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Category: Oregon

Columbia River Gorge: Nine Places to Explore on Your Drive

The Columbia River Gorge is a fantastic area to explore in Oregon with a countless amount of adventures. Everything from waterfalls to dams to breweries can be experienced along this…

The Columbia River Gorge is a fantastic area to explore in Oregon with a countless amount of adventures. Everything from waterfalls to dams to breweries can be experienced along this stretch of road. Here are my nine favorite stops along the Columbia River Gorge, let me know what yours are in the comments.

Vista House

This building is over 100 years old, and it is a fantastic first stop on your way into the gorge. The views are unprecedented, and you can see why they chose this location to build the famous house. You can get a great view of it from many viewpoints around the area, or you can walk up to the second story deck and look down on the gorge. Read more about it here

Multnomah Falls

I am sure you have probably heard of the famous Multnomah Falls before, and it is worth the acclaim it receives. This two-tier waterfall is incredibly impressive in person and the old bridge that was built to give you a closer view adds to the majesty.  Be sure to go on a weekday if you can because it can be packed on the weekends.

Horsetail Falls

Located only little ways up from Multnomah, Horsetail Falls is another trendy waterfall because you don’t have to do any hiking to see it. The waterfall is about 50 feet from the parking lot, but it is still impressive and worth a quick visit.

Elowah Falls / Upper Mccord

Elowah Falls is the second tallest waterfall in the Columbia Gorge area, so it is a great stop along the drive. The waterfall is accessed by a 1 mile each way hike, which stops many people from visiting it. I have been at the waterfall by myself before, and you can’t do that at many of the other popular spots. You can extend this hike by another mile and go up to the Upper Mccloud Falls as well, which are not that tall but are still impressive.

Wahclella Falls

This waterfall is one of my personal favorites. It is accessed by a 2-mile hike as well, but the waterfall has a lot of unique viewpoints to look down on it from. It has been getting a lot more popular recently from Instagram, but on the weekdays you can still have some solitude on the hike.

Bonneville Dam

While you may not think that a dam sounds like a fun stop, this historic dam is well worth it. Seeing the powerhouse and the massive spillway is not something you see often and add to that the visitors center which has underwater windows for looking at the fish and the area becomes a unique and worthwhile stop. Hopefully, you will see the creepy lamprey fish when you are there as well, but be warned, they may give you nightmares.

Bridge of the Gods

In the Cascade Locks area of the gorge, the Bridge of the Gods is an impressive man-made attraction. You can drive across it into Washington for $2 or just park below it and look up at the imposing old bridge.

Hood River Breweries

When you get to Hood River, be sure to stop by one of its three breweries to try some craft beer. The biggest is Full Sail, but I like Double Mountain Brewery since they have good beer and great pizza. If beer is not your thing, then check out one of the many coffee shops. My favorite is Stoked.

Hood River Bridge

This is another impressive bridge on the drive. It is at least four times as long as Bridge of the Gods, and you can drive it over to Washington as well. There are a few trails down by the water that let you see the bridge from below while stretching your legs.

Rowena Crest

For my last recommendation on this drive, be sure to head over and see the famous curved road at Rowena Crest. This is another spot that has become popular because of Instagram but is still fun to see in person. There is a viewpoint that you can park at and look down on the road. I was there for a while and watched deer cross the street as well which was pretty cool. There are hikes you can take in the park, and it is a popular biking spot, but most people just look at the view.

So there you have it, ten recommendations for exploring in the Columbia River Gorge. What did I leave off this list? Let me know in the comments.

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Elowah Falls: Second Tallest Waterfall in Columbia River Gorge

As the second largest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge area, Elowah Falls 290 foot drop is an impressive sight to behold. Since this waterfall is accessed by a 2-mile round…

As the second largest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge area, Elowah Falls 290 foot drop is an impressive sight to behold. Since this waterfall is accessed by a 2-mile round trip hike, it is not as popular as some other ones in the gorge. That is a win for all who make the trek though as this waterfall is incredible, here is all the information.

Details

  • 1.75 miles round trip
  • 400 feet of elevation
  • Can also do Upper Mccloud Falls when there
  • Located in John B. Yeon State Park
  • Trailhead location: 62100 NE Frontage Rd, Cascade Locks, OR 97014

Getting There

Heading east on Highway 84, you will take Exit 35 and proceed onto Frontage Road. This road parallels the freeway, and in about 4 miles you will see the small parking area for the trailhead, right before getting back on the highway. There is a small parking lot, but if it is full, there is street parking as well.

The Trail

After parking, make your way to the trailhead and begin the uphill journey.

The trail is shaded and beautiful with lots of greens and moss covered trees. As a Southern California hiker, this is always impressive.

