The Columbia River Gorge in Oregon is a beautiful natural landmark and hiking destination. It’s an easy and scenic drive from Portland, making it a great day trip. The gorge is full of beautiful waterfalls and views. We’ve put together our favorite hikes in the gorge in Oregon for you to explore!
The gorge is accessible all year, but early summer and fall are the best seasons to visit. The Columbia River Gorge is a spectacular river canyon that is 80 miles long and up to 4,000 feet deep! (Did you know the average depth of the Grand Canyon is 4,000 feet too). This expansive river canyon meanders past cliffs, spires, and ridges set amidst the nearby peaks of the Cascade Mountains. So keep reading for our favorite hikes in the gorge and essential tips for hiking in Oregon.
Words of Wisdom for Hikes in the Gorge Oregon
Unfortunately, the great beauty in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge also comes with great crowds. If you want to avoid crowded trails, try and hike during the week or early in the morning. The roaring waterfalls, scenic views, and blooming wildflowers make this an excellent destination for both locals and visitors.
In order to preserve the natural beauty, practice leave no trace hiking. This means you need to take everything you brought back out with you, including biodegradable materials. (Everything really means everything.) For more information, read about how to leave no trace.
Dog Mountain is Wildflower Paradise
Distance: 6.9 miles (roundtrip)
Elevation: 2,800 feet
Dog Mountain offers spectacular views during the wildflower blooms in late spring and early summer. But you don’t need wildflowers to appreciate the majesty of Dog Mountain. From the top of Dog Mountain, you can enjoy the sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge. And on a clear day, you can admire the peaks of the Cascades too!
A word of caution: This is definitely not a trail for beginners. In fact, the trailhead offers two options for reaching the top – hard and harder. Regardless of the route you choose, you will need to pack water and snacks to replenish yourself. Although this is one of the most difficult hikes in the gorge, it is also one of the most beautiful in Oregon.
Distance: 2.6 miles (roundtrip)
Elevation: 1,300 feet
This hike might be short, but it’s steep. These switchbacks are sure to knock the wind out of you. But we think it’s worth it for the scenic views of the gorge along the way. After you make your way through a densely wooded area, you’ll find yourself presented with several scenic viewpoints of the Gorge. So stop to catch your breath and take in the forested slopes infused with reddish and golden hues as summer transitions to fall.
Note: Make sure to check the trail status before you head out because this area experiences frequent winter storms and trail closures.
Distance: 2 miles (loop)
Elevation: 250 feet
If you go hiking in the Gorge but don’t post a photo on Instagram, did you even go hiking in the Gorge? We don’t think so! Wahclella Falls has a reputation for being one of the more Instagrammable trails along the Columbia River. So don’t miss this easy, 2-mile loop and the multiple viewpoints of the falls amid vibrant, mossy rocks. It even has one of those cute little wooden footbridges that add a touch of magic to your hike.
Walk the Cliffs on Coyote Wall
Distance: 7.8 miles (loop)
Elevation: 1,640 feet
At the top of this moderate, 7.8-mile hike, you’ll see breathtaking views of the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. But the best part? It’s far enough east along the Gorge that rain and clouds tend to break up before reaching the White Salmon, Washington area. So even in the fall, you’re likely to experience crisp yet sunny weather. And if you come back in the spring, you’ll catch the annual wildflower bloom.
Hike Beacon Rock
Distance: 1.8 miles (roundtrip)
Elevation: 650 feet
Beacon Rock is the core of a 57,000-year-old cinder cone that was carved to its present shape by the Missoula Floods of the ice age. On this moderate 2-mile hike, you’ll see sweeping panoramas of the winding Columbia River. And the wood-plank hand railings along the trail make it an excellent hike for families and beginners.
Beacon Rock is a 484ft monolith of rock that was once the core of a volcano. Today, it is an impressive stone feature amidst the lush forest.
Hiking the Gorge Oregon Tips and Tricks
- Waterfalls are the most full in the winter, but this is also the rainy season. So if you want to hike the gorge in the winter, make sure to pack your rain jacket!
- Early summer and late fall have the best (meaning the least rainy) weather in Oregon.
- Good quality hiking shoes will keep you safe. And waterproof boots will keep your feet dry all year long!
- In addition, you will want to bring your crampons for winter hiking because the ground can freeze over.
- Always check the USDA website for trail closure before heading out. You never know when there will be landslides or forest fires, and it’s better to find out before you reach a closed trailhead.
- For the photographers reading, come prepared with water-resistant gear. Even on a sunny day, the waterfalls can produce a lot of mist. Better safe than sorry!
Keep Your Hiking Gear Safe With Us
We think the best camping gear is the gear you already own. So avoid constantly replacing damaged gear by storing it safely in a Northwest Self Storage Unit. For example, store your crampons, tents, hiking poles, camp stoves, and more with us. Then, between adventures, you can take care to store your hiking gear the right way so you can use it for many trips to come. And if you need a place to keep it, we’ve got you. Once you have your storage unit, you can hit the road and try out all these Oregon hikes in the gorge!
More About Oregon
- The Best Places for Yurt Camping in Oregon
- Best Beaches to Visit in Oregon
- What to Do in Oregon on Your Summer Road Trip