I’m a big believer that back-road adventures are the best when they provide sneak peeks at nature. That’s really true when you travel to the east side of the Columbia River Gorge, where wildflowers are “bustin’ out all over” as we discovered through our recent Mosier meanderings.
There are many prized Oregon destinations that provide special scenic wonders as spring mows the winter season away. The Columbia River Gorge is a place where the views are never twice the same and moments of beauty are easily found along trails that you can hike or bike. The eastern point of view to the Gorge is especially huge, sprawling and hard to miss at places like the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles. It’s a timeless place that’s easy on the eyes and provides memories that last a lifetime.
“We are the eastern gateway to people visiting the Gorge for the first time,” noted Carolyn Purcell, Director of the Discovery Center. “Many first-time visitors to the Gorge are actually coming from the east and they stop here for an orientation to the Gorge. They soon learn what’s important about it, the cultural and natural history and also new places to see and experience.”
You’re apt to find me off the beaten path in this part of Oregon – sometimes where the asphalt turns to gravel or where the dirt takes over and nature’s touch restores the soul. You may get the bug to explore Columbia River Gorge back roads too, and the Historic Columbia River Highway is a fine place to start. If you choose to travel the byway, head for Mosier (I-84 Exit #69) and try some meandering (Note: you will slow down because the narrow winding roadway gives you little choice.)
Don’t be surprised if you cross paths with noted landscape photographer Steve Terrill. His favorite Gorge haunts are at their prime at this time of year. “From the clouds to the lighting to the colorful flowers, it’s all so wonderful in April and May,” said the longtime photographer. “It’s just a gorgeous place to look around for the bright beautiful balsamroot; the crimson red paintbrush and the contrasting purple lupine; it’s just an explosion of color.”
If you go to Mosier, consider two nearby parklands: the first is Memaloose State Park campground with plenty of elbow room and a campground for an overnight stay and also nearby Mayer State Park where a picnic lunch is a perfect match at a parkland that sprawls riverside under reliably blue skies.
There are acres of wildflowers to be sure, but there are notable waterfalls – some a bit more secretive too – like Mosier Creek Falls, which drops more than 100 feet from top to bottom. And all of this waits for you anytime!
The Columbia River Gorge offers moments of magic through natural beauty and from the memories that we create with our friends or family. One of the best ways to discover the varied gorgeous seasonal hikes is to connect with the Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, a non-profit organization that provides experts who lead hikes throughout the year.
Directions to Mosier Creek Falls: From Hwy 84, take exit 69 into Mosier and drive east through town on 1st St (Hwy 30). Continue through the middle of town past the totem pole and business area. Just east of Idaho Street, you will come to a small bridge with concrete railing that crosses over Mosier Creek. The trail begins just east of the bridge on the south (uphill) side of the road. You will see a park bench inscribed with “Pioneer Cemetery” at the beginning of the trail.