Everything You Need To Know About the Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge may be the best place to find waterfalls in America! The area which is largely nestled between the states of Oregon and Washington is home to one of America’s most photographed waterfalls, Multnomah Falls. What makes this such a great waterfall road trip is that you’ll find small and welcoming towns on both sides of the river. There are also plenty of other things to do, great places to eat, and most importantly, lots of opportunities to get up close with nature.

What you need to know about the Columbia River Gorge

Here’s what you need to know about the Columbia River Gorge:

How much time do you need to visit the Columbia River Gorge?

It depends on what your interests are. But, if you’re looking to find waterfalls you should set aside at least three days. An entire week would give you more than enough time to enjoy multiple hikes and explore many of the small towns up and down the river.

When should I visit the Columbia River Gorge?

Your best bet for an ideal visit is to plan on coming here in May. Try to plan your trip after spring break has passed and before summer vacations begin. If you visit during the summertime, prepare to be surrounded by people on most hiking trails and certainly at places like Multnomah Falls.

Do I have to hike to all of the waterfalls?

If you’re not into hiking but still want to see some incredible waterfalls, you’re in luck. There are several that are literally right off of the road. Parking can be a challenge as many of the adjacent lots are quite small. If you are serious about chasing waterfalls in the gorge, you’ll need to get up early to beat your fellow travelers.

The most popular waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge is Multnomah Falls near Cascade Locks, Oregon. If you’re visiting in the busy summer months you may need to make a reservation. Otherwise, parking is first come, first served, and you simply walk across the road to see it. There’s a great restaurant on site as well if you’re looking for breakfast or lunch.

Where should I stay when visiting the Columbia River Gorge?

You’ll probably want to set up a “home base” to explore the region. In fact, you might consider staying in a couple different areas to save some driving time. There are several small towns on both sides of the river with great options for lodging or even camping. A few of the towns in the region to consider checking out:

Cascade Locks, Oregon: One of the best places to see waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest is Cascade Locks. This is an ideal location for exploring the west side of the gorge. Home of the iconic Bridge of The Gods and near many waterfalls including Multnomah Falls and Dry Creek Falls. Plenty of restaurants and a couple of breweries downtown.

Stevenson, Washington: Cute town across from Cascade Locks on the Washington side with lots of places to eat and small shops. There are lots of waterfalls to hike to in the area. The Skamania Lodge is gorgeous with beautiful views of the mountains and a nice restaurant. Be sure to get up early and watch the sun rise.

sunrise at skamania lodge
Sunrise at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington

Hood River, Oregon: Great spot to explore the east side of the gorge.- Hood River is a hip, small town with great restaurants and shops. The historic Hood River Hotel has spacious rooms and is within walking distance of everything. You’ll be near the bridge that takes you to the Washington side of the gorge.

A Swedish breakfast at the Hood River Hotel in Hood River, Oregon

Vancouver, Washington: Though not really close to the waterfalls, Vancouver is worth checking out on your way into the region. You can tour Fort Vancouver; Officers Row; and the Pearson Air Museum. They have a cool waterfront area with restaurants and bars as well. It’s a nice alternative if you don’t want to spend the night in Portland if you’re traveling through.

The Dalles, Oregon: I only spent a couple of hours here but it’s worth visiting to explore the Mount Hood National Forest. If you time it right, you can see the wildflowers blooming which is an unbelievable sight!

If you’re looking for the best place to find waterfalls in the U.S. you can’t go wrong with a waterfall road trip to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon!

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