Columbia River Gorge Part II – Biking, Breweries & Waterfalls!

Paul poses at a lookout on the bike trail
Last days of sun…Paul poses on the bike trail

Well all that bragging about the weather was bound to catch up with me sometime. This is the Pacific Northwest after all, and it’s very green for a very good reason. Rain is the norm here and the sun is but a precious gift, to be worshipped and adored. Just to make that point clear, for the past 3 days it’s been pouring non-stop with temps at a chilly 50. It’s Mother Nature’s way of letting me know I shouldn’t get too full of myself…tsk, tsk…

But this intrepid nomad is not daunted by such petty items. When rain falls, the brewery calls, and when trails are wet, the waterfalls are perfect. All this is simply a diversion, with the added bonus that we get a free leak-test for the RV. See, there’s a reason, place and time for everything!

Did I say it was sunny out here at the Gorge? A grey view at Crown Point
Did I say it was sunny out here at the Gorge? A grey view at Crown Point

So we’ve embraced the rain, braved the cold and enjoyed what comes our way, which brings us quite neatly to the second part of our Gorge adventures. Here we go….

1/ Biking The Gorge

And yours truly takes on the "windswept" look
Yours truly takes on the “windswept” look
Enjoying the view
Enjoying the view

I got wind of the bike-trails in the gorge from blog-reader Paul and a few googles later I discovered the Columbia River Gorge Bike Map showing the entire Gorge can be biked from Portland to The Dalles. Awesome!! Even better certain portions of the trail (Mosier to Hood River, and Cascade Locks to Bonneville Dam specifically) are pedestrian/bike only and tower above it all with fabulous views all-around. Now, that’s my kinda bike ride!

Before the weather turned ugly hubby and I dragged out the wheels and motored to the parking lot** to do the trail…wind and all. And believe me, it was windy! Whooo Weeee! We pedaled like mad hamsters at around 1 mile/hour all the way to Hood River and then turned around and let the wind sail us back in 1/10 of the time. But the views were delicious and the thigh burn totally worth it.

** To get to the Mosier->Hood River pedestrian/bike trail take exit 69 at Mosier. Turn left at Rock Creek Road, pass under the highway and then drive ~1/4 mile up the hill to the parking lot.

2/ Hood River Breweries

Oh YES we did.....!
Oh YES we did…..!
Grey view from our pub lunch
Grey, but lovely view from our pub lunch

We never drink beer, ever. The reason is not that we don’t like the stuff, but rather that we’re gluten-intolerant and it produces…how shall I say it politely…gaseous creations. So, we’ve given it up and vowed never to touch the stuff again. Understood?

Now it just so happens that Hood River is some kind of beer brewing mecca. In this moderately-sized town of ~7,000 inhabitants there are no less than 4 local breweries, and at least 7 pubs. The lure of beer is stong, and you know it’s the good stuff too. Hmph! So when the rain assaulted us 3 days ago and grey skies loomed dark and heavy…well…we cracked under the pressure.

I blame my years in England (or the cats), but either way the net result was we found ourselves in the lovely Full Sail Brewery overlooking a gloriously grey view of the Columbia River with a full “taster” selection of beer in front of us. Oh MY!! It was tremendously good, and the food matched the quality too. Totally worth the results…even if it did involve a wee bit of gas. And I swear it will never happen again.

3/ Waterfalls, Waterfalls, Waterfalls

Gorgeous Punchbowl Falls
Gorgeous Punchbowl Falls
Polly and Paul pose by the hike to Punchbowl Falls
Polly and Paul pose by the hike to Punchbowl Falls
Map showing the Falls along Hwy 30
Map showing the Falls along Hwy 30

You didn’t think I’d write a blog about the Gorge and not talk about waterfalls, did you? For many folks the waterfalls are THE reason for coming to the Gorge. The deeply forested, moist, cliff-sculpted Western stretch of the gorge is the perfect spot for cascading water and it is simply bursting with waterfalls -> more than 75 on the Oregon side alone!! From the massive 620-foot Multnomah falls  (the 2nd highest year-round fall in the US) to the hexagonal basalt rocks at Latourell Falls to the intimate Bridal Veil Falls, you can see just about every shape, size and type you’d like.

