Family hike at Lyle Cherry Orchard. (photographer: Kate Lindberg)

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June 14, 2018
 

Travel the Columbia River Gorge Car-Free

Access popular trails by public transit

Long before the National Scenic Area designation was established for the Columbia River Gorge, it was a popular destination for day trippers looking to take a scenic drive. Since the days of Model T’s, this stunning landscape is attracting hikers, bikers and other recreationalists from all over the world. Wouldn’t it be nice to sit back and enjoy the scenery without having to drive? Luckily, you can take the Columbia Gorge Express (CGE) seven days a week to access some of Oregon’s top attractions. 

This bus service runs between Portland’s Gateway Transit Center and Hood River, offering stops at Rooster Rock State Park, Multnomah Falls and the town of Cascade Locks. Each bus can carry up to three bikes.

Multnomah Falls Stop
The CGE will drop you off at the I-84 parking lot. You can walk under the highway to visit the Multnomah Falls Lodge, front plaza and lower viewing platform. Note, all trails in this area, including to Benson Bridge and the upper viewing platform, are closed indefinitely due to damage from the September 2017 Eagle Creek fire.
 
Cascade Locks Stop
From the CGE stop in Cascade Locks at the corner of WaNaPa Street and School Drive, walk into town for lunch or check out beautiful Marine Park. If you’d like to hike, here are some options:
  • Walk about a quarter mile west to access the Bridge of the Gods trailhead, which connects to the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) north and southbound.
  • If you hike south along the PCT, you can access both the Dry Creek Falls and Herman Creek trails.
  • You can walk north across the Bridge of the Gods (which is part of the official PCT) into Washington and carefully cross Hwy 14, where you’ll see a trailhead for the PCT heading north. Go here for a full description of this section of the PCT.
Hood River Stop
From the transit stop at the Port of Hood River (just north of the Valero gas station), you can take a half-mile walk into historic downtown Hood River. If you’re looking for a longer trek, here are some options:
  • Take the one-mile Hood River Waterfront Trail (directly across from the transit stop) east or westbound.
  • Hop on the Hood River trolley (free on weekends in the summer) south to the Rosauers bus stop in The Heights. Walk less than a quarter mile north on 12th Street to reach the Dutch Bros Coffee trailhead for the Indian Creek Trail. This easy, two-mile trail meanders back toward downtown Hood River.
  • If you have a bicycle, bike about half a mile southeast to the Mark O. Hatfield trailhead along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. From here, bike (or walk) the Mosier Twin Tunnels Trail, a five-mile paved trail between Hood River and Mosier that is closed to motorized traffic. Go here for directions.
For information about privately run transportation options in the Gorge, go here.
 
Before you go
Download the schedule. Avoid spending the night somewhere unplanned by knowing the route and schedule. Go here to download the Columbia Gorge Express schedule.  
 
Bring money. Most transportation options in the Gorge are pay to ride. The Columbia Gorge Express encourage riders to purchase tickets online to avoid boarding delays.
 
Research bike-friendly options. In addition to the Columbia Gorge Express, there are private transportation providers such as Amtrak — which stops in Bingen on its way between Vancouver/Portland and Chicago — which can accommodate bikes. Note, the only type of bike that can come off the train in Bingen are folding bikes.

 
Photo: Dry Creek Falls, Oregon by Yeng Tang


 

May 4, 2018
 

Hiking Checklist for the Columbia River Gorge

Simple steps you can take to have a safe and fun experience

On Sept. 2, 2017, hundreds of people ventured out for a day hike on the popular Eagle Creek Trail. None of them expected to spend the night along the trail or hike 13 miles to Wahtum Lake to get out. But that’s exactly what happened to 150 people who became trapped when a wildfire ignited below. Making international news, this very public incident made people aware that hiking comes with risks. “Anything can happen, whether you’re out for a short hike or an overnight trip,” says Rachel Pawlitz, public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service. “So it’s important to take some very basic steps to be prepared.”
 

What are the most important things to do before leaving home?


Pack the 10+ Essentials. This is a list of things that you want to have in your pack if the unthinkable happens—such as having to spend the night in the woods. It’s good to have the 10 Essentials regardless of the time of day or year, length of your hike, or difficulty of the terrain. Always bring more food and water than you need. Go here for the full list of the 10+ Essentials.

Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be home. It’s a simple task and, but if someone knows approximately where you are, it can save search and rescue volunteers hours of time if they have to come looking for you. It’s as simple as sending someone a text before you leave home (while you have cell service) or leave a note on your car. Go here for tips about what information to share.

