: Mosier Twin Tunnels Trail by Tyler Roemer

5 Favorite Spring Trips to the Gorge

Find a dynamic range of indoor and outdoor activities in these Columbia River Gorge towns.
March 26, 2015 (Updated March 25, 2024)

Springtime in the Columbia River Gorge means lush green meadows, vibrant wildflowers and rushing waterfalls, making it an ideal time to visit. In the largest National Scenic Area in the U.S., you’ll find five towns as you travel along the waterfall-dotted Interstate 84 corridor. Go early or mid-week to avoid crowds in spring and summer, and consider car-free options for your travels. Here are five options to consider for a road trip.

Courtesy of Sugarpine Drive-In

1. Antique Shopping and Dining Classics in Troutdale

Known as the Gateway to the Gorge, downtown Troutdale is just east of Portland on the Historic Columbia River Highway. A walkable downtown with boutiques and art galleries features stops like the mother-daughter-owned Self Indulgence antique shop and Artistree NW, with handcrafted gifts celebrating Oregon. Head to the new Troutdale Station food cart pod for comfort food like burgers or burritos or choose from a creative lineup of build-your-own soft-serve sundae toppings at Sugarpine Drive-In, a reimagined 1920s gas station right next to the Sandy River. For a good night’s sleep, book a room at the historic McMenamins Edgefield Hotel — the restaurant group’s flagship property — or just enjoy a pint and wander the sprawling campus, decorated with fanciful artwork.

Wahclella Falls, a large waterfall spouts between two large cliff formations.
Courtesy of Visit Hood River

2. Waterfall Wanderings in Cascade Locks

Springtime means snowmelt from the Cascade Mountain Range. Experience plunging waterfalls with Cascade Locks as your home base. Hike just over 1 mile along a gorge above Tanner Creek to Wahclella Falls a two-tiered, 350-foot waterfall. The trailhead is located across from the Bonneville Hatchery, so you can stop to feed trout or admire salmon. From town hikers can hop on the Pacific Crest Trail and trek to Dry Creek Falls, a 4.4-mile hike. For a more difficult excursion, try the Eagle Creek Trail, where you can see the turquoise waters of Punchbowl Falls in just under 5 miles round-trip. A car-free option is to take advantage of the Columbia Gorge Express bus to one of Oregon’s most famous sites, 620-foot Multnomah Falls. Try the smoked-salmon po’boy from Native-owned Brigham Fish Market or a pint of craft beer at Thunder Island Brewing. You can find many more options on the West Gorge Food Trail.

Several people enjoying the outdoor seating space of Ferment Brewing Company.
Courtesy of Ferment Brewing Company

3. Craft Beverages and Culinary Stops in Hood River

Tucked between Mt. Hood and the Columbia River — with glorious views of both — Hood River is known for its fertile soil and prime climate for growing orchard fruit, grapes and more on the Hood River Fruit Loop. Visit Wy’East Vineyards to sip estate pinot noir and enjoy its friendly llamas from the patio overlooking pastureland. For Mt. Hood views and hard cider with house-made honey, visit The Gorge White House — a working orchard surrounding an early 1900s Dutch Colonial-style house. Make your way to the waterfront for a walk along the river before choosing a brewpub for dinner. Options include Ferment Brewing Company with its river-view patio, farmhouse-style brews and housemade fermented vegetables, or pFriem Family Brewers, where you can choose from a long tap list to pair with a pimento cheeseburger.

Wildflowers along a flat plain of the Gorge as the sun sets.
Wildflowers at Rowena Crest, east of Mosier.

4. Cycling Weekend in Mosier

Cylists love the town of Mosier as a base camp with direct access to the Historic Columbia River Highway. The paved Twin Tunnels segment — a 4.5-mile nonmotorized stretch of the old highway from Mosier to Hood River — offers panoramic views of the river down below, along with the chance to bike through remnants of basalt tunnels that were blasted when the highway was constructed in 1921. Ride east toward Rowena Crest for views of balsamroot and lupine flowers blooming from late April through May. Need a pick-me-up? Randonnee Coffee Co. serves coffee that’s freshly roasted on-site. Plan a tasting of organic wines at Idiot’s Grace Winery or head to Analemma Wines for a field tasting and an introduction to biodynamic farming. To finish out the day, dine on the patio at Mosier Company — don’t miss the baked mac and cheese.

A mural depicting the Columbia River and a pioneer man with a paddle. Stylized font states "Les Dalles" and a small description of the The Dalles got its name, which is unreadable in the photo.
Photo by Katie Falkenberg

5. History Excursion in The Dalles

Located between the Columbia River and dynamic farmlands, The Dalles has a rich agricultural history. Take a step back into the past by visiting the Fort Dalles Museum which includes a historic officer’s home and a display garage for carriages and automobiles from yesteryear on the site of late 19th-century Fort Dalles. Learn about the impact of Ice Age floods and Lewis and Clark’s expedition at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. A mural tour downtown is another way to learn about the area’s history. Stop at Sunshine Mill for a glass of house wine in the steampunk-meets-cottagecore interior of this historic facility. German-style lagers go great with pizza at Freebridge Brewing, located in a former branch of the U.S. Mint built in 1869. Experience even more local food and beverages on the East Gorge Food Trail.

If you go:

Avoid parking and driving hassles by taking the Columbia Gorge Express, which runs daily in the spring between Gateway Transit Center in Portland to Rooster Rock State Park, Multnomah Falls, Cascade Locks and Hood River. In Hood River, hop on and off the Hood River Trolley, which runs seven days per week. Further eastward in The Dalles, take the Explore The Dalles Shuttle.

If you love the Gorge, consider giving back by volunteering as a Trailhead Ambassador. With no experience necessary, these land stewards receive training to greet visitors at trailheads and share helpful information and tips between April and September. Find more volunteer opportunities doing work such as trail maintenance here.

 And always remember to respect the natural areas and everyone who uses them, with these Ready, Set, Gorge! tips.

About The

Molly Allen
Molly Allen is a food and travel writer in Hood River, Oregon who has written for Travel & Leisure, Wine Enthusiast and Food & Wine. She balances her days hiking and paddleboarding in the Columbia River Gorge with baking and pizza-making.

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