A River Runs Through It
Adrenaline sports, beautiful scenery and wine tasting come together in the Columbia River Gorge. Mattie Bamman takes you on a personalized road trip near his home in Portland, Oregon.
Sometimes great road trips can be found in our own backyards. This one, located near my home in Portland, Oregon, includes three of my favourite things: adrenaline sports, beautiful scenery and wine tasting. The Columbia River Gorge, which marks the border between Washington and Oregon, is a National Scenic Area, and the wineries there, unlike the well-known wineries of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, are just now gaining recognition. This road-trip loop can be driven in five hours, but there’s enough to do to last several days.
Just off Interstate 84, the Historic Columbia River Highway passes the Crown Point Vista House — one of the most beautiful scenic overlooks in the Gorge — then it winds through the diverse flora of the world’s largest temperate rain forest. Many of the most impressive waterfalls in Oregon can be viewed from the driver’s seat, but it’s worth stepping out for a closer look. Multnomah Falls is the highest waterfall in Oregon, and hiking paths wind behind and above most of the area’s waterfalls. Some of my favourite hikes include Angel’s Rest, Horse Tail Falls and Eagle Creek.
The Columbia Gorge AVA wine region kicks up near Hood River. Between the Washington and Oregon sides of the river, more than 50 wineries have been established, and they make a wide variety of wines — from cabernet sauvignons to Bordeaux blends. It is a wine region on the rise, and its wines and wine tastings still come at a good value.
Consider spending one or more nights in Hood River, located in the central Gorge with excellent views of Mt. Hood. It has plenty of hotel and dining options. White Buffalo Wine Bar & Bistro serves hefty portions of comfort food (mostly to keep the truckers happy) and Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom Brewery has a happening pub scene. Across the river in White Salmon, Everbody’s Brewery is a charming café and pub. Surfboard rentals and wind surfing lessons are offered on both sides of the river.
The countryside changes markedly after Hood River, from a temperate and damp climate to desert-like, with magnificent rock formations. I like to cross the river and enter Washington near The Dalles. Some of the most famous wineries are located here, including Maryhill, a destination winery with an amphitheater, and Cascade Cliffs.
Highway 14 runs along the north shore of the Columbia River. To make a loop, take Highway 14 back through Lyle, Bingen and White Salmon. More hikes, wineries, restaurants, and hotels will pop up, though less frequently than on the Oregon side. At Memaloose winery in Lyle, you can sample wines overlooking one of the most popular wind surfing and kite surfing spots. One of my favourite hikes in the Columbia Gorge is Hamilton Mountain, and the trail begins about an hour past White Salmon. With all these options, it’s hard not to spend a week or more on a road trip in the Columbia River Gorge.