Post Summary: The Perfect 3 Day Columbia River Gorge Itinerary
Looking for a quick getaway to see the epic waterfalls in Oregon and Washington?
Living in the PNW, Berty and I are always searching for quick and easy-to-reach getaways for an action-packed weekend. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area delivers every single time!
Because there is so much to do in the Gorge, Berty and I return every single season. We’ve been countless times, and even still have more to see on our list!
The Columbia River Gorge is one of our favorite destinations for the perfect blend of outdoor adventure, relaxation, and fun activities!
In this post, we’re sharing our 3-day Columbia River Gorge itinerary (and more alternatives below!) so you can plan your own adventurous weekend with ease!
The Perfect Columbia River Gorge Weekend Itinerary
- The Perfect Columbia River Gorge Weekend Itinerary
- How to Get To The Columbia River Gorge (And Around)
- Weather In the Gorge (What To Expect)
- Where to stay for a Columbia River Gorge Weekend
- Columbia River Gorge Itinerary (3 Days)
- Columbia River Gorge Itinerary Alternatives (1 – 5 Days Plans)
- MORE PACIFIC NORTHWEST ADVENTURES
How to Get To The Columbia River Gorge (And Around)
It’s a straightforward route to the Columbia River Gorge from Portland. Once you leave the city, take I-84 East and keep driving for about 20 minutes. You’ll quickly start to see exits to get off the freeway and join the Historic Highway 30. This is the route to see all the waterfalls!
Getting around, you have a few options:
Drive Your Own Car: The easiest way to get around the Columbia River Gorge is by car. You’ll be hopping between parking lots often, so having your own vehicle is easy and convenient.
Rent a Car: If you’re flying into Portland International Airport (PDX), you’ll want to rent a car. Use RentalCars.com to compare prices across all companies to get the best deal!
Join A Tour: Don’t have the means for using a car? Book a tour! It’s a really fun way to get shown around the Gorge, especially if you are staying in the city of Portland. Many tours will come to your hotel to pick you up, and drop you off at the end of the day.
Weather In the Gorge (What To Expect)
The weather in the Columbia River Gorge changes from season to season, but you should always expect either a light drizzle, and a big dose of wind! The climate varies (the west side tends to be rainier and green, while the east side is dry and arid) but the general seasonal shifts can be expected.
Winter in the Columbia River Gorge is from December to late March. Many of the higher elevation hikes are snowed-in, making accessibility and parking limited. However, if you are coming for a spa or food getaway, resort and hotel prices are the cheapest this time of year.
Spring in the Columbia River Gorge is popular for hikers, especially during wildflower season! (Late April). Expect it to be rainy at least one day of your visit during spring!
Summer in the Columbia River Gorge is the busiest and most popular time to visit. The Gorge is bursting with lush green, rich flowers, and tons of produce – especially in the Hood River. Be patient with parking – that’s the biggest challenge of this season.
Fall in the Columbia River Gorge is the perfect time to enjoy the bounty that this area provides. Stop by the many wineries in the region, book a farm-to-table dining experience or drive the Hood River Fruit Loop to pick in-season produce.
Where to stay for a Columbia River Gorge Weekend
There are plenty of incredible Columbia River Gorge accommodations. We’re listing our top favorites below, but if you want to full scoop (budget options, campgrounds, and even romantic getaways!) check out our post about the best places to stay in the Columbia River Gorge.
Best Western Plus Columbia River Inn (Cascade Locks)
The Best Western Plus Columbia River Inn is perfect for the budget-friendly traveler. It’s located in Cascade Locks and its close to food, trailheads, and amenities. The rooms are simple and cozy, with everything you need
Last time we visited, the hotel gave us vouchers to pick up breakfast from Bridgeside, which is a local diner next door, which was in the middle of 2022. Guest chose between a few pre-packaged options and I had no complaints on the food!
The Skamania Lodge
The Skamania Lodge is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, in Stevenson, WA. It’s a perfect place to plan a romantic Washington getaway, because of its luxurious accommodations and amenities.
Here, you’ll find treehouses for a couples retreat, golfing, forest bathing trails, and tons of wellness and spa treatments. It’s a great spot to stay if you want to dip your toes into the world of PNW spa relaxation and restoration.
The Society Hotel
The Society Hotel Bingen is a unique place to stay – it’s a converted schoolhouse! Updated with modern features and amenties, this place blends the trendiness of today with the historic timelessness of the architecture and history of the building.
Each of the rooms is unique – they are converted classrooms that come in a mix of King and Queen private suites, as well as bunkhouse type accommodations. They also have a luxurious spa on-site. It includes a cold plunge, outdoor hot tub, sauna, and more.
Camping in the Columbia River Gorge
One of the easiest ways to save money when planning a trip to the Columbia River Gorge is by booking campsites for your accommodations!
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Columbia River Gorge Itinerary (3 Days)
So, when planning a Columbia River Gorge itinerary, there are so many directions you can take a trip here!