It heads uphill on a series of switchbacks as you gain elevation quickly. Eventually, you will reach a split in the trail, with one direction heading to Elowah Falls and the other heading to McCord Creek Falls. I recommend doing both, and you can read about McCord Creek Falls here.

From the split, you will start heading downhill, which is where you get the additional uphill on the way back. The trail can be muddy and slippery if you go when it is raining but just take your time as you go through the downhill portion.

When the trail flattens out, you will be about 40 feet above the creek, and you will start to see the waterfall poking through in the distance. It gets more pronounced and amazing as you get closer to it.

When you reach the base of the falls, you will be in the middle of a large canyon with a large rock wall and the cascading waterfall coming down over the rocks.

It reminded me a little of how Mooney Falls fell in Havasupai; it’s just an impressive waterfall. Here is connects with another trail that you can also use to reach it, but I haven’t gone that way myself.

After taking it all in, proceed back the way you came. If you are up for it, continue to Upper McCord Creek Falls, but be ready for more uphill as this waterfall is above and behind Elowah. Read about it here.

Elowah Falls is a great hike in the Portland area and one that all nature lovers should do. Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you thought.

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Upper McCord Creek Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

Upper McCord Creek Falls sits above the beautiful Elowah Falls and is accessed by a nice, but very much uphill, trail to a beautiful set of two parallel falls. What sets…

Upper McCord Creek Falls sits above the beautiful Elowah Falls and is accessed by a nice, but very much uphill, trail to a beautiful set of two parallel falls. What sets this waterfall apart is the fact that it has two separate cascades with a moss covered rock section in the middle. Also, since it is hard to get down to the falls, this is an awesome one to photograph without many people in it, which is rare in the Columbia River Gorge. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Free
  • 2 miles or 3 miles with Elowah Falls
  • 700 feet of elevation
  • Trailhead location: 62100 NE Frontage Rd, Cascade Locks, OR 97014

Getting There

Heading east on Highway 84, you will take Exit 35 and proceed onto Frontage Road. This road parallels the freeway, and in about 4 miles you will see the small parking area for the trailhead, right before getting back on the highway. There is a small parking lot, but if it is full, there is street parking as well.

The Trail

After parking, you will leave from the same trailhead that goes to Elowah Falls. If you have the time you need to do that one as well, you can read more about it here.

The trail immediately heads up and it will go up pretty much all the way to the waterfall.

The muddy switchbacks sit under a canopy of green trees with moss covered branches. The trail is beautiful, and after about a half mile it will reach a split where the trail to Elowah Falls breaks off. From here you will head right and continue up the set of switchbacks.

Eventually, the trail crosses a series of old pipes, and you will start to break out from the tree level and get some views of the gorge behind you.

Heading on will take you to the trail carved out of a large rock wall. This part can be a little sketchy if you are afraid of heights, but it is impressive to photograph.

As you hug the rock wall, be sure to look down into the canyon below you where you can see Elowah Falls from above.

This is an impressive way to see the second largest waterfall in the gorge so don’t miss it.

After you leave the rock wall, you will be back in the forest and will be about 2 minutes from the waterfall.

The trail goes around the right side of the falls and gives you many different angles looking down on it.

The hillside is overgrown, so there isn’t any real way down to the base, which is OK since the views of the falls from here are breathtaking. I walked all around it but didn’t continue along the trail as I was not sure where else it went.

After hanging out for a while, I started the downhill hike back to the trailhead. Be sure to check out Elowah Falls if you have a chance when doing this hike as it is an impressive waterfall to see from the base. Let me know what you think of this hike in the comments.

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Columbia River Gorge Vista House

With over 100 years of history, the Columbia River Gorge Vista House is still welcoming travelers to its breathtaking views daily. This staple of the Columbia River Gorge area is…

With over 100 years of history, the Columbia River Gorge Vista House is still welcoming travelers to its breathtaking views daily. This staple of the Columbia River Gorge area is situated on a tall hill overlooking the highway and the river below. It is somewhere that you must visit on any trip along Highway 84 and here is all the information.

Details

  • Free
  • Parking can be tough on the weekends, but there is overflow
  • Road up to it is windy

Getting There

Driving east on Highway 84, you will get off on Corbett Hill Road and take this south, up into the hills. From here you will connect with Historic Columbia River Highway and will head east. This road will take you past the turn for the viewpoint below and eventually to the Vista House itself.

Alternate Viewpoint – Portland Women’s Forum

On the way up, make sure you pull over at the Portland Women’s Forum viewpoint. This area is across the canyon from the Vista House and it gives you an appreciation for the amazing spot the building sits on. Once you take in the views here, proceed onward for the 5 minute drive to the vista house.

The Vista House

After securing parking, proceed into the circular building where there are three floors.

The upper floor is the most popular as it has the outside deck with 180 degree views of the river below.

