The Historic Columbia River Highway is a beautiful and winding 75-mile scenic highway in Oregon. With dozens of scenic viewpoints and trails just off of the road, it’s the perfect day-trip drive near Portland.
The Historic Columbia River Highway start starts near Troutdale, Oregon, just past the Sandy River. Traveling east-bound and 15 minutes away is the first scenic viewpoint
1) Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint
This view point has a slightly confusing monicker but it gets its name from the Portland Women’s Forum, a group that has been active in preservation works of the Columbia River Gorge since 1946. They purchased this viewpoint, originally the site of Chanticleer Inn, and donated it to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. From the Portland Women’s Forum Viewpoint, visitors can see scenic Vista House and the wide expanse of the Columbia River Gorge in the background.
GPS Coordinates: 45.5333299,-122.2625179
2) Vista House
Just 5 minutes down the road from the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint sits Vista House. We visited Vista House last summer. Built in 1917 atop Crown Point, Vista House is an observatory that also serves as a memorial to Oregon pioneers. The viewpoint is open all hours but entrance into the building itself is open daily from 9am – 4pm. Vista House can get quite crowded during summer months so if a view of the Columbia River gorge is all you want to see, consider stopping at the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint previously mentioned instead.
Address: 40700 Historic Columbia River Hwy, Corbett, OR 97019
3) Latourell Falls
Traveling east along the Historic Columbia River Highway, Latourell Falls are the closest falls to Portland on this scenic drive. The Lower Falls are just barely visible from the road but if you don’t mind a short hike along the 2.4 mile loop, visitors can get up close to the 249′ Latourell Falls, Upper Latourell Falls, and Guy Talbot Park. It is worth at least getting close to Lower Latourell Falls to see the vertical columns of basalt lining the cliff behind the falls, although the best place to see columns of hexagonal rocks are in Northern Ireland at Giant’s Causeway.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates:45.5371037,-122.219054
4) Shepperd’s Dell Falls
Don’t have time (or energy) to hike the 2.4 mile loop of Latourell Falls? Shepperd’s Dell offers a much easier access point to a Columbia Gorge waterfall. It is a .2 mile out and back stroll along paved stonework cut from the cliffs and is an easy walk for children or those not hiking inclined. Shepperd’s Dell was donated in 1914 from a farmer named George Shepperd.
GPS Coordinates: Approximately 45.546837,-122.1995607
5) Oneonta Gorge
Oneonta Gorge can easily boast as the most beautiful attraction along the Historic Columbia River Highway. There are 4 waterfalls in the gorge, the easiest and most popular waterfall being the Lower Oneonta Gorge (.5 mile round trip hike). To access Lower Oneonta Gorge, visitors must climb over a very large, slippery, and to be frank, dangerous, log jam. On the other side, visitors are able to walk through the creek bed between towering canyon walls. It’s quite an experience, best done during the early hours of the morning before the crowds develop.
Read more about our trip to Oneonta Gorge.
GPS Coordinates: 45.58948, -122.07531
The free attractions along the Historic Columbia River Highway are plentiful. We haven’t even covered half of the sites. We’re hoping to make Portland our home some time in the far future so we’re not in a hurry to explore the area just yet. Visitors would need at least a week minimum to get a good glimpse of what the Columbia River has to offer.