“My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature.”- Claude Monet
Heading out to spend some time in the Columbia River Gorge? Lucky you!!!! Read along for some fun ideas of things to do in Columbia River Gorge.
The Columbia River Gorge is a nature lovers’ paradise. It’s one of my most favorite places to visit. From hiking, water sports, vineyards, and craft breweries, there is something for everyone. Let’s jump right in!
White Water Rafting in Columbia River Gorge
There are lots of options for white water rafting in the Columbia River Gorge. We like Wet Planet Rafters in White Salmon, Washington. Rafting the White Salmon River is exciting and an adrenaline rush, for sure! It includes level III and IV rapids. I have rafted this river twice with Wet Planet. Once with just my husband and once with my husband and our three kids (ages 11 and 12).
When we went with the kids we had one raft for our family with one guide. Each raft typically seats about 5 – 6 people plus a guide. The guides are amazing and really know their stuff. They explain everything to you in detail, including the risks. I have one risk-averse child, one even-keeled child, and one daredevil! They all loved it!
Your guide is in charge but you are required to participate in rowing. Don’t worry- your guide will teach you everything you need to know. The rapids are fun and the scenery in between is just beautiful. Be prepared to talk about this day for years! t’s a memory maker for sure.
Hiking in Columbia River Gorge
The hiking in the Gorge is amazing and plentiful! My advice is to always get out early in the morning, especially if you are hiking on the weekend. When you start early you have a better chance of finding parking, fewer crowds on the trails, and in the warm months, you avoid the heat of the afternoon sun. By early, I mean to get to your destination before 9:00 a.m.
Always bring more water than you think you need. (I’ve learned this the hard way…..another story for another day) I love my CamelBak hydration backpack and my kids use the Water Buffalo ones. Pack up some fruit and protein. I love jerky and trail mix. Gummy bears are also a great sugar hit for the kids (and adults 😉) when you just need a little something to keep you going on that trail! I use the All Trails app to help with navigation to the trails as well as any updates regarding closures or restrictions.
Mount Adams Recreation Area
Sleeping Beauty Trail, Trout Lake, Washington
The Sleeping Beauty Trail is in the Mount Adams Recreation Area. This hike is just about 2 1/2 miles round trip, mostly shady, with a steep incline. I’d rate it is as moderate. My kids were able to handle it. Remember my motto- hiking is just walking- you can go as slow or as fast as you want. We can all do it!!!! It’s a beautiful hike. When you get to the top, slightly winded, you will be rewarded with views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, and Mt St Helens! How cool is that??
White Salmon, Washington/The Dalles, Oregon Area
Klickitat Rail Trail
If you are looking for a flat, graded trail then this is for you. The trail is 31 miles long, but you can hike as long as you want and then turn around and go back. This is a beautiful trail for running! Pick up the trail in Lyle, WA. There is a parking lot available. The trail takes you along the Klickitat River, with areas where you can scramble down to the river and play. Be aware of the private property spots that are marked, and have fun! As you travel along the trail you will find the Yakima Nation Fishery. Stop and look around. You can see people of the Yakima Nation fishing, using handmade nets and fishing platforms. It is so cool to watch.
Coyote Wall Loop Trail, White Salmon, WA
The trail’s small parking lot fills up fast. This trail is shared with mountain bikers so be aware of your surroundings. I went on a weekday and only encountered a few hikers and a few bikers. This trail gives you the most amazing views of the Columbia River and Mt Hood. I can only imagine viewing the sunset from here. This hike is strenuous, almost 7 miles in total and not much shade, but, oh so beautiful! The views are breathtaking.
Weldon Wagon Road Trail White Salmon, WA
Nice, steady incline, and easy enough for the kids. My 11-year-olds handled it just fine. This trail is under 5 miles long and, on a clear day, gives you great views of Mt Hood. This is an old trail that was built to connect the town of Husum down to the river during harvest times. It ends in a nice shady area that then empties onto private property. You just turn around and hike back.