After checking this out, head back down to the second floor where you can see some information on the ongoing management of this building and talk to the docents.

On the lower level there is a small cafe and a gift shop if you want to grab some souvineers.

They also have a hallway of old photos that I found especially interesting as it shows many views of the building over its century of history.

After taking it all in you can continue your drive along the Columbia River Gorge. Check out some of my favorite spots here and let me know what you think in the comments.

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Highway 101 Washington Coast Road Trip Itinerary Day 4: Forks to Seattle

This is the last day on Highway 101, and it is mostly along the Olympic Peninsula before heading inland to Seattle. There are so many fantastic things you could do…

This is the last day on Highway 101, and it is mostly along the Olympic Peninsula before heading inland to Seattle. There are so many fantastic things you could do out on this portion of the drive, but you need multiple days to fit them all in. If you are trying to reach the Northwesternmost point, then you especially need to plan for a long day as it is about 3 hours out of the way round trip in addition to hiking. There are a lot of fun stops to see though and here are a few of my favorites. Also, note that if you are heading to Seattle, you can opt to take the ferry if you want instead of driving all the way down to Olympia and back up to complete Highway 101.

Details

  • Length: 140 Miles
  • Approximately 4 hours of driving and a ferry

Video

Here is a video with highlights of the entire trip before jumping into Day 4.

 

Rialto Beach

Before leaving Forks make sure to head out to Rialto Beach. If you are blessed to have a sunny day, which doesn’t often happen then get out there early to see the sun coming through the trees, it’s amazing. The beach is long and has lots of driftwood and rocks. You can also grab a coffee in town and head out to the beach to drink it like we did.

Twilight Movie Locations in Forks – Outfitters, City Hall, Swan House, Cullen House & Bella’s Truck

Twilight is the reason why Forks is on the map and depending on what you think of this story will determine how much you want to see the above things. You can get a map of all the spots for the visitors center, and it takes about 30 minutes to see it all.

John’s Beachcombers Museum

My favorite attraction in Forks is John’s Beachcomber’s Museum on the outskirts of town. As a labor of love from one man for over 40 years, this museum is his collection of things he has found washed up on the beach. It’s amazing and includes everything from a motorcycle to stuff that washed ashore from the Japanese Tsunami. Easily worth the $5 entry fee.

Cape Flattery – Northwesternmost Point

If you want to visit this point and see the lighthouse, then this is where you would do it. The drive out to the Cape is about an hour each way, and then there is a hike at the end. I really wanted to do it but wasn’t able to fit it in my day, let me know if you go in the comments.

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent is probably my favorite stop on this day of the drive. The huge mountain lake is stunning in beauty, and you will be driving along it for at least 15 minutes. There are multiple turn outs for hikes and view points, or you can just drive slow and take it all in.

Madison Falls

If you are looking to get out of the car, stretch and experience the national park, then be sure to stop at Madison Falls. This waterfall is .1 miles each way and it is wheelchair accessible. The waterfall itself is about 90 feet, and it is stunning.

New Day Eatery

I recommend stopping for lunch in Port Angles which has a lot of great options. I am a particular fan of New Day Eatery which has home made chips, smoothies, and great sandwiches. You can call in a to-go order or sit down in the decent sized restaurant.

Olympic Game Farm

The Olympic Game Farm is a relatively polarizing spot along this drive because it features a lot of animals in captivity. I for one enjoyed my time here though as it was very unique. You pay to drive into the park then you stay in your car and feed the animals who stick their heads into the car for food. The bears even wave as they are old show bears with each one being over 25 years old. There is a small trout aquarium here and a barn with set pieces from old Disney movies that were filmed with the animals back in the day.

Fat Smitty’s

This is a fun strange place to stop if you are hungry or if you just need a drink. They have a bunch of sculptures and statues outside and if you go inside the entire walls and ceiling are covered in dollar bills. They told me there was over 10,000 of them. It’s a crazy place for a quick stop or a burger.

From here you can continue down to Olympia and complete Highway 101, or you can take the ferry over to Seattle. I recommend the ferry as it is a long way around to go to Seattle the other way and the ferry is a lot of fun.

Ferry to Seattle

I recommend getting on the ferry at Bermington as this will take you right into downtown Seattle which is the most fun place to dock at. The ferry takes about an hour, and you drive your car onto it. Once on, you can walk around and take pictures or have a coffee. If it is clear, then you can even see Mt Rainier in the background which is amazing. As you approach Seattle head to the front of the boat so you can watch the city come into view.

Serious Pie

For dinner in the city, I would recommend heading to Serious Pie which is one of the most popular food places in the city. The pizza here is pricy but it is so good, and it has a lot of fun options like Clams, eggs, and potatoes to put on your pizza.

