Trip Ideas: to the Gorge

Yes, the Gorge is amazing in the spring but there’s something about the drama of the fall and winter that makes for stunning hikes and cozy small towns. Each stop along the way has a different experience in this real-life choose-your-own adventure. 

Gateway Transit Center in Portland

Via the Columbia Gorge Express

Gateway is easy to reach by train or bus (or car) from almost anywhere in the metro area. This is where the Columbia Gorge Express leaves Portland for the Gorge four times each day in the winter (8x in the summer). Only30  minutes to Multnomah Falls or an hour to Hood River.

Troutdale (by request)

Main Street Strolling

This first stop (if you call ahead) is a lesson in "more than meets the eye." These three trip ideas are all a short walk away from the bus stop on Frontage Road:

Downtown Main Street: 10 mins / .5 miles
The street starts with a grand arch and is lined with unique shops and great food (and coffee!). Also, look for the outlet mall stores halfway there to the left.

Sandy River Trail: 40 mins / 2 miles
This trailhead is tucked under the freeway, but soon feels like it takes you a million miles away as it meanders along the banks of the Sandy.

Confluence Trail: 1.5 hours / 4.6 miles
Did you know that you can walk across the bridge and over into the Sandy River Delta park of trails and wildlife? This trip ends at a Native American art piece that sits on the edge of the Columbia River.

Multnomah Falls

World-Class Beauty

This waterfall is known worldwide and has adorned the front of many postcards. But did you know there are several hiking trails that start from here as well? There are five hikes from this stop:

Lower Falls: 15 mins / .4 miles
The view is accessible and amazing from the base, and this short walk takes you to the famous bridge. 

Top of the Falls: 1 hour + 20 mins / 2.4 miles
If you're not satisfied with the bridge, this hike takes you to the tippy top.

Three More Falls: 2 hours / 3 miles
Keep going to view more waterfalls beyond the main event.

Wahkeena Trail Loop: 2.5 hours / 4.5 miles
This trail takes you west through deep forests and epic views.

Horsetail Falls: 2.5 hours / 6.3 miles
Or you can head east to yet another showy waterfall that is oh so worth the time.

Cascade Locks

Bridge of the Gods & Great Beer

Just 45 minutes from Portland you'll find this little town along of the Pacific Crest Trail, chock full of great brewpubs to visit after one of these three 'anyday' hikes:

Thunder Island/ Stroll: 30 mins / 1 - 1.5 miles
This lovely walk is just off the main street along the gorgeous waterfront park.

Historic Columbia Gorge State Hwy Trail to the Gorge Trail Loop:   1 hour / 3 miles
This loop is good for families with a little taste of historic trail + a sample of the PCT.

PCT to Dry Creek Loop: 2 hours / 5 miles
A great hike through lush forest stands, that includes yet another fabulous waterfall.


Weekday Exploration

During the week, you can catch the bus from Cascade Locks to pop across the river to Stevenson. There you'll find more great restaurants, pubs, and shopping. You also add three great walks: 

Waterfront Walk Loop: 30 mins /1.5 miles
A lovely walk along the waterfront and then back down main street.

Mill Pond Trail: 40 mins / 2 miles 
This trail meanders through the Skamania Fair Grounds and along the shores of Rock Cove. Take more time to stop and explore the Interpretive Center. 

Skamania Lodge Trails: 1 hour + 40 mins / 5 miles
Walk a bit further to explore the trails on the grounds of the majestic Skamania Lodge.

Hood River

Waterfront, Main Street, & the Heights

Three small tasting glass of cider sits in the foreground in front of a warming fire. A family of four sits in the background at a second warming fire.

Hood River is known for its wind, watersports, shopping, and restaurants. Just wandering around town is a great trip, but here are four additional walks to take on weekends:

Waterfront Trail: 40 mins / 2 miles (to end of trail & back in either direction)
Fall & winter mean lovely calm walks without the wind. Sometimes the river is like a perfect mirror.   

Twin Tunnels: 1.5 hours / 4 miles to trailhead & back; or 3.5 hours /10 miles to look out and back
This old highway was turned into a tree-lined walking and biking trail with views of the river.

Indian Creek Trail: 1.5 hours /3.5 miles to the end & back (or grab the Hood River bus back down the hill)
Tucked behind neighborhoods, this trail feels like it's a million miles away. Until you reach the coffee. 

Hood River Pipeline Trail: 2.5 hours / 5.2 miles
Many locals have yet to discover this gem. 

White Salmon / Bingen

Weekday Trips

These two Washington towns on the Northshore each have their own hidden hikes and after-hike treats:

Bingen Marina Park Loop: 50 mins / 2.5 miles
From downtown Bingen, this walk takes you past Bingen Lake to Sailboard Park and then over to Marina Park and back. 

White Salmon Jewett Creek Park Trail: 40 mins / 2.1 miles
Leaving from the Pioneer Center stop; this trail is another hidden forest just outside the neighborhoods of White Salmon. A nice winter walk as well.  

The Dalles

Weekday Jaunts

The Dalles is a great town to walk around, with interesting historic murals, restaurants, pubs, museums, and art gallery. The waterfront trail is worth the trip alone:

Waterfront Trail to Marina: 50 mins / 2.4 miles
Head from the downtown stop and go along the river to the Marina and back. Or just double the time to go all the way to the end of the trail. You may see an eagle in the winter if you're lucky. 

Waterfront Trail West: 1 hour / 3 miles round trip
This walk takes you from downtown and west along the river to the Barge Way pub. Add on time to stop for lunch.