We intended to see the Columbia River Gorge while we were in Portland, Oregon this summer. But the city held us spellbound and we couldn’t seem to tear ourselves away long enough to make the short 25-mile drive to the east.
Fortunately, we had a second chance as we headed south through Washington and back into Oregon, because missing this pet friendly destination would have been tragic! The scenery was spectacular, and the hiking was amazing.
Up to 4,000 feet deep, the gorge stretches for over 80 miles as the Columbia River winds through the Cascade Mountains, forming the boundary between Washington and Oregon. Providing the only navigable route through the mountains, the Columbia River transported Louis and Clark on their way to the Pacific in 1805 and, years later, thousands of emigrants on the Oregon Trail to their new lives.
Transportation is still a major theme here, with the BNSF Railway running along the Washington side of the river, the Union Pacific Railroad on the Oregon shore, barges pushing cargo through the channel, and 18-wheelers whizzing by on the Interstate. For a slower pace and a more intimate experience, try the Historic Columbia River Highway. Designed by Samuel C. Lancaster, an engineer and landscape architect, this was the first scenic roadway in the US. The steep cliff walls and the railroad path made it difficult to build, but it leads you from one spectacular viewpoint to the next.
Waterfalls are a big draw, and there are over 90 on the Oregon side of the gorge alone. The most popular is Multnomah Falls – cascading a whopping 620 feet in two steps. A short walk up to Benson Footbridge, which crosses 105 feet above the lower falls, gives you a unique view of the upper and lower falls and the Columbia River. In fact, there are dozens of trails in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, and because it’s managed by the US Forest Service, leashed pets are welcome to join you.
One of the interesting aspects of this area are the many microclimates. During our visit, Cascade Locks was socked in with fog and drizzly while, just down the road, Hood River was sunny and warm. Needless to say, we spent more time exploring Hood River!
The wind howls through the gorge here, making it a popular spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing. It’s fun to watch the people barreling across the water, and if you’re into that kind of thing, there are several places to rent gear. Ty’s not really much for getting wet, so we stuck to less adventurous pursuits. The Columbia Gorge Hotel was built in 1920, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is PET FRIENDLY! We stopped in for a nice lunch overlooking the river and then strolled around the grounds.
If you’re up for a little shopping, check out Gorge Dog on Oak Street. With the selection here, you’re sure to find something your pooch must have.
Once you’ve stretched your legs, grab a map of the “Fruit Loop” and take a drive though the local country side. Thirty-three orchards, wineries and farms are marked on the map, and each one offers something delicious. Time it right and you’ll be there just as the apples and pears are ready to harvest. Our favorite stop was the Apple Valley Country Store and Bakery, where we taste-tested and then stocked up on pie, huckleberry jam, and a couple of mustards we couldn’t live without.
Pet friendly hotels, restaurants and activities are easy to find in Hood River, making it a great base for exploring the best of the Columbia River Gorge and Portland.
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