Tom McCall Nature Preserve, The Dalles, OR
There are a few trails at this spot. The Tom McCall Point Trail is just under 5 miles long and gives great views of the Gorge- this time from the Oregon side of the river. This is a moderate trail with a nice steady incline. If you go in the Spring you may catch the wildflowers!! Wear your sunscreen. It can get windy.
Mount Hood National Forest
The Laurence Lake Trail
This trail is a must-do. It’s a moderate trail, just under 8 miles, so you need some time (and some snacks) to do this one. Parking is tricky, but there is a parking lot at the Laurence Lake campground. The trailhead is not easy to find. Look for the dam and then walk across the dam to the mountain in front of you. I love this trail. The switchbacks make the incline very manageable. The views of the lake and Mt. Hood are divine. It’s peaceful and fun.
Mirror Lake Loop Trail
The Mirror Lake Loop Trail is what I call a gem- lots of bang for your buck. This family-friendly moderate trail is just over 4 miles long. I’m sure you can figure out why this trail is called Mirror Lake- a true mirror image reflected in the lake. Spend some time walking around the lake and just soak up this beautiful spot.
Old Salmon River Trail
This trail isn’t far from Mirror Lake so you could do both in one day if you have the time. This is a simple flat trail that is less than 3 miles. It’s a pretty walk through the woods with a creek running by.
Waterfalls in Columbia River Gorge
Hardy Falls and Pools of The Winds, North Bonneville, WA
There is a parking lot for this trail. Arrive early! This is an easy, family-friendly hike that is less than 3 miles. This is another gem- lots of bang for your buck! The falls are so beautiful, but when you hike up to the Pools of The Winds you’ll feel spray on your face and it’s just pure magic! Plus, you can scramble around the rocks at the falls, assuming safety first!
Tamanawas Falls Trails, Mt. Hood Recreation Area
This trail is under 4 miles long. It is beautiful and fun for the whole family! You start with a beautiful river running alongside you. You turn a corner and Kapow!-A huge waterfall is right in front of you! Rock scrabble up close and you will feel the mist on your face. Then for the best experience ever walk behind the waterfall. Stay and just take in this beauty as all this water is just rushing down in front of you. It’s amazing. Definitely one of my top 10 hikes.
Umbrella Falls, Mt Hood National Forest
You’ll hike through meadows and there are little streams of water crisscrossing all around. The falls are so pretty and you can even climb to the top. They aren’t very large- don’t worry.
Breweries in Columbia River Gorge
All of my favorite breweries are kid-friendly.
Everybody’s Brewing, White Salmon, WA
This brewery has a great big patio and plenty of indoor space. This area can get busy so reservations are recommended. The beer options change seasonally. I love Country Boy IPA, Mountain Mama Citra Pale Ale, and the Prickly Pear Sour Ale. So hard to pick a favorite! But I can tell you that the fried pickles are a family favorite! Get those! (And bring some six-packs home for your friends! They will be your friends for life!). And the merch is adorable!
Thunder Island Brewery, Cascade Locks, OR
They have a huge deck with amazing views of Mt. Hood. The Kimchi Reuben is great! Go on a great hike and stop here for a nice cold beer and enjoy the views! Growlers to go!
PFriem Family Brewery, Hood River, OR
This is a fun spot for everyone. Their burgers are great and they offer a beer tasting flight which is super fun! They have a lot of beers to choose from. I love the Hazy IPA, but they have a beer for everyone!
Vineyards in Columbia River Gorge
There are so many vineyards in the area. I’ll highlight a few of my favorites here. Most vineyards are for the 21+ crowd, so if you want to bring your kiddos please be sure to check with the vineyard in advance. Most tastings require reservations so plan ahead!
