Must See Roadside Stops on the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway

So you’re heading to Hood River for the day, the weekend, or maybe you’re lucky enough to spend a whole week in the Columbia River Gorge. There are plenty of hikes, breweries, and activities once you get into the heart of the Gorge, but some of the best surprises are on the way to your destination. 

Vista House

The Vista House of the Columbia River Gorge

Any history buff, architecture lover, sightseer, or traveler on the Historic Columbia River Highway must stop by the stunning Vista House at Crown Point. This octagonal stone building is a memorial to Oregon pioneers and hosts a great museum inside that will delight guests of any age. Almost as impressive as the building itself is the view from the Crown Point. If you are traveling from Portland, this could be the first perfectly unobstructed view of the Gorge. Pull over the car, wander around the museum and soak in the beauty of the area before continuing along with your travels. 

Bridge of the GodsThe Bridge of the Gods spanning across the Columbia River.

Anyone who has read Cheryl Strayed’s novel Wild is very familiar with the stunning Bridge of the Gods that connects Oregon to Washington across the Columbia River. Once you reach the charming town of Cascade Locks, follow the signs to the bridge and either walk across to take perfect pictures of the river, or drive across this feat of architectural design. Walking or biking across the river is free and the toll for a car is only $2. 

Waterfalls, Waterfalls, Waterfalls!

Must See Roadside Stops on the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway 1

You may have heard of the impressive waterfalls found all over the Gorge. From hundred-foot cascading falls to double-falls, to smaller serene waterfalls with crystal clear pools below, it is no wonder why the area is known as the Cascades.

Along the Columbia River Scenic Byway, there are many waterfalls to see, some hidden up in the lush valleys while others are steps away from the road.

Some of the more famous ones are Multnomah Falls (also known as the most photographed spot in Oregon) and Latourell Falls (pictured here).

But if you want a secluded hike to a more discreet but just as stunning waterfall, try one of the other dozens of falls along the road. Personally, we love Dry Creek Falls via the PCT.

Hike 4 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail to arrive at a massive waterfall and beautiful views of the Gorge. Check off two things on your Columbia Gorge bucket list: See a Waterfall –check, and Hike on the PCT –check!

Rowena Crest

Rowena Crest flowers in springtime.

To enjoy the Gorge’s curviest road, you don’t even need to exit your vehicle, but you’ll definitely want to. The iconic horseshoe loop known as Rowena Crest is beautiful to drive on, but if you are ready for an easy 1-mile hike then the viewpoint is very much worth your time. Stunning during summer, spring, fall, and winter, you can absorb the beauty of this viewpoint anytime during the year. If you can’t hit this spot on the way to your destination, then rent a couple of bicycles to travel along the road for a day. 

Thunder Island Brewing Company

If you’ve hiked the falls, wandered across the Bridge of the Gods, and toured the Vista House, you’re probably a little thirsty. Stop by Thunder Island Brewing Company for a brew and a view! This small brewery is right on the waterfront and is the perfect place to stop by and grab a drink, maybe a little food, and enjoy the river on their outdoor patio.

Some people say life is about the destination, while others argue it is about the journey. Why can’t it be both? Take your time traveling to your Columbia River Gorge destination and stop frequently to take a picture of a particularly stunning waterfall, grab a cold beer, or simply pull over on the side of the road to take in the beauty of the landscape. 

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