Historic Columbia River Highway
Length: 70 miles / 112.7 km
Time to Allow: Allow 3 to 5 hours minimum. However, many travelers take a few days to experience all the sights.
Spanning just 70 miles, tour the Historic Columbia River Highway from Portland east to Dalles. The highway follows the Columbia River that separates Oregon and Washington. You can see so much more than just the river along this route, though, from waterfalls to trails hidden in the forests. Plan for at least three to five hours if you only want to see through the window of your car.
Begin your trip in Troutdale just east of Portland and grab some grub at Bette’s Place for breakfast open since 1975 for freshly baked cinnamon rolls. If you spend the day, try out a variety of small restaurants open for lunch and dinner. Next door, find the town Sandy where Lewis and Clark camped along the river banks back in 1805. It’s also the sight of a volcanic eruption in 1802.
Next, you need to visit the Columbia Gorge waterfalls that measures an impressive 620-foot fall making it one of the tallest waterfalls in the nation. The Multnomah Falls Lodge, open since 1925, offers a convenient location, and it’s a historical site too for those looking for some history. Find more waterfalls nearby, along with the Oneonta Gorge, a botanical oasis with many plants local to Oregon.
Further to the east, stop at the Bonneville Dam, with impressive geological formations and views of the mountains. You can also fish here and learn about the history while stopping for ice cream or a drink. Take a cruise along the river straight to Hood River, where the gorge acts like a wind tunnel for cool summer breezes all year round.
From the Hood River over to Mosier, look for a spectacular shift in landscape from lush to dry at the river plateau. In the spring, the area offers views of flowers and blooming fruit. Get out to the car and walk around or bike the trails and check out Memaloose island. Lastly, end at the historic town of Dalles, with a more extreme landscape closer to desert-like conditions. Visit the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and the Wasco County Historical Museum while there for a bit of culture.
Dalles offers more than just beautiful vies. Spend the day viewing ranches, farms, trails, and farmers’ markets. Stop in town for a cup of java or try out wine or beer at a variety of distilleries and wineries, all with midwest flair. When it’s time for dinner, grab some food from various restaurants, then visit the National Neon Sign Museum for something new.
Go off the beaten path and visit the Sandy River Delta, perfect for bikers, hikers, and horseback riding. Take your dog for a walk and enjoy the views of the mountains. Later, check out Dog Mountain trails for views at an elevation of 2,800 feet, where you can see meadows in bloom. End the day with a trip to Cape Horn for dramatic views of the gorge or try climbing Beacon Rock which is beginner-friendly and worth an excursion.
More Oregon Byways
You can check out additional Byways in Oregon by clicking on the list of byways below, or by going to the Oregon Byways home section. To find even more of scenic byways in the United States, visit our scenic byways map.