I would recommend exploring the city of Seattle for a few days as it has a lot to offer, but if you want to head on to the Canada border then I will be writing more about that one a later post.

Thanks for going on this 4 day road trip with me and be sure to let me know what I left off in the comments.

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Highway 101 Washington Coast Road Trip Itinerary Day 3: Astoria to Forks

Day three of the Highway 101 Oregon / Washington coast road trip will take you across the Washington border and up into Olympic National Park. The drive is not along…

Day three of the Highway 101 Oregon / Washington coast road trip will take you across the Washington border and up into Olympic National Park. The drive is not along the coast for very long though so I spent half of the day in and around Astoria exploring lots of the fun spots in the town before heading out. I would recommend you do the same as there are not as many stops today as there were the last two days.

Details

  • Length: 200 miles
  • Approximately 4 hours driving time

Video

Here is a video with highlights of the entire trip before jumping into Day 3.

Blue Scorcher Bakery Cafe

Located in the same building as Fort George Brewery, where we had dinner last night, the Blue Scorcher Bakery Cafe is a large open restaurant with lots of fun breakfast pastries and even an area in the back for children to play. It was a great way to start the day with a relaxed meal.

Fort Clatsop National Park

Since we got into Astoria relatively late, we backtracked a little to Fort Clatsop National Park which is a replica of the Lewis and Clark shelter they built when they reached the end of their journey. It was a fun spot to see and while there is not a lot to do there it is a unique part of history and is worth the stop.

Peter Iredale Shipwreck in Fort Stevens State Park

After leaving Fort Clatsop be sure to head over to the wreck of the Peter Iredale which is out on a beach in Fort Stevens State Park. While there is not a lot left to see it still has a big piece of the front of the ship in the sand. It is very popular, so there will be a lot of other people there but it is unique to see a shipwreck like this.

Astoria Tower

On the way back through Astoria, head to the top of the hill to the Astoria Tower. This pillar overlooks the city below and provides an excellent 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape. You can even climb all the way to the top if you feel so inclined.

Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum in Astoria is one of the cities most popular attractions. It has a full boat inside and a lot of fun exhibits if you’re into history. It is also right across from Bowpicker which is the most popular spot for fish and chips along the Oregon Coast.

Bowpicker Fish and Chips

This small boat in the middle of a parking lot is one of the highest rated fish and chips spots in all of Oregon. It opens most days at 11 AM, and there is usually at least 15 people in line 20 minutes before they open. Expect to wait for at least 45 minutes, but it is a great restaurant with a unique batter that is unlike any other fish and chips I have had.

Astoria Film Museum and Goonies House

If you are a fan of the Goonies, then you need to head over to the Astoria Film Museum which is pretty much entirely dedicated to the famous movie. The museum is in the old Astoria Jail, and it is a lot of fun, even though it is small.

Be sure to ask where the Goonies house is, and even though you can go up to it, they will tell you how to see it from afar.

After leaving Astoria, there is not much to do on this next stretch, but the views are beautiful and different with lakes, bays and fields of grass.

Goose Island Oysters

If you are into oysters, then stop here and grab some to take with you. They take them right out of the water and they are super fresh. You can also get oyster shooters with cocktail sauce here if you want to eat them before you leave, but you can’t get any on the half shell.

Carriage Museum

In Raymond, WA sits the Carriage Museum which is actually a lot more awesome then you would anticipate. They have dozens of carriages all around the museum and they are all meticulously restored. It is a quick stop, but it is worth going to.

Kurt Cobain Park

Aberdeen is the home of one of rocks most famous personalities, Kurt Cobain. While there is not much in the city to do in relation to him, there is a small park in the outskirts of town that was named in his honor.

The park is really small and can be a place for some unique people but there is a large guitar dedicated to him that you can see.

Lake Quinault Lodge

Leaving the city you will soon be in Olympic National Park which is a place you need weeks to fully see. One of the best early stops though is Lake Quinault which has lots of hiking trails and a beautiful old historic lodge you can stay at. Right past the the lodge there is a hiking trail for the Oldest spruce tree? as well.

Ruby Beach

Before reaching the town of Forks there is a series of beaches named Beach 1, 2, etc. The last of these beaches is Ruby Beach though and it is where you need to stop. Walking down to the beach and seeing it is one of those moments you will not forget. The beach is strewn with driftwood and it is stunning in a foggy, gray and somber way. You are going to want to spend some time down here exploring so plan accordingly.

Puffin 101

After reaching the town of Forks, I recommend having dinner at Puffin 101, the best-reviewed spot in the town. I had the fish tacos and I was impressed with the taste for how far out of the way Forks is. They also have hundreds of pennies making up the top the tables, so it is a fun place for a meal.

Grab a room in Forks as I have a lot of recommendations for what to do in the city in the next day’s post and watch out for all the Twilight vampires.

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