Most of them are accessible right off Historic Hwy 30, but there are a bunch more hidden in fabulous hikes that will take you well away from the crowds. There are so many options that I was kind of at a loss where to go, but we decided on 2 hikes -> the ~4 mile round-trip hike to Punchbowl Falls and a 3 mile-loop from Horsetail Falls, taking us UNDER Ponytail Falls (the most awesome thing) and across a bridge to Onenta Falls. BOTH hikes were amazing in their own way and since we did them mid-week (in the drizzle) almost no-one was there. The first took us on dizzying cliff-edges with stunning views, while the second had us walking under an old lava flow with the water thundering beside us. And of course everything is pooch-friendly!

If you come to the gorge there is no way you can miss this. Take a day, bring the camera (it’s tough taking good shots, but worth it anyway), drag along pooch and do the entire Hwy 30 from Dodson to Portland. And of course, stop along the way at Crown Point for a panoramic view and a bit of history.

And so ends our short, but amazing time on the Gorge. Our 10 days here gave us but a peek into everything this place has to offer. We barely scratched the surface…just a few outings and all of them on the Oregon side. We didn’t go windsurfing (a major activity in the gorge), didn’t see the Bonneville Hatchery and didn’t even touch the WA side! All I can say is this place has exceeded our expectations and we’ll certainly be back.

More resources:

  • Columbia River Bike Map – CLICKY
  • Columbia River Hiking Guide – CLICKY
  • Hood River Fruit Loop Map – CLICKY
  • Columbia River Hwy 30 Waterfall Map – CLICKY
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. jil mohr says

    Great post…for us this too is a great and wonderful place we like coming back to…I also want to explore the Washington side…safe travels you two..

  2. Ralph says

    As usual.. great photos!!! It makes me feel kinda lucky to be living in this part of the U.S.
    I don’t know if you ever been to “Edgefield” in Troutdale. If not…very highly recommended!! They brew their own beer, make their own wine and hard liquor. Sits on several acres and you could easily spend the better part of the day there. Really a neat place!!

    • libertatemamo says

      Yup. We went there last year, and reviewed it too. Love the park! Great stop on the way to the coast.
      Nina

  3. says

    Great pictures of the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. It is definitely one of the prettiest places in Oregon, one that we enjoy very much. Our son lives in Gresham, near the western edge of the Gorge and he says he will never live anywhere else. This place grabs you and doesn’t let go.

    • libertatemamo says

      Yup, it’s definitely a place that grabs and keeps you! We will most certainly be coming back here. Wonderful spot!
      Nina

  4. says

    I bet hiking and biking along the river was pretty spectacular. My original plan was to come back by way of the Gorge, but I ran out of steam and took the short cut through Bend instead. The touch of snow was classy. 😀

  5. keepinontruckin says

    Sounds like you got a pretty good sampling of The Gorge for your first time through. Sorry it was a bit soggy, but like you said, that’s what keeps it so emerald green. Wednesday’s rainfall was a record for the date in Portland, by the way.
    I would second Ralph’s recommendation to visit Edgefield. It’s a hotel that was formerly the local “poor farm”. I’m not so interested in their libations, but the interior is wall to wall, and door to door, art. Also, don’t forget the previously recommended salmon chowder at The Troutdale General Store if you’re in the neighborhood.
    Paul

    • libertatemamo says

      Yeah, we didn’t get the chance to explore much around the Troutdale end. Next time we’ll try to spend more time on the western end and see some of the sight there…plus go to WA side.
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      We’re definitely motivated to come back and check out the WA side. I think it deserves it’s very own visit.
      Nina

  6. says

    There is so much to do in that area. We loved it.