Don’t take shortcuts. If it’s late in the day, you might be tempted to start bushwhacking, or go off-trail, as a way to more quickly return to your car. Even for experienced navigators, it can be challenging to hike off-trail. This is one of the top reasons that people give to search and rescue teams who end up having to help them navigate their way out.

Know when to call it a day. There’s always one more viewpoint, one more ridge, one more waterfall. Many people end up having to spend the night on the trail simply because they run out of hours in the day, or they get hurt because they are exhausted. Know your and your group’s limitations.

If you are lost or you or someone in your group is hurt, call 911. Stay with your group, rather than sending one or two people to the car. If there are other hikers around, give them your name and exact location, if possible, to share with the Sheriff's office.

Photo: A hiker at Greenleaf Overlook, WA 


 

April 4, 2018
 

Tips for Enjoying Wildflower Season in the Columbia River Gorge

Lesser-known hikes and modes of travel

With more than 700 species of wildflowers, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area offers a spectacular show every spring. Starting as early as February, the grass widows begin to emerge, followed by Columbia Gorge desert parsley in March. The bright yellow balsamroot and purple lupine begin to appear on south-facing slopes in late April and last, in some places, into the early part of June. For good reason, wildflower hikes are very busy during the months of April, May and June, especially on weekends. Use these tips to avoid crowds, increase your chances of getting spectacular photographs, and ensure a more peaceful, scenic walk. And, please remember, never pick wildflowers so that everyone can enjoy their beauty.
 

When to hike the Gorge


Go Midweek: Visit Monday through Thursday, April to June to experience the peak wildflower season.

This tip is even more important for popular trails such as Dog Mountain, Coyote Wall, Catherine Creek and Tom McCall State Park, which are very busy on weekends during the spring. New this year, if you’re planning to visit the very popular Dog Mountain Trail System, each hiker will be required to obtain a permit on weekends from March 31 to July 1. Go here for more information.

Go Early: If visiting during a weekend, aim to finish your hike before 10 a.m. Then, you’ll have the rest of your day to visit one or more of the welcoming towns in the Gorge.
 

Where to find wildflowers


Go North: The south-facing trails of the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge have some of the best wildflower hikes. Plus, many of the hikes on the Oregon side of the Gorge remain closed due to the Eagle Creek fire. (Go here for a printable 11x17 map of all trailheads in the scenic area, highlighting trail closures.)

Go East: Explore hikes in the eastern Gorge, which require a little more driving time but receive fewer hikers. 

Here are five lesser-known wildflower hikes in Washington and the eastern Gorge:
  1. Hamilton Mountain Loop (Western Gorge, Washington), 9.4-mile loop, strenuous
  2. Klickitat Trail Swale Canyon (Eastern Gorge, Washington), 10-mile out-and-back, moderate
  3. Columbia Hills Historical State Park, Dalles Mountain Ranch (Eastern Gorge, Washington), 4-mile out-and-back, moderate
  4. Deschutes State Park River Trail (Eastern Gorge, Oregon), 22-mile out-and-back, easy (also mountain bike-friendly)
  5. Mosier Plateau Trail (Eastern Gorge, Oregon), 3.5-mile out-and-back, moderate
(Photo: Balsamroot in bloom along the Mosier Plateau Trail in the Columbia River Gorge. Photographer: Aimee Wade.)



March 20, 2018
 

Before Leaving Home, Get Ready, Set, GOrge!

Before you leave home, get Ready, Set, GOrge!

The days are getting longer, wildflowers are blooming, and songbirds have filled the early morning silence. As you plan your annual spring pilgrimage to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, be sure to first stop at ReadySetGorge.com, where you’ll find tips to plan your hike (Ready), check trail, weather and trail conditions (Set), and find ways to help protect the Gorge so that future generations can enjoy it, too (GOrge!).

In light of the trail closures on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area between Troutdale and Wyeth due to damage from the Eagle Creek Fire, hikers can use the resources at ReadySetGorge.com to find new places to explore. Check out this list of great options. And, anticipating congestion at trailheads such as Dog Mountain on weekends, hikers can use ReadySetGorge.com to consider the most ideal times and days of the week to explore their favorite spots. 

The Eagle Creek Fire impacted less than 17 percent of the Gorge. That means there are still plenty of paths to explore—many of which have waterfalls, wildflowers, natural history and jaw-dropping views of the Columbia River. Plus, fewer crowds. What will become your new favorite destination?

Ready, Set, GOrge! is a campaign developed by the U.S. Forest Service, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Travel Oregon, Oregon Department of Transportation and other partners to improve the visitor experience in the Gorge. It’s a free resource that anyone can access before or during their visit to the Gorge.

Photo: Balsamroot and lupine bloom at Columbia Hills State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. (photographer: Debbie Asakawa)