Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Stories and Tips

Day 7 - Columbia River Gorge Revisited

Clumbia Rriver Gorge from Portland Women's Forum  Photo, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon

Leaving Portland on I-84, I got off at Troutdale, Exit 17, and drove over the Historic Columbia River Highway. It winds up to the top of the bluffs and then provides several viewpoints from the top. There are two points in particular that you don't want to miss. The Portland Women's Forum State Park and Crown Point State Park.

The highway up to Crown Point is scenic, and includes some sleepy towns and parks, but I was warned not to miss a large sign on the left side for the Portland Women's Forum. I found it and turned off into a short road and a parking lot. The view from there is perfect, and takes in a couple of large homes on the ridge, the Columbia River Gorge to the east, and the Vista House at Crown Point. If you miss it, you have missed one of the most scenic views of the gorge. If you come to Vista House without seeing Portland Women's Forum SP, it is worth turning around and retracing your route until you do find it.

After the view at Portland Women's Forum, the next stop is at Vista House in Crown Point State Park. The house--not really a house at all, but rather a glass enclosed viewing tower on the promontory--is another great place to view the gorge, and it is sheltered from the weather that sometimes inhibits good viewing. I didn't go in the house, because I had other destinations in mind, but I did stop for a picture of it.

Can we even imagine how Lewis and Clark felt coming down this beautiful river gorge after two years in the wilderness between St. Louis and the Pacific Ocean? It is a testament to the States of Oregon and Washington that they have prohibited any homes along the banks of the Columbia River. Even the two highways on both sides of the river are partially concealed by trees.

Continuing along the Historic Columbia River highway, I eventually came back down the road through the forest with several state parks and waterfalls. Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls are the first ones, and are visible from the road without the hiking I had done the day before. Then comes the trail up to Wahkeenah and Fairy Falls and finally, the lodge house and Multnomah Falls.

My second visit there was better than the first, because I didn't have to contend with the sun shining over the rim above. It was cloudy, so I was able to get great photos and I even walked up onto the bridge for even better views than I had the day before.

I wish I could have stayed and explored even more, but I had a far destination for that night in Boise, Idaho. I also had plans to drive over another scenic highway near Baker City, Oregon.

I was disappointed on the scenic byway that was shown on my Oregon map from Hilgard over to Starkey and then down to Granite and across to Baker City. It is called the Elkhorn Scenic Loop. It turned out to be a country road with not much scenery and a lot of potholes. The Elkhorn Mountains, for which the loop is named, were more like hills in my view. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, and it took over two hours to navigate the road back to the I-84 interchange at Baker City.

I arrived at my motel in Nampa, and treated myself to another helping of fine food and hospitality at a Shari's Restaurant there.

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