    I don’t drink beer either, but we went to the several breweries. We would order one sampler. I would take a tiny taste and Paul drank the rest. He likes taking me to breweries. He gets to do all the drinking, and I get to do the driving.

  7. says

    We spent 3 months volunteering with the COE at Bonneville Dam (a great place to volunteer, by the way). On our days off we hiked or biked and never ran out of new places to explore. The Ponytail Falls trail was one of our favorites, so you chose well. One negative you did not mention, besides the rain, is that between the interstate and the railroad tracks, you can always hear traffic or trains.

    • libertatemamo says

      Very true about the noise. We were prepared for it coming in so it didn’t bother us too much, but it’s true you’ll get some of it everywhere. Our site at Memaloose had only very small amount of road noise, but did get the train-tracks coming through.
      Nina

  8. says

    Gorgeous area there around the Columbia River and what? The Full Sail Brewery is right there, too?! Oh my, just tried their Amber and YUM!! Hope the sun returns soon so you can bike and hike. Belly rubs to Polly, nose taps from Molly!
    Kathy

    • libertatemamo says

      YUP! The brewery is right in town. Can’t wait to see you both (plus lovely Molly) in Bandon when we get there in July!
      Nina

  9. says

    Wonderful shot of Crown Point!! Wish we’d thought of that one. Although we have seen so many of the waterfalls along Highway 30, we haven’t taken the hikes. Thank you for sharing those hikes with us.

    • libertatemamo says

      The waterfalls are so lovely…and so easily accessible. Love the fact that anyone can see them. Some nice hikes further in too so something for everyone.
      Nina

  10. says

    Sorry that it was rainy for your visit. That is such a beautiful area. We were there in late August but were staying in Salem and only did a day trip with one very long loop hike. Definitely a must for the future with a much longer stay to hit all those hiking and biking trails.

    Your waterfall pictures are wonderful. I bet the water was really pounding with all that rain (one advantage).

    Travel safely to the coast.

    • libertatemamo says

      We were kind of prepared for the rain, so the sunshine was actually a bonus (the days we got it!). And YES, the waterfalls were going crazy. SO much water everywhere. It was very impressive.
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      The waterfalls were definitely one of the big “highlights” of the Gorge. Amazing stuff! And yes, we’ll be back.
      Nina

  11. says

    As you head down stream…toward Portland area (if that be where ye headed) don’t miss McMenamins pubs, wineries and breweries… there are several of them. Like a different experience… check them out at mc menamins dot com… you know, in case it’s raining :)).
    Box Canyon Mark

    • libertatemamo says

      Ahhh…I’ll have to add that one for next time. Always good to have a “back-pocket” of pubs & wineries for those rainy days.
      Nina

  12. says

    I so feel your pain on the weather…we have been going crazy trying to avoid bad weather ourselves the past several days. At least the rain there didn’t include severe winds and hail! My brother and his fiancee have been to Full Sail and love it – I’m not a big beer drinker either, but it is hard to avoid in Oregon!

    • libertatemamo says

      Oh nooo…hail and winds!! That’s a bad combo! Hope it’s calmed down for you. The Full Sail beer was wonderful and I FINALLY get the logo (windsurfing in the gorge!! Who knew?)
      Nina

  13. Upriverdavid says

    If you drive the Wa. side and need a place for the night check out the C.O.E.
    park at Plymouth. The sites fit anyone, all pull throughs, FHU’s…I know you folks aren’t as aged as me, It’s only $9.00 with the oldsters pass. There are trees in the way of satellites but the trains don’t seem as loud as the parks on the Oregon side.
    David

    • libertatemamo says

      Nice tip, thanks!! We’ll definitely be coming back at some point to check out the WA side.
      Nina

  14. Sue says

    I agree with the rec.of the COE park at Plymouth. Great place and pretty quiet. Oh, unless the inhabitants of a certain “beast” drink beer again…tee hee…

    Loving it here on the Oregon coast again. Sorry we won’t cross paths, it would be lovely to see you all again.
    Sue

    • libertatemamo says

      Looks like a double recommendation for that one! Excellent! It gives us a base to look at for the WA side next time we come back.
      Nina

  15. says

    It was so great to see some of the places we have visited in the past. I am glad to see that you two at times crack under the pressure. When we picked up our RV in Elkhart we ended up at a brewery that had the most fabulous craft beer and if we were ever in the area again, we would succumb again I’m afraid. Your photo gallery is simply fabulous Nina!