Below, we’re sharing a balanced mix of adventure, history, relaxation, and fun! Hopefully, this combination of activities can be good for a wide range of people, especially families who are visiting the Gorge together. We hope you enjoy!
Day 1: Explore the Washington Side
Coming from Portland, start your trip across the river with a visit to the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum in Stevenson. Get a glimpse of life in the Columbia Gorge before beginning your journey through its dramatic landscape!
Berty and I always love squeezing in a museum visit wherever we go – it helps give us context to the people, culture, and geography that shaped the area.
While still on the Washington side, head over to Beacon Rock State Park to hike the dizzying Beacon Rock Trail. It’s 1 mile almost entirely of switchbacks, climbing rapidly to the top of the rock! The views from above are incredible, so this is a must-do Columbia River gorge hike, if you’re not afraid of heights!
Finally, drive over to Cook, WA to hike the short but steep trail to Spirit Falls. It’s a gorgeous Washington waterfall to see! If you’d like to see more, Panther Creek Falls and Falls Creek Falls are also nearby.
If you are coming in the spring, consider hiking Dog Mountain, one of the best places to view wildflowers in the Gorge!
Day 2: Explore Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway Stops
In the morning, start your day off driving the Historic Columbia River Highway. Spanning 70 miles from Troutdale to Ainsworth State Park, this incredible Oregon scenic drive is filled with waterfalls, hiking trails, and historic markers! One of our favorite stops is the Vista House – you can get an incredible view of the Gorge in both directions!
Some of the most iconic Columbia River Gorge waterfalls include Bridal Veil Falls, Latourell Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Horsetail Falls, and Eagle Creek Falls. You can find the entire list (including parking and trail information) here!
Note: In 2023, Highway 30 is permit free, but if you want to park at Multnomah Falls (the I-84 parking lot off Exit 31) you’ll need to secure a permit in advance. There are no kiosks on-site to get a permit, but you can reserve your ticket up to 2 weeks in advance here.
Day 3: Enjoy the east side of the Gorge (Wine! Views! Food!)
On the last day of your Columbia River George itinerary, head over to the town of Hood River! Start at the Hood River Waterfront Park and walk the waterfront trail to spot SUPers, Kayaker, and even wind surfers on those windier days.
For a more relaxing afternoon, choose from the many wineries in the area and enjoy lunch and a wine tasting. Some local favorites include Cathedral Ridge Winery, Cor Cellars, Idiot’s Grace, and Hiyu Wine Farm.
Before heading back to Portland to finish up your Columbia River Gorge itinerary, take a drive around the Hood River Fruit Loop. Keep your eyes peeled for “U-Pick” signs, which mean you can stop and pick your own fresh, in-season produce!
Columbia River Gorge Itinerary Alternatives (1 – 5 Days Plans)
Columbia River Gorge 1 Day Itinerary
This itinerary is perfect for someone who only has a handful of hours! A Columbia River Gorge day trip is perfect for those who can’t stay overnight but still want to experience the beauty of the Gorge!
To start your day trip to the Columbia River Gorge, start by driving the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway. Stop at any waterfall that looks interesting. Our personal favorites are Wahkeena Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horsetail Falls.
If you want to stop and hike a short trail, we recommend the quick (but sort of steep!) route to Ponytail Falls. It’s right above Horsetail Falls and it’s also one of the coolest walk-behind waterfalls in Oregon!
After you finish driving on Highway 30, finish your half day in the Columbia River Gorge by grabbing a bite to eat in Cascade Locks. Thunder Island Brewing Company has a wonderful deck to enjoy lunch if it’s sunny outside! Just a few blocks away is Gorges Beer Co, which is a bright, big space perfect for groups and beer lovers.
On your way back to Portland, take Exit 31 off Interstate 84 to stop and see Multnomah Falls. You’ll need to get a permit online to park in the lot, but it’s only $2 and really easy to obtain here.
Columbia River Gorge 2 Day Itinerary (Overnight Trip)
Have only two days in the Columbia River Gorge? Thankfully, you can do a lot in that span of time!
This 2 day Columbia River Gorge Itinerary is fun and gorgeous, without sacrificing efficiency and timeliness! Keep reading to find the best overnight trip to the Columbia River Gorge.
- Day 1: Drive the Historic Columbia River Highway. Stop by waterfalls and enjoy the scenery at the Vista House, and other overlooks. Stay overnight in Hood River, Oregon.
- Day 2: Wake up and drive the Hood River Fruit Loop. Pick local in-season produce! Drive home and stop by Cascade Locks for lunch, and stop by Multnomah Falls for your last activity before heading back to Portland.
Columbia River Gorge 4-5 Day Itinerary
Do you have more time to spend in the Columbia River Gorge? We’ve created an itinerary for the perfect weekend escape below! For longer trips, we’ve also added extra suggestions, so you can extend your trip to as long as you desire! Get it below and start dreaming!
Have you every planned a Columbia River Gorge itinerary? What were your favorite activities? Share them in the comments below!
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