Portland is a beautiful city, full of culture, great food, pretty sights, and lovely people. So when visiting, why would you want to leave town? The answer: because the Columbia River Gorge is one of the true natural gems in the entire Pacific Northwest.

As you drive east on I-84, you’ll cross Sandy River. At this point, exit onto the old Columbia Gorge Highway. While the interstate carves a straight path through the Gorge, the old highway twists and turns past some amazing vistas.

You’ll start off following Sandy River along a shaded road with the mountains to your left. You’ll soon leave this peaceful scenery behind as you make your way up the heights toward Vista House, with its stunning 180 degree views.

As you keep driving, the waterfalls will appear. First up is Latourell Falls, a narrow plume visible from a 15 foot walk from the parking lot.

The Gorge drive is well marked, and each sign holds a sight well worth seeing. From small canyons to streams, waterfalls, or views of the river, give yourself time to see it all. Some attractions are right along the road. Others, like Bridal Veil Falls, are a bit of a walk (roughly a half mile in this case).

Angel’s Rest, a bit past Bridal Veil, is the hike with the best views, but it’s a steep 2.3 miles each way. Parking can also be rough, though it’s nothing compared to the crown gem of the Gorge: Multnomah Falls. Multnomah is the second highest yearround waterfall in the US, and it is stunning!

The hike up to the top consists of eleven switchbacks over about 1.3 miles. It is steep, but the view from the top is pretty awesome.

While you can continue all the way through the Gorge to Idaho, I suggest turning around at Cascade Locks. There, the Bridge of the Gods spans the river, and a couple inviting restaurants will allow you to take in the view. My recommendation? Try Bridgeside for a burger and a cup of salmon chowder.

The Columbia Gorge is a can’t-miss sight if you are in Portland, and worth the trip even if you aren’t. Enjoy the drive!

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