If you ever find yourself in or around Portland, you have to spend at least a day exploring on the Historic Columbia River Scenic Byway. Nestled just outside of Portland on our way to Hood River, these are 50 miles of outdoor beauty and the most unexpected natural magnificence that you have to see and experience if you’re in Northern Oregon.
The Historic Columbia River Scenic Byway was the first scenic highway in the US and it was built around incredible scenery with a purpose to leave as much beauty intact as possible; mirroring scenic roads of Europe. You can get on the Historic Columbia River Scenic Byway from I-84 and in no time you’re transported to another world. As beautiful as Oregon already is, this 50-mile section is truly an outdoor paradise.
The Byway is peppered with waterfalls (77 just on the Oregon side), historic rest stops and 23 bridges, which also make it a National Civil Engineering Landmark. There are several waterfalls that are a must-see but in the summer they may be just too busy with tourists; which is what we experienced this summer, where LA traffic had nothing on the Byway bumper to bumper jam.
So instead of seeing favorites, we opted for less known and out of the way waterfalls. There are waterfalls that you can see from the Byway and don’t require any hiking like the Latourell Falls, which is the closest waterfall to Portland. The views of the fall are spectacular and the bridge also offers great architectural experience.
On the other hand, even though the parking for the Oneonta Falls was full, not many people ventured to take the wet trail to see the falls. It’s a more difficult terrain where you’ll have climb over fallen tree trunks, boulders and get wet in the icy cold water as you’re getting through the Oneonta Gorge towards the waterfalls.
On our drive we realized that the road and any trip is not only about the Falls but the every day summer beauty that was presented: the many road-side fruit stands, viewpoints and lookouts like the Vista House at Crown Point or the Portland’s Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint presenting the Gorge like on a plate.
We also took our paddleboards, and so SUPing the Columbia River was on our to do list. The usual winds at Hood River were non-existent and the 90-degree summer temperatures provided the perfect water temperature for some river shenanigans.
Once out of water hungry and thirsty, the area provides for several wineries like the Willow Wine Cellars with their refreshing and smooth white Albarino or any of the breweries in Hood River with a view on the Columbia River.
The lesson that we learnt this summer was not to stick to any plans and really enjoy the small summer moments and experiences along the road. The sweetest cherries and peaches, hot summer day on the water with new friends and memories that no one can take away from you.
What was your experience like on the Historic Columbia River Scenic Byway? Let us know in the comments below..