Accessible Adventures in the Columbia River Gorge
A spectacular slice through the Cascade Mountains
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area straddles both sides of the Columbia River east of the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington metropolitan area. On the Oregon side, take I-84 east to Troutdale. From there, you can continue on the freeway or follow signs to the Historic Columbia River Highway (SR 30). To reach the Washington side, use the I-205 bridge to cross the Columbia River before heading east on the Lewis and Clark Scenic Byway (SR 14).
Before You Go
Check out the video!
If you enjoyed that video, take a moment to view the Accessible Recreation in the Pacific Northwest Video Series.
What You’ll Find
Year-round recreation for visitors of all abilities, the Columbia River Gorge is a spectacular slice through the Cascade Mountains about 85 miles long and approximately 4,000 feet deep. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, established in 1986, protects and enhances the entire length of the Columbia River Gorge along the lower reaches of the mighty Columbia River in Oregon and Washington. The National Scenic Area also serves as a jumping-off point to nearby National Forests, State Parks, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and numerous hiking trails.
Experiencing the Gorge is not complete without a visit to the breathtaking waterfalls, in particular, Multnomah Falls. The fully accessible main plaza and adjacent historic Multnomah Falls Lodge offer a visitor center, dining, and spectacular views. Multnomah Falls is both the tallest and the most visited waterfall in Oregon. This beautiful, two-tiered cascade falls more than 600 feet in the upper falls, and about 50 feet in the lower falls making it the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States.
Vista House at Crown Point State Park—one of the most photographed sites along the Historic Columbia River Highway—is a memorial to Oregon's pioneers, an observatory, and public comfort station. The stone structure towering 733 feet above the Columbia River was built in 1917 as a rest stop for travelers and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Accessibility was designed into a major renovation, completed in 2006.
On the Washington shore you’ll find accessible day use areas such as Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, St. Cloud Picnic Area, Sams-Walker Day Use Area, and the little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery (which includes an accessible fishing platform). Off the beaten path on the drier east end of the Gorge you might want to visit Catherine Creek Trail, especially in the spring when wildflowers explode across the landscape.
There are plenty of indoor activities as well, such as world-class museums, wine tasting, superb dining opportunities, shopping, and spa services. There is truly something for everyone in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and surrounding communities.
Make Sure You
Visit the combined Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco County Museum near The Dalles, Oregon (take exit 82 off I-84). The facility includes one of the oldest continuously occupied areas in North America, a perch on the banks of one of the largest rivers on the continent and opportunities to learn about the epic journeys of Lewis and Clark and Oregon Trail pioneers. Exhibits focus on the volcanic upheaval and raging ice age floods that helped shape the Gorge, the unique flora and fauna of the region and 11,000 years of cultural history. Live raptor education programs, trails, and scenic overlooks make the center a “must do” on your itinerary.
Experience the Gorge from both sides of the river—you’ll be captivated by the remarkable geology as well as the diversity in landscapes from west to east.
As a low elevation passage through the Cascade Mountains, traveling the Gorge may take you from the moist west side of the Cascades to the dry east side without ever having to cross a mountain pass. Don't forget to bring your sunscreen and sunglasses.
For more information to help you plan your trip, visit: http://www.fs.usda.gov/crgnsa.