Cor Cellars, Lyle, WA
Cor Cellars is my favorite Columbia River Gorge vineyard. The staff is so friendly and the patio is the most beautiful, relaxing spot. Their tasting is really nicely done and they give you a wide variety of wines to try. And the wine- well the wine is superb. Trust me when I tell you to buy some to bring home. Maybe a case…..
Cathedral Ridge Winery, Hood River
Cathedral Ridge is home to Big, Bold, Oregon wines. If you love red wine, be sure to stop here. Beautiful wines and lots and lots to choose from. Cathedral Ridge has a big library of wines and allows you to customize your tasting.
Cascade Cliffs Winery has two tasting rooms in the Gorge- one in Hood River, OR, and one in Wisharam, WA. They have two more in the Seattle area. The Wisharam location has stunning vineyard views. It is worth a stop, has super friendly staff, and award-winning wines.
Syncline Winery, Lyle, WA
Their tasting is nicely done and they have beautiful grounds. The rosé is my favorite!
The Best Restaurants in Columbia River Gorge
The Station Cafe, Mount Adams Recreation Area
The Station Cafe is a cafe attached to a gas station in Trout Lake, WA. You order from a waitress and sit outside on picnic tables. They serve beer! And you can not miss if you order anything huckleberry- pie, milkshake, ice cream- just do it. You will not be sorry.
Solstice Wood Fire Cafe & Bar, Hood River, OR
This place has great food and cocktails. Wood-Fired pizza is their specialty. The Country Girl Cherry Pizza is a winner! They have some outdoor seating and it is kid-friendly. While waiting for your table you can walk around Waterfront Park (right across the street) and watch the wind surfers. If you don’t want to wait, I do recommend reservations as Hood River can get really busy!
Henni’s Kitchen, White Salmon
Henni’s Kitchen is eclectic and fun. They are currently closed while constructing a beautiful outdoor patio area, so check their website for availability.
Other Fun Things To Do in Columbia River Gorge:
Bridge of The Gods
Did you read Wild? I loved the book Wild and Cheryl Strayed, the author, talks all about The Bridge of The Gods. It was her final spot, her finish line. Well, did you know that you too can walk over The Bridge of The Gods? Well, you can. You walk from Oregon into Washington. I did it! So did two of my kids. (My husband and daughter drove over and picked us up on the other side) It was scary and fun and exhilarating! Do it!
Schreiner Farms, Lyle, WA
Okay- if you have a need to view some exotic animals this is the place. Schreiner Farms is an exotic animal farm. They allow people to drive through their farm, but you are not allowed out of your car. We have seen camels, llamas, zebras, deer, and buffalo. This is a fun and not time-consuming activity. If you are in the area, and this sounds appealing to you, take a few minutes to drive through. You never know what you’ll see! And I always love a random stop. They make the best stories.
Shop in Hood River
You’ll find coffee and ice cream and stationery shops; as well as clothing stores and a book store. There are cafes and bars. Boda’s Kitchen has amazing white posole. And don’t miss the public art all around the town.
Watch Kite Surfers
If you are lucky enough to be staying at a place with views of the Columbia River, maybe you can watch the kite surfers from your window. If you’d like to get a little closer drive to the Klickitat Trail parking lot in Lyle. Cross the road and scramble down to the beach. This spot has lots of kite surfers and is a great place to catch them in action.
Visit an Orchard
There are plenty of orchards in the Mt Hood area. If you are there during the fall you will find some spots where we can pick your own apples and pears. Mt View Orchards has so many different apples and pears. The grounds are beautiful- Mt Hood in all its glory is there for you! It’s a great way to spend some time.
Watch the sunset- every chance you get! Whether it’s through a window, while sitting on a deck, or relaxing on the bank of the river, the sunsets never disappoint. Soak it in. Appreciate it. And hopefully, some of that beauty sinks into your soul and you take it home with you.
Chasing Waterfalls? Me too…..Check these out!
Enjoy your time in Columbia River Gorge. If you have any questions, please leave them below. Same with comments!