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All in a Days Drive on the Historic Columbia River Highway

All in a Days Drive on the Historic Columbia River Highway


By avatar  Stacy
Posted On 05/01/2018 23:09:28
Trip Date 02/06/2016  

Destinations | Oregon Drives | Hiking in Portland | Portland Day Trips | Columbia River | Multnomah Falls



While on a business trip in June of last year, I was seated next to a Portland resident during my return flight to Austin. After working across the country for a full week, I was usually tired and didn't typically engage in long conversations with others. This flight was different, as the gentleman seated in the middle seat claimed that this was his first flight without his wife, and he was uneasy about flying solo. Throughout the flight, he started random conversations with both the person in the aisle seat as well as myself. One of those topics included recommended sights to see when in Oregon. I have had a "Columbia River Gorge" reminder saved in my Notes app for the past 8 months, and my husband, mom and aunt agreed to devote a day to explore the area.

If you are visiting the Portland, Oregon area, a drive along US-30 is a must do - unless you make a dining or souvenir purchase along the way, the only cost is fuel for a car. If you have a full day to devote to some hiking and absolutely stunning scenery, read on for some additional stops to consider.


St. Johns Bridge

While in route to the Columbia River, we planned a stop at the St. Johns Bridge. From our starting point in Cedar Mill, Scott drove north on Skyline Blvd. and turned east at the intersection with Germantown Road. We again noticed the moss covered trees along our route - the wet winters in Oregon are so different from the dry air that we experience in central Texas.

We parked near Cathedral Park and walked on the path along the river to get a good look at the bridge. Spanning the Willamette River, the four lane St. Johns Bridge features two tall Gothic spires connected by cable rope strands - all made of steel. Apparently the bridge engineer chose the green color to ensure that the bridge would blend into the forest at the west end. David Steinman who designed this and nearly 400 other bridges was once quoted as saying, "If you were to ask me which bridge I love best, I would have to say the St. Johns. I put more of myself into it than any other bridge."


St. Johns Bridge

St. Johns Bridge

Historic Columbia River Highway

From the bridge, we headed southeast towards the Historic Columbia River Highway (Historic Route US-30 - the first US scenic highway), and I am so glad that we found the time to drive part of this scenic roadway. We made numerous stops to see the amazing scenery including the moss covered trees, overlooks of the Columbia River Gorge and the many waterfalls. We also marveled at the engineering required to begin building this road over 100 years ago.


Moss Covered Trees along the Columbia River Highway

Moss Covered Trees along the Columbia River Highway

A surprise stop at Chanticleer Point, home of the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Overlook, provided our first view of the Columbia River and the Columbia River Gorge. In the distance, we saw Vista House, our next stop and one of the points of interest on our original sightseeing wish list.


Columbia River Gorge from Chanticleer Point

Columbia River Gorge from Chanticleer Point

After our stop at Chanticleer Point, we continued down Historic Route US-30 towards Vista House at Crown Point. Before entering the octagonally shaped building, we enjoyed the unforgettable views from the parking area. As we took photographs, we overheard part of a conversation from a couple standing next to us which ended with a marriage proposal!


Columbia River Gorge from Crown Point

Columbia River Gorge from Crown Point

Vista House had a light gray sandstone exterior with a green tiled roof, amber-green tinted windows and an interior rotunda supported by 8 columns.


Vista House

Vista House

The interior stairways led up to a balcony (with views from all around the building) as well as down to restrooms, a gift shop and a small museum.


The Vista House Rotunda

The Vista House Rotunda


Cascading Waterfalls along the Columbia River Highway

Continuing down the winding "figure-eight loops" of Historic Route US-30, we were again surrounded by moss covered trees, and along the next few miles, a number of amazing waterfalls - each one slightly different from the last. As we were pressed for time, we made the decision to hike to only the biggest of the falls, with some quick photo stops at a few of the others. Our first stop was Latourell Falls on Latourell Creek, just under 3 1/2 miles west of I-84.


Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls

We passed Wahkeena Falls just before parking our car for an extended visit at one of the four largest waterfalls in the United States.


Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls

Prior to splitting into two groups, the four of us stood in the viewing area carved out of the rock cliffs gazing in awe at both tiers of Multnomah Falls. Scott and I then hiked the 1/4 mile mostly paved trail up to Benson Bridge where we enjoyed another perspective of both tiers of the waterfall while my mom and Aunt Jan opted to return to Multnomah Falls Lodge, home to a gift shop, restaurant and information center - in addition to a kiosk selling hot chocolate!


Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

Before returning "home", we decided that we could squeeze in one more stop - both for a restroom break and one final hike. We had passed Bridal Veil Falls State Park on our outbound journey, and Scott and I wanted to take the partially paved, partially muddy lower hiking trail (which included several stairways) to the viewing platform built to see the falls. The hike was only about 1/3 mile to the falls, however the trail was steep with several switchbacks. (There was also a 1/2 mile interpretive loop upper trail designed to take advantage of numerous viewpoints of the Columbia River Gorge.)


Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Tip for Visit to Multnomah Falls

Because of the popularity of Multnomah Falls (which really should be a must do for any tourist), the parking area tends to fill up quickly. The nearby Wahkeena Falls is often less busy, and both waterfalls are connected by a short path. If you see an available parking space and are able to walk a short distance, I would suggest grabbing it just in case the next lot is full.

A Coastal Drive near Portland, Oregon

Check out our post titled "In Search of Sunshine at Cannon Beach" for a great day trip to the coast with more beautiful scenery.

Scenic Drives

In your opinion, what's the most scenic drive in the United States?




Total FitBit steps today: 12,222
Weather:48F Clear
40700 E Historic Columbia River Hwy, Corbett, OR, United States


All in a Days Drive on the Historic Columbia River Highway



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Created On 05/01/2018 22:13:24  
Updated On 08/27/2018 16:15:04
Scheduled On 05/01/2018 23:09:28
Posted On 05/01/2018 23:09:28
Last Editor Stacy
Location  40700 E Historic Columbia River Hwy, Corbett, OR, United States
LinkId  ColumbiaGorgePortland
StoryId  1525227204196





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