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A week in Oregon (Part 2): Columbia River Gorge and Historic Highway

A week in Oregon (Part 2): Columbia River Gorge and Historic Highway
A week in Oregon (Part 2): Columbia River Gorge and Historic Highway

After running the Portland Marathon, I spent a week in Oregon exploring, eating, and attempting to hike. 

Missed part 1? Read it here: exploring Portland and running the Portland Marathon

On Day 4 of the trip, we ventured out of downtown Portland to drive the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway. A must-do if you visit Portland. The drive is incredibly scenic and there are many stops along the route to hike, see waterfalls, and enjoy the stunning views.

Bridal Veil Falls

A new Stumptown location (3356 SE Belmont Street): don’t go to the HQ

You cannot begin a long drive without a cup of coffee in hand. Google Maps led us to Stumptown Coffee Headquarters where they don’t actually serve coffee despite having a tasting lounge. We drove a few minutes up the road to Stumptown’s location on Belmont Street. Coffee success!

Stumptown Coffee

Drive along Historic Columbia River Highway: download a copy of the suggested route here

The historic Columbia River highway is America’s first scenic highway and a National Historic Landmark. The 70 mile (113 km) route was built through the Columbia River Gorge between 1913 and 1922 and has been dubbed the “King of Roads.”

Historic Columbia River Highway

Stop at Portland Women’s Forum View Point

Our first stop on the route was the Portland Women’s Forum View Point: unsurprisingly an excellent place to take photos and a hint of the stunning views to come.

Stop at Vista House

A short drive from the Women’s Forum View Point is Vista House, an observatory and memorial to Oregon pioneers built in 1917. Another great photo opportunity! Be ready to brave the wind, it was crazy when we were there.

Vista House

Hike down to bottom of Latourell Falls

We hopped back in the car and drove 5 minutes to Latourell Falls, the closest of the Columbia Gorge waterfalls to Portland. You can do a short hike up to the top of the falls or down to the bottom. We choose the latter. The falls are beautiful and among the best-known Columbia Gorge waterfalls, “in the way that it drops straight down from an overhanging basalt cliff.” When you hike down to the bottom, you get extremely close to the base of the falls!

Latourell Falls

Drive through Reed Island State Park and Rooster Rock State Park

Historic Columbia River Highway

Hike to Bridal Veil Falls scenic viewpoint

We stopped at Bridal Veil Falls to do another short hike to a waterfall. The falls were less imposing than Latourell Falls (you can’t get as close) but beautiful nonetheless.

Bridal Veil Falls

Hike to top of Multnomah Falls

If you have seen people’s pictures on Instagram of their trip to Portland you have probably seen pictures of Multnomah Falls. The falls are 611 feet tall and truly incredible to see. You can walk up a paved path to a bridge 64 feet high to get better views of the fall. Continue hiking up to reach the top of the waterfalls. This hike was the most strenuous of the hikes we did during our drive (11 clearly marked steep switchbacks to the top) but I managed 2 days after running a marathon so certainly doable!

Multnomah Falls

Lunch at one of the 11 breweries in the Gorge: Thunder Island Brewing Co. 

With all the driving and hiking you are sure to work up an appetite! Sightseeing is tiring business. Fortunately there are 11 breweries in the Columbia River Gorge area to choose from. We stopped for lunch and a drink at Thunder Island Brewing Co.

Cascade Locks and Drive over Bridge of the Gods into Washington

Explore the town of Cascade Locks before driving over the Bridge of the Gods into North Bonneville, Washington. The steel truss toll bridge is named after the historic geologic feature also known as Bridge of the Gods (a natural dam created by a landslide in 1100 AD). It is also part of the famous Pacific Crest Trail and where Cheryl Strayed (of Wild fame) ended her hike.

Beacon Rock State Park

Walk in Beacon Rock State Park

Once in Washington, our first (and last) stop was Beacon Rock State Park. Beacon Rock is the core of an ancient volcano! We were planning to hike up to the top of the rock but at this point post-marathon fatigue set in and I just didn’t have it in me. Instead we walked the very flat 2 mile loop around the park.

Walk in Mount Tabor Park

We hit pretty bad traffic on the way back to Portland and decided to make a stop at Mount Tabor Park to break up the drive and kill some time before dinner. I am so glad we did! The park was lovely with plenty of trails to explore, mountain views, and water reservoirs. Keeping with the volcanic theme, Mount Tabor is apparently a volcanic cinder cone (among the simplest of volcanic landforms).

Dinner at Harlow (3632 SE Hawthorne Boulevard)

We ended our day of adventures with dinner at plant-based eatery Harlow in Southeast Portland. The food was delicious, fresh and healthy! I enjoyed the urban bowl (steamed greens, kimchi, sea vegetables, avocado, carrots, scallions, sunflower seeds and za’atar with curry peanut sauce).

I definitely recommend exploring some of Portland’s neighbourhoods outside of the downtown core. Each area is so unique with pockets of restaurants and shops. It really made me enjoy the city and appreciate its charm and quirkiness that much more!

Harlow Dinner

Dessert at Blue Star Donuts (3549 SE Hawthorne Boulevard)

Located conveniently down the street from Harlow is Blue Star Donuts, rival of the famous Voodoo Donuts. We picked up some of their gourmet donuts for dessert.

Stay tuned for Oregon adventures Part 3: exploring Mount Hood. 


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