Head east from Portland and in only 30 minutes you can be in the spectacular Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area enjoying a few of nearly 100 waterfalls in the region – including 620 foot tall Multnomah Falls, the second tallest perennial waterfall in the US. While taking in the towering basalt cliffs keep an eye out for Osprey and Eagles and learn about Oregon’s diverse ecosystems as the scenery changes from the lush wet forests of douglas fir, cedar and hemlock to dry ponderosa pine and oak forests of the eastern Cascades. If fish fascinate you, you can learn the life cycle of Pacific Northwest Salmon with a quick stop at the Bonneville Dam, home of 70-year-old Herman the Sturgeon and migrating adult salmon that can be seen through windows on the fish ladder.
Within an hour drive from Portland you can find yourself in the picturesque town of Hood River and exploring the vineyards and farms of pastoral Hood River Valley. Hood River’s laid-back, surf town vibe make it one of the most popular places in the Pacific Northwest for both tourists and local adventure enthusiasts. The town sports several breweries, wine tasting, fine dining and a variety of boutiques and outfitters. This part of the Gorge is essentially a year-round recreational paradise, offering excellent mountain biking, hiking, kite boarding, wind surfing and pretty much anything you can imagine doing on the water in the summer. In winter there is great access to Mt. Hood for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Hood River Valley is home to Cascade Alpaca Ranch and Hood River Lavender Farm along with renowned wineries like Marchesi, Cathedral Ridge, Pheasant Valley and Wy’East. As we continue heading east, the wet forests of the coastal Pacific Northwest give way to more arid vegetation. By the time we reach the town of The Dalles, the landscape is true desert. Here we can visit The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, full of Pioneer and Oregon Trail history, as well as exhibits on native peoples of the Columbia River and the treacherous journey of Lewis and Clark through this region in 1805 and 1806. A bit further east gets us to Maryhill Museum where you’ll encounter an impressive collection of art from around the world, including more than 80 works by French sculptor Auguste Rodin and a vast array of artifacts from Pacific Northwest indigenous groups featuring ancient petrogylphs, intricate baskets and beadwork. Whatever your interests, there is sure to be something for the whole family in the Columbia Gorge!