    • libertatemamo says

      Ah…ye of such little willpower :) I know exactly what you mean. The beer force was strong in Hood River…too strong.
      Nina

  16. says

    Beautiful post and pics, inspiring! I hope to travel full time someday. Reading your blog helps me focus on that goal. In the meantime, I’ll get out there as often as I can! Thanks for such a great post!

  17. says

    After retiring in August of 2006 we headed out to Oregon in our Airstream with excited anticipation of trading it in for a motorhome. Leaving the Eugene, OR area we travelled back to Colorado with our 40 foot new to us RV. Howard had never driven a motorhome before and I was following in our Yukon. Well guess which way we choose to go – through the Columbia River Gorge!!! We will never forget that drive, white knuckles and all. We had Motorola Radios and I kept telling Howard “Move Over”. He was probably ready to throw me in the River.

    Hopefully, we will head back that way and experience this beautiful area as you guys are doing.

    We both love the micro brews and the darker the brew the better I like it. Oregon has some great micro brews!

    Wonderful photos, great times! You guys are experiencing life to the fullest!! Continue to have fun!!

    • libertatemamo says

      Cool story! Sometimes those first-time RV stories are the best, especially when you first drive a big rig :)
      I’m amazed how many good breweries and wineries there are in this area. Pretty cool stuff.
      Nina

  18. Pnwdutchgrl says

    just wanted to write a thank you note. Even though I live in Portland I have never been on the trails and hikes. They don’t go very well with wheelchairs. You have a great way with words Nina, you describe it as if I were there. And the photos are brilliant. I have the feeling I’ve been to places I never been before. My heart yeanrs to see them for myself though and experiences that fresh morning air and stunning view.
    Wrt to the rain, we call it liquid sunshine. :-) makes you feel a lot better. :-) you picked a great time to visit the area Rose Festival started yesterday I’m sure the parade will be gorgeous. Again, the wheelchair. :-)

    It’s my biggest wish and I do campaign for that, that trails get a sign if they are accessible for wheelchairs. I have an off the road chair so I can get on some paths but there are times a tree has fallen over a path or it gets so muddy and small that I gave to turn around and let hubby proceed with the dogs on his own while I wait in the parking lot.
    Stub Steward Park is an improvement, they do these check up for the mountain bike trails, to see if trees have fallen etc. why not for accesible trails? Nothing makes you more aware how helpless and disabled you really are while you’re struggling to turnaround in a muddy section and others just walk around you. I always have my iPad with me so I can read and wait till the rest of my pack returns. :-)
    Off my soap box! :-)

    Nina – do not forget to visit Voodoo donuts. I’m sure they have some gluten free ones. :-) Lots of places in Portland where you can eat with you pooch as well. If you need some name let me know!

    • libertatemamo says

      Oh goodness. I can only imagine the frustration and difficulty of finding accessible trails. Out of the hikes that I’ve done so far in Portland I think Kelly Point was the only one that had wide and flat enough trails for a wheelchair. The rest were not even close. Like you said, a simple sign and a few accessible trails cleared of debris would be an enormous (and frankly easy) improvement.

      I’ve followed a fellow wheelchair RV blogger for many years. She doesn’t write long blogs, but she travels extensively (very inspiring) and makes detailed notes of accessibility. She’s actually blogging about Oregon at the moment. In case you haven’t seen it, here is her blog:
      http://rollinginarv-wheelchairtraveling.blogspot.com

      I’m very humbled I can bring you along for some of my adventures, even if just electronically. Maybe we’ll get the chance to connect in person at some point.

      Nina

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