams in the Columbia River, several of which are well worth a visit. Visit the Bonneville Lock & Dam or The Dalles Lock & Dam to witness the sheer strength of this mighty river. Each has a visitors center with more information about the dam’s operation and the river as a whole.
Adventure on the Gorge Beer Trail
Get to know (and taste!) the many exceptional breweries lining the Gorge, especially on the Oregon side. The Gorge Beer Trail takes you on a hoppy adventure to some of the best breweries in the Gorge, with stops in Sandy, Troutdale, Cascade Locks, Parkdale, The Dalles, Hood River and Government Camp.
Hop on Board the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler Cruise
Whether you’re visiting the Gorge for a few days or if you’ve lived here for years, a cruise on the river is definitely in order. Choose from the variety of cruise options, including a dinner cruise, brunch cruise, sightseeing cruise, or a Gorge landmarks cruise, all available from May through October. Board at Marine Park at Cascade Locks and enjoy a peaceful cruise on the colorful paddle wheeler, passing by landmarks like Multnomah Falls, Beacon Rock, and Bonneville Dam.
Taste Fresh Fruit on The Fruit Loop
The Hood River Valley is home to an overwhelming number of wineries, fruit orchards, flower fields, and more. There are 29 member stands that create the Hood River County Fruit Loop, offering wine, fruits, vegetables, flowers, ciders and food. Some are open all year, while others open for harvest time, which changes each year. Take a look at the current opening dates for the many stops on the Fruit Loop!
Eat in Hood River
After all this activity, it’s time to fuel up with a hearty meal. We may be biased (because we have a team operating in town), but Hood River is one of the best places to dine in the Gorge. Some of the best restaurants in Hood River include Full Sail Brewing Company & Brewpub, Broder Øst, Celilo Restaurant & Bar, Riverside, Sixth Street Bistro & Loft, and Solstice Wood Fire Café & Bar.
See a Waterfall or Two
Don’t let TLC tell you otherwise; it’s okay to go chasing waterfalls! Catch a glimpse of one (or a few!) of the many sparkling waterfalls in the area, including the iconic Multnomah Falls, Latourell Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, all of which are nestled along the Columbia River Highway. See the full list of waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge here.
Go on a Hike
There are so many incredible hikes worth hiking in the Gorge, offering wildflowers, waterfalls, and jaw-dropping views of the river. Slip on your hiking boots and explore one of the area’s best hikes, including the Sandy River Delta Loop Hike, the Latourell Falls Loop Hike, Bridal Veil Falls Hike, Tom McCall Point Hike, and many more. Searching for wildflower views in particular? Take a look at these spectacular wildflower hikes in the PNW, including Lyle Cherry Orchard and Mosier Plateau.
Visit a Winery
Photo Courtesy of Kathy Pothier Photography via Cathedral Ridge Winery
There is certainly no shortage of wonderful wineries in the Columbia River Gorge. A few favorites include Marchesi Vineyards, Cathedral Ridge Winery and Mt. Hood Winery. Get a taste of the local wine scene with Gorge Wine, which beautifully showcases the astounding beauty of this wine-rich region and provides helpful resources for visiting wineries in the Gorge.
Enjoy Your Time at the Gorge!
What must-do activities in the Gorge would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!