My name is Shirin and I am an Iranian American living in the Pacific Northwest. Welcome to my journal where I share my travels throughout the PNW and beyond!
You will find travel itineraries, PNW bucket list hikes, and PNW weekend getaways, road trip ideas, and more! My aim is provide travel options for the working professional living in the Pacific Northwest to take advantage of your free time and get out in this big wide world!
September 26, 2022
The Columbia River Gorge is one of the best in the Pacific Northwest, and for a good reason. It is located in southern Washington and northern Oregon, and the drive and hikes will take you through mountain views, endless water views, waterfalls, meadows, basalt cliffs, and more! For these reasons, hiking in Columbia River Gorge is like no other. Not to mention the gorge was designated as the largest national scenic area in the states. The gorge is MADE for exploring and along the way expect a GORGEous view!
The gorge is for ALL ages and levels! Along the drive, you can explore cities such as Hood River, Washougal, Cascade Locks and more. Within this area, you will find many hikes for beginners or advanced, wind surfing, water sports, fishing spots, mountain and road bikers, or those just wanting to drive interstate 84 and enjoy the views. In addition to the outdoor sports, you will find some amazing wineries & breweries as well!
Below is a list of trails for hiking in the Columbia River Gorge!
Easy Hikes or spots:
Hiking Distance: 2.4 miles (or just park and walk to viewpoint) | Elevation: 870 ft
When you type “hiking in the Columbia River Gorge” this is often the first recommendations that pops up. I do agree that is deserves a visit, however I don’t think it’s any less fantastic than the other hikes below. This is a classic Columbia River Gorge hike as it is the tallest waterfall in Oregon, and also, extremely picturesque. Evidently, it’s high tourist attraction allows the Instagram part of this section to be ADA accessible!
Vista House & Latourell Falls
Hiking Distance: 1 mile to upper fall or 3 min walk to lower fall | Elevation: 520 ft up
First stop, Vista House! Vista House is a BEAUTIFUL introduction for those driving the Historic Columbia River Highway. The Vista House offers panoramic expansive views of the Columbia River Gorge. After replenishing your energy at this magnificent stop, make your way down the scenic highway corridor to Latourell Falls.
Next stop, Latourell Falls! Here, you’ll find two waterfalls here. The first is just a short walk from the parking lot on a dirt road with a moderate incline, the second can be found higher on the trail.
Hiking Distance: 2 miles | Elevation: 250 ft
Despite the short hike, this is a must. Epic short hike leading to a beautiful waterfall in a fairyland grotto! Relatively flat dirt path which can be muddy and slightly slipper during rainy days.
Hiking Distance: 2.7+ miles | Elevation: 445+ ft
This is a great family friendly option with endless views of the gorge. First, there are many different route options starting from this trailhead so the hike can be as short or as long as you make it. To make the trail longer or more exciting, you can link this trail up with syncline and coyote wall, and even bring your mountain bike! During the springtime you will see an array of wildflowers, creating so much more color to the beautiful cliffside dry terrain. Additionally, to access this hike from Portland, you will need to pay the $2 toll going over the Hood River Bridge.
Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls
Hiking Distance: 4.8+ miles | Elevation: 1020+ ft
The Punchbowl is great place to get some great waterfall shots and cool off from that summer heat. 2 miles into the trailhead you will get to Punchbowl Falls, 4 miles in you will get to High Bridge Lookout, 6 miles in you will get to Tunnel Falls! The hike is unique as it goes along a cliff and is built into the side of the cliff, however at times, there is a railing to hold on to. After your hike check out the Thunder Island Brewery near the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks. The Brewery sits right on the edge of the Columbia River Gorge.
Rowena Crest Overlook & Tom McCall Preserve
Hiking Distance: as long as you want! | Elevation: as much as you want!
The Rowena Plateau trail marks the beginning of the Tom McCall Nature Preserve. Additionally, as one of the most photographed roads in Oregon, you will a plethora of Instagram posts of the horseshoe shaped highway on top of a high hill. The viewpoint itself is absolutely stunning and offers expansive views of the river to Washington, the Klickitat River Bridge, Mt Hood and Mount Adams. As the climate is a bit drier in this area, the hike consists of swaths of long, golden-yellow grass, however it is NOT dog friendly!
