The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area straddles the border between Oregon and Washington State. Visitors from near and far flock to the area to take in the unique beauty. Free flowing waterfalls, trees dripping with moss in the temperate rain forest, and majestic basalt cliffs standing sentry over the lazy Columbia River are just a few treasures to be found here.
Whether you are an avid hiker or if sightseeing from the passenger seat of the car is more your style, every season in “The Gorge” offers a diversity of scenery and activities to fit everyone’s tastes. Here are some Columbia River pictures that will tempt you to book your trip today.
The Columbia River Gorge is consistently listed as one of the best places in the country to view fall foliage. The list of news organizations and websites that have touted splendor of the area during the autumn season is too long to list here. Instead, go see for yourself and take in Mother Nature’s show with a drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway.
When you have finished leaf peeping, continue east to the Hood River. Orchards cover the valley here and fall is the peak of harvest season for both apples and pears. Add in stunning views of Mount Hood and Mount Adams, and you have yourself a perfect autumn day.
When the Chinook (or East) winds start blowing, sometimes at hurricane force, you know that Jack Frost is making his arrival known. Bringing frigid air from the northeast, the winds quickly turn waterfalls into elaborate ice sculptures. If Jack nips at your nose a little too much, make a stop at the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge for a hot chocolate (or something a little stronger) next to the fireplace to take the chill off.
Jack Frost is not the only visitor to the gorge this time of year. While most of the tourists are gone, bald eagles make their winter home along the banks of the Columbia River. A keen eye can find them stoically perched in trees, fishing for their salmon dinner, like this pair I found at Bonneville Dam.
After what seems like an eternity spent in deep freeze, the winds die down and the icy cliffs thaw. Trilliums sprout from the forest floor, heralding both the start of spring and hiking season. The trails may be a bit muddy, but if you don’t mind getting your feet a little dirty, this is a perfect time of year to hit the trail.
Trailheads are still relatively empty this time of year, with the exception of the first warm and dry weekend of the season. Many times you feel as if you have the entire trail, and forest for that matter, to yourself. The runoff from melting snow at higher elevations has the waterfalls flowing at their peak, and the show is nothing less than spectacular!
There is no way around it, with summer comes the crowds. Parking at popular destinations such as Multnomah Falls, Vista House and the trailhead for Eagle Creek are at a premium. Make sure to pack a little extra patience when you come to visit, or avoid the crowds and get an early start.
If extra patience didn’t make it into your suitcase, then wine tasting should probably be on your agenda. Most vineyards offer tasting rooms, some with dramatic mountain views. The Gorge White House in Hood River is like one-stop shopping for local wineries. Offering a large selection of local wines, the Dutch Colonial Revival house also boasts stunning gardens surrounded by working orchards. The perfect spot for a picnic lunch, and you are going to need something to soak up all that wine.
Winter, spring, summer or fall – the Columbia River Gorge has it all. No matter which season you choose to visit in, when the rain clouds part, you can always count on a spectacular sunset.