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Leave your car behind with new car-free options to the Columbia River Gorge, and help keep the region pristine and green for the next 100 years. (Photo credit: Larry Geddis)
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There are miles-long cycling paths along the Historic Columbia River Highway that are car-free. (Photo credit: Russ Roca)
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The Troutdale to Cascade Locks segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway and State Trail passes by multiple waterfalls, including Latourell Falls. (Photo credit: Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo)

With its cascading waterfalls, hills full of wildflowers and sparkling river views, touring the Columbia River Gorge is easily one of the most scenic routes you can take in all of Oregon.

But what if you could see the sights without having to drive?

Luckily visitors can check out a few new ways to explore the Gorge car-free.

Leaving the car behind means saving on gas and avoiding parking headaches, not to mention easing congestion and reducing emissions, which will go a long way toward keeping this region pristine and green for the next 100 years.

Shuttles

Beginning in late May, the Columbia Gorge Express will transport visitors from the Gateway Transit Center in Portland to Multnomah Falls and Rooster Rock State Park for just $5 round-trip. The bus service departs Gateway 12 times each day Friday through Sunday until the end of September. Cyclists can even get aboard with three bike spaces on each bus.

Looking for a longer Gorge tour? Gray Line Tours just rolled out a brand-new half-day luxury coach tour to the Gorge, for a round-trip fare of $56 to and from downtown Portland. The four-and-a-half-hour tour stops at Latourell Falls, Multnomah Falls and Lodge and the Bonneville Dam and fish ladder, a national historic site in the heart of the Gorge. Tours run daily mid-June through early September.

America’s Hub World Tours offers a guided Mt. Hood loop tour, half- or full-day Gorge tour and a special wine-lovers Gorge tour year-round, with pre-arranged pickups and drop-offs from downtown Portland. The full-day tour covers each of the Gray Line’s stops, plus more at Timberline Lodge, Crown Point Vista House and Hood River, where visitors can explore before hopping on for the return trip.

You can also spend your visit to the Gorge sipping wine with Evergreen Escapes’ six-hour Columbia Gorge Waterfalls & Wine Tour. Visit “Waterfall Alley,” take interpretive nature walks, view wildlife and sample boutique wines only found in Oregon — without having to drive. (Pick-up and drop-off are in downtown Portland.)

By Bike

Getting to the Gorge by bike is highly recommended. For starters, it’s 19 miles of great views from the Gresham MAX station to Multnomah Falls.

True cyclists will love riding the entire 100-year-old Historic Columbia River Highway, with a connecting motorized-vehicle-free state trail on parts of the old highway. The Troutdale to Cascade Locks segment passes by multiple waterfalls, Crown Point Vista House and the Bridge of the Gods. The following Cascade Locks to Hood River segment features a new car-free segment of the restored state trail from Starvation Creek Trailhead to Viento State Park. The Hood River to The Dalles segment includes a beautiful 4-mile car-free leg that goes through the Mosier Twin Tunnels, followed by a ride to the picture-worthy Rowena Crest Viewpoint and Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. (Tip: avoid crowds at the pit-stops by taking the reverse route, starting in The Dalles and ending in Portland.)

Even where you share the road with auto traffic, low speed limits and scenic views make it a must for experienced road cyclists. Find handy maps with detailed elevations, route cues and scenic points of interest from the Oregon Department of Transportation and Portland Office of Transportation.

Looking for the perfect weekend to pedal through the Gorge? Consider National Bike Travel Weekend from June 2-4, 2017. While you relish in the joys of bicycle travel, so will thousands of other cyclists in the country. But you’ll get the added benefit of experiencing the beautiful Historic Columbia River Highway during its important centennial.


However you get to the Gorge, there’s plenty to discover all summer long, including special hikes, bike rides, runs, concerts, festivals and parades. Check out the Columbia River Gorge Visitors Association for maps and other attractions.

about author Jen Anderson

Jen Anderson writes and edits Travel Oregon's e-newsletters and other online content. She loves finding the latest places to eat, drink and play around the state with her husband and two young boys. Brewpubs, beaches and bike trails top the list.

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit tripcheck.com, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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  1. Sharon says…

    All those tours sound like fun. For us that are getting older and prefer someone else to do the driving, I would take any of them depending on the amount of time I had. Wonder if any offer a senior discount?

    Written on June 1st, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  2. David Penilton says…

    It makes my gorge tour look at if there is only one option? :) See below
    America’s Hub World Tours offers a
    Full-day tour Mt Hood Loop $90p — 3 days a week
    Half-day Gorge Waterfalls Tour $60p –7 days a week twice a day
    Multnomah Falls Shuttle $40p –Saturday- Wed weekly

    Written on June 1st, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  3. Leonie says…

    Should be amazing on a motorbike then :) Looking forward to riding it in August.

    Written on June 1st, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  4. Luisa Appleman says…

    Thank you for the shuttle! My suggestion is to extend the shuttle to make stops along the way, to the different falls, not only Multnomah. Good start though!

    Written on June 1st, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  5. STEVEN FLORES says…

    I have always wanted to travel around OREGON’S beautiful state. Especially the Columbia River Gorge. While in the military I traveled along Oregon’s coast searching for lost vacationers, who were reported missing and overdue, to the U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue Teams from Eureka California. The vacationers who’s yacht became disabled and adrift for a week were finally located by a our C-130 Albatross Search and Rescue, and we were able to tow the vacationers back to Portland Oregon. All was well and very happy to be back on terra firma.

    Written on June 2nd, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  6. Roger Guest says…

    While the route is in Washington state, Amtrak’s Portland section of the Empire Builder follows the river from Pasco to Portland and the sightseer lounge car offers excellent views of the area. Took the trip last September, spent time in Newport, McMinnville and Portland – all were wonderful.

    Written on June 2nd, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  7. Ernst says…

    We were last year September in USA asnd travvelled by car the Columbias river from Biggs via The Dales to Portland and via Washington side back to the Dalles.
    I can only say that this regio is fantastic and also interesting because of tje Lewis and Clark trails.
    I hope to visit Oregon next year again.

    Written on June 8th, 2016 / Flag this Comment
  8. j s rocca says…

    Oregon is so beautiful, so many natural wonders,
    it is impossible to see it all in one trip. I drove it last summer and going back this July by train and auto.

    Written on July 7th, 2017 / Flag this Comment
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