The Columbia River Highway was one of the first US highways designed for scenic touring. The first section, which runs between Portland and The Dalles, originally opened in 1915. When completed in 1921, the 350-mile highway went from Astoria to Pendleton. Various sections of this historic highway - US Highway 30 - have been preserved, with about a 20-mile-long portion still available to automobiles, and other sections available to bikers and hikers. The western drivable section, which runs from Troutdale to Multnomah Falls, should not be missed.
The Historic Columbia River Highway winds through temperate rain forest, a wonderland of conifers, maples, wildflowers, mosses, and ferns. It runs through the lushly-forested hills that are located above Interstate 84, which is now the primary highway through the Columbia River Gorge. As you travel the old highway, you'll be treated to a lush green landscape, waterfalls and moss-lined canyons, and intermittent river views. You'll want to stop often along the way to check out scenic viewpoints, to hike to and around grand waterfalls, and to take in the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. Much of the land along the historic route has been preserved under various units of the Oregon State Parks system or as USDA Forest Service land.
Graceful Bridges and Charming Road Structures
In keeping with the beauty of the surrounding, the Columbia River Highway builders made sure that the man-made structures along the road were equally beautiful. You'll see lovely stonework and concrete arches along your driving tour, the remains of the historic highway's original safety rails, turnouts, and bridges large and small.
There are dozens of waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge and the section encompassed by the Historic Columbia River Highway includes some of the best. Many, including spectacular Multnomah Falls, can be seen from the road.
Forest Hiking Trails
While there is much to be seen from the roadside, you'll definitely want to get out and explore the lush green landscape along the historic highway. You'll find hikes ranging from easy paved interpretive trails to challenging uphill treks.
Start Your Driving Tour in Troutdale
A good place to start your trip is with a stop at the Troutdale visitor center. As you enter this small town, located at the west end of the Historic Columbia River Highway, you'll see a sign arching over the roadway that reads "Troutdale: Gateway to the Gorge." The visitor center is located on the south side of the road near this sign. You'll be able to pick up maps and learn more about current conditions along the scenic route.
West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center
226 W. Historic Columbia River Hwy
Troutdale, OR 97060
A day trip along the Historic Columbia River Highway is a definite treat. Here are the places you can stop and explore along the way:
- Women's Forum Overlook at Chanticleer Point
- Crown Point and Vista House
- LaTourell Falls
- Shepperd's Dell Falls
- Bridal Veil Falls
- Wahkeena Falls
- Multnomah Falls
- Oneonta Falls and Horsetail Falls
The moist environment can make the trails muddy and slippery. No matter how enticing it seems to cross barriers for that perfect photograph, resist the temptation. Injuries and even deaths occur every year along the Gorge due to people and dogs slipping.