Travel Tips for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Located near Oregon’s highest peak, Mt. Hood, and within the magnificent Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Hood River offers abundant hiking and biking trails — many of which are accessible all year long. Explore the trails in Hood River and you’ll encounter waterfalls, wildflowers, scenic viewpoints and, at certain times of year, huckleberries, wild mushrooms and other surprises along the way. Well over 2 million visitors travel to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area each year. To avoid congestion on local trails and have a safe and enjoyable trip, please take Ready, Set, GOrge! to heart.

Ways to avoid crowds and find solitude on the trails.

Go Early

  • Aim to start your hike before 10 a.m. to avoid congestion at popular trailheads. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views and solitude.

Go East

  • Hike the less popular but equally beautiful hikes in the eastern Gorge such as Columbia Hills State Park. Or, consider doing your trip in reverse order (starting in The Dalles and driving west).

Go North

  • Hike the less popular but equally beautiful hikes on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, such as the Weldon Wagon Wheel trail.

Go Midweek

  • The weekends are the busiest times to visit the Gorge, especially between April and October. You’ll likely avoid crowds if you visit mid-week. Even better, consider planning a midweek multi-day stay in Hood River to explore the museums, shops, wineries and other attractions in this welcoming town along the Columbia River.

Take these steps when planning your trip to the Columbia River Gorge to help ensure you have a safe and enjoyable adventure.

1. Choose trails that meet your group’s comfort and fitness level.

When choosing a hiking trail, consider the following:

  • Total distance (round-trip).
  • Total elevation gain and loss (generally speaking, the more elevation gain, the more strenuous it will be).
  • Trail conditions (read online trail descriptionsand trip reports to determine any natural hazards).
  • Trail closures (check herefor trail closure alerts).

2. Research road, trail and weather conditions.

Roads:

  • Oregon – org
  • Washington – com/traffic

Trails:

  • Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Hiking Guide
  • Friends of the Columbia Gorge Find a Hike Tool
  • Oregon Hikers Trip Reports

Weather:

  • NOAA forecast for western Gorge
  • NOAA forecast for the eastern Gorge

3. Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be home.

Then, be sure to send your friend another message once you are safely back to your car.

4. Research recreation use fees and bring cash to pay them.

Recreation fees help pay for trail maintenance and amenities, such as restrooms and picnic areas, at trailheads. Go here to find a comprehensive list of the three types of passes and where they are required.

5. Bring the 10 Essentials.

This includes water, extra food, a headlamp and more. Go here to get the full list.

Help protect the Columbia River Gorge for future generations. Become a steward of this place we love.

  1. Protect vital habitat by using only authorized trails and campsites.
  2. Leave no trace by packing out your trash and picking up litter you find.
  3. Stop the spread of invasive species by using a boot brush, available at many trailheads.
  4. Protect wildlife by keeping dogs on leash and picking up their waste.
  5. Be courteous. Don’t block parking spots or private driveways, and don’t park in unauthorized spaces.
  6. Reduce carbon emissions and congestion by carpooling, taking a shuttle or biking.
  7. Respect local cultures, practices and resources.
  8. Help Gorge businesses prosper by shopping locally.
  9. Donate time and skills to local nonprofits and agencies.
  10. Support maintenance and conservation efforts by paying usage fees.

Find more tips at ReadySetGorge.com.