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Best hikes in the Columbia River Gorge

Sunset over the Columbia River in Oregon

Hey, Corey with Envi Adventures.

The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Oregon—and possibly the entire country. The Columbia River Gorge is home to some of the most stunning natural attractions in the region, ranging from unforgettable waterfalls to rocky summits and everything you could possibly imagine in between. Naturally, there are a lot of hiking options when you travel to the Columbia River Gorge. Whether you plan on going on guided tours in the Gorge or you’re going it on your own, consider the following hikes in Columbia River Gorge that I think are pretty special.

Multnomah Falls

This one shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon, and one of the most well-photographed waterfalls in the entire country. Hiking the Falls is a great choice if you appreciate the beauty and power of waterfalls. Multnomah Falls reaches 620 feet tall and features 2 tiers; the lower drop tier can be accessed through a short hike and a footbridge. Hikers who want to get a higher view can head up switchbacks to a platform on the top of the falls–just make sure you’re not afraid of heights when you look over the top!

 

Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls lives just west of Multnomah Falls and is a VERY popular hiking spot. However, it was closed for more than a year following the Eagle Creek Fire that started in September 2017. It’s back open now, and people have returned and are flocking to it, so be sure to arrive early to snag a parking spot– which is limited.

And please, please, please avoid parking on the side of the road. There are signs all along the highway throughout the Gorge that say “NO PARKING”, but apparently people forgot how to read and park anyway.

Angel’s Rest

This is another hike that was closed for over a year as well because of the fire. It’s back open now as well, and it’s still an amazing hiking experience.

Angel’s Rest is a summit that sits high above the Columbia River and offers stunning, expanded views that must be seen to be believed. The hike to the summit is relatively short when compared to other hikes in the Gorge–clocking in at just 2.5 miles or 5 miles round trip. However, it is an elevated climb which tops out at 1,400 feet, so be prepared to work hard for your view at the top of the summit.

If one of your main phobias is working hard for a view ( I get that…), then an aerial tour of the Gorge is a great way to see it.

Beacon Rock

If you’d like a hike with some interesting history, head to Beacon Rock in Washington state. This old volcanic plug was named after it was spotted by Lewis and Clark in 1805. Beacon Rock is one of the most memorable landmarks in the entire Gorge due to its immense size–848 feet high, in total. Hiking to the top requires 50 switchbacks, but the effort is well worth it for the view and history.

Another fun fact about Beacon Rock is that it was bought for $1 in 1915 by Henry Biddle. If you were to buy it today for the same amount accounting for inflation…$25.07.

I’d say Hank got a pretty good deal.

What to Bring on a Columbia River Gorge Hike

While the exact equipment may vary depending on your skill level, where you plan to hike and how long you plan to say, there is vital equipment that you should bring on any Columbia River Gorge hike, no matter what area you will be visiting or the details of your trip. Essential equipment includes:

  • Hiking boots or tennis shoes

  • Printed map of the region

  • Compass

  • Extra water supply AND purification tablets

  • Extra food

  • Additional clothing (including a windproof layer and a rain jacket)

  • Emergency kit with: Fire starter, matches, headlamp, whistle

  • First aid kit

  • Multi-purpose knife

  • Sunscreen

Final thoughts

I hate to be ‘that guy’, but the Eagle Creek Fire that started in September 2017 started completely unnecessarily. It was caused by complete carelessness wasting millions of dollars of resources and time. Not to mention the risk it put homes and lives in, and the lost revenue for many, many businesses.

That being said, please be responsible. I realize that it will all grow back, and things will be and are OK. Just don’t be thoughtless, careless, or whatever other something-less you can think of.

Also, if hiking isn’t your thing, you can see and enjoy all of these hiking locations from the air on a private Columbia River Gorge air tour. You can also make your Gorge experience a 360º one by hiking and flying to see it from every possible angle…which is also pretty neat.

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