Dry Creek Falls
Hiking Distance: 4.6 miles | Elevation: 860 ft
First off, parking and navigation of the trailhead start can be a bit confusing, so have the map downloaded if possible. You can start either at the very official “bridge of the gods” trailhead or at the slightly closer “dry creek” gravel trailhead up the road. Subsequently, for how beautiful the falls is, the trail is not “exciting” as it is primarily wooded trees and dirt path terrain the entire way.
Hiking Distance: 1.6 miles | Elevation: 580 ft
Undoubtedly one of my favorite after work hikes. Beacon Rock Trail was built between 1915-1918 making it one of the oldest trails in the area. This hike and park has an iconic monolith (singular piece of rock), that was once a volcanic core, currently standing 848-feet high and earns its name as a distinctive hike within the Columbia River Gorge.
This hike consists of over 50 switchbacks on a primarily cement trail with occasional wooden bridges. There is metal stair railing around the pavement for those who are afraid of hikes and makes one feel safer. Coming from Portland you will need to pass the Bridge of Gods and pay a $2 toll there and back. Get your money’s worth with adding in Hamilton Mountain or continuing to explore that side of the Gorge! After your done hiking, finally soak your feet in Dougan Falls and grab a drink at 54-40 brewing!
Hiking Distance: 6.4 miles | Elevation: 1876 ft
Coyote Wall is a classic definition of “hiking in the Gorge.” It is a trail filled with many mountain bikers and hikers, as well as dogs and families! As most of this hike is on a cliff, I would suggest keeping your little ones and dogs nearby! On this hike you can be prepared to find expansive cliffside views, the grassy slopes and oak woodlands, spring wildflowers, and wind!
Finally, after a beautiful hike or mountain biking trail stop by the super cute town of Hood River and visit one of the many breweries, restaurants, wineries and check out the kite surfers!
Hiking Distance: 6.4 miles | Elevation: 2060 ft
This hike can be made easier by only completing the first 2-3 miles of the hike, leading to Hardy and Rodney Falls. This hike is beautiful, challenging, and fun with lots of waterfalls to spot on the way. It also makes for a great trail running path! This does require some slight scrambling at the end and can be a very challenging hike for me to complete with my dog as he is a little hyper and crazy and the end of this hike requires some slight scrambling.
Finally, after a long hike, soak your feet or body in Dougan Falls and grab a drink at 54-40 brewing
Hiking Distance: 7.2 miles | Elevation: 1300 ft
Of note, there is an annual closure on Cape Horn for peregrine falcon nesting from February to July. As opposed to a loop, hikers will need to do an out-and-back, which is just as beautiful.
The full loop, or the out-and-back provides complete views of the Columbia River Gorge. The main parking area is the Skamania County Public Transit Park and Ride. The trail then begins at the clearly marked trail on the west side of Salmon Falls Road. Take the first fork to the right (the upper trail) near the start of the trail to begin. Once you cross a small creek you will begin the steepest climb of the entire loop/out and back. Go for 1.2 miles and you will reach the first overlook. Continue up switchbacks to see views of Hamilton Mountain, Beacon Rock, and Angels Rest. Continue for another 1-2 miles and you will arrive at a wonderful viewpoint for lunch!
Hiking Distance: 6.0 miles | Elevation: 2988 ft
Seeking a challenge? This hike is for you! This hike is considered in Washington, but popular for Portlanders wanting to take their hiking skills to the next level. Dog mountain seems to be that one trail that is never easy, no matter how many times you climb it! Great trainer for cardio and endurance to get to that next level of fitness and goals. You often see people training on this hike with their backpacking bags filled to the brim. You will find a new and old trail with the preference on the new “easier” route! Finally, as you make your descent down and start driving back, make sure to stop by Backwoods Brewing for a well-deserved drink and pizza!
Additionally, as of 2020 you will need to reserve a permit ahead of time during peak wildflower season (Sat/Sun April 23-June 12).
I am so excited for you to spend time hiking in the Columbia River Gorge and I hope you love it as much as I do!
Like what you read? Check my travel blog for more itineraries, PNW destinations, PNW hikes, PNW travel and vacation, road trip ideas and overseas travels!