Columbia River Gorge: Fun Things to Do in Oregon

Just 30 minutes west of downtown Portland, the Columbia River Gorge is one of the easiest and most beautiful scenic stretches in Oregon. Here, you'll find many of the Gorge's most popular lookout points as well as major towns including Troutdale, Hood River, and The Dalles.

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    Columbia River Gorge View from Chanticleer Point

    Angela M. Brown

    The Historic Columbia River Highway, now a 20-mile stretch of US Highway 30, was one of the first American roads specifically built for scenic auto-touring. Opened to the public in 1915, this unique road is loaded with enchanting stonework railings and bridges, which accent the grand waterfalls and Columbia River views as you drive through lush green forest. Along the way, there are multiple places to stop and enjoy the view along with a picnic or a stroll. If you're feeling energetic, spend time on one or more of the numerous hiking trails that will take you past creeks and waterfalls.

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    Outdoor Activities

    Wind Surfing in the Sparkling Columbia River
    Moelyn Photos / Getty Images

    The Columbia River Gorge is famous for its windsurfing conditions as well as its stunning beauty. Nature lovers will find plenty to appreciate, from lush forests to spring wildflowers to watchable wildlife. All of this can be enjoyed on a hike or canoe. Visitors looking for a thrill can enjoy kite surfing, rock climbing, and mountain biking.

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    Vista House

    Angela M. Brown

    Perched atop one of the most spectacular viewpoints along the Columbia River Gorge, the charming Vista House offers visitors interpretive exhibits, a gift shop, and a snack bar. You can wander the grounds or climb to the roof to take in the scenery in all directions.

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    Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum

    Angela M. Brown

    This fun museum is located at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge in The Dalles. The Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Corps' activity in the region are well-covered topics. The interesting geology of the Gorge, including the impact of the Ice Age Floods, are explained both through exhibits and in film. Native Americans, the Oregon Trail, and the pioneer era, as well as the regional flora and fauna, are among the other things you can learn about during your visit.

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    Columbia River Flowing Through Bonneville Dam Against Sky
    Katie Jordan / EyeEm / Getty Images

    The Bonneville Dam visitor center on the Oregon side of the river houses exhibits along with an observation area to take in the views. Take a guided powerhouse tour, or watch a film at the visitor center theater. Nature trails, river access, and picnicking are also available in the park area.

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    One of the Northwest's many great microbreweries, Full Sail Brewing Co. is located in the windsurfing mecca of Hood River, Oregon. Sign up for a free afternoon tour of the brewery, then enjoy Full Sail's brews and food at the on-site Tasting Room and Pub.

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    Head to the visitor's center at The Dalles Lock and Dam to learn about the dam's construction and operations. Just make sure to leave some time to explore the beautiful Lake Celilo, a reservoir behind The Dalles Dam.

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    Sightseeing, dinner, and brunch cruises are available on this grand and colorful paddle wheeler. Columbia River Gorge cruises are available May through October and board at Marine Park at Cascade Locks. From here, you'll be able to take in the full length of the Columbia River Gorge and such landmarks as Multnomah Falls, Beacon Rock, and Bonneville Dam.