Truly one of the world’s mighty rivers, the Columbia is the largest in western North America. The New York Times describes The Columbia Gorge as being “like Europe, only better.” Hailed as one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders, the region’s fleece-capped mountain peaks, primeval forests, abundant wildflowers and waterfall-streaked highlands whisper of the Swiss Alps. Learn about the rich natural history of the region as we visit each of these diverse environments up close, including a whitewater rafting trip down a spectacular gorge. From Multnomah Falls to Hood River to Mount Hood, easy to reach trails abound, making this the ideal location for a hiking tour. On the weekends, the trails get busy with day-trippers from Portland, so we schedule this tour mid-week to avoid the busiest times.
Day 1: Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls. Bridge of the Gods.
Creeks and rivers rush forth from snow covered mountains and plummet down the towering cliffs of columnar basalt that form the walls of the Columbia River Gorge. If there’s one thing the Gorge is known for, it is spectacular waterfalls. After a short drive we start with a loop on the Oregon side of the river that takes in five named falls plus numerous other drops, concluding with the tallest – 620 foot Multnomah Falls – the most popular tourist destination in the state. Normally, you might spend half a day hiking to just one falls like any of these, so it almost feels like cheating – getting five falls for the price of one. But hey, who doesn’t love a bargain? In the afternoon cross over the Bridge of the Gods, where a massive landslide once spanned the river. Relax and dine this evening at Skamania Lodge – one of the premier hotels along the Gorge. No need to pack your bag in the morning, we will be here for two nights.
Walking Distances: Multnomah Falls Loop: 7 miles, 1800 ft gain
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Day 2: Hamilton Mountain
Hamilton Mountain. Beacon Rock. Skamania Lodge Spa.
Two great options to choose from today: ascend Hamilton Mtn or spend a day relaxing at the spa and wandering the lovely trails around Skamania Lodge. If you choose Hamilton Mtn, you will ascend through towering westside forests past waterfalls to wildflower-strewn meadows perched on parched, desert-like basalt cliffs. Instead of returning the way we came, we descend via a rainforest canyon of maple, red alder and diverse ferns. Those with extra energy can scale Beacon Rock, as well. This carnival-ride of parapets and walkways is not recommended for those with a fear of heights, but it is an absolute must for trail engineering aficionados! Dinner tonight is on your own at Skamania Lodge.
Walking Distances: Hamilton Mountain Loop: 7.5 miles, 2000 ft gain
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Day 3: Waterfalls and Forests
Waterfalls Galore. Wildflowers.
Today our best option will depend upon the season. Both hikes are local favorites. If it is early season and the balsam is still in bloom, then we will head to Dog Mountain to catch the amazing views and most dramatic wildflower display the Gorge has to offer. In summer, we skip the big climb to enjoy some easier hikes to more spectacular falls. Oneonta Falls, Horsetail Falls. Ponytail Falls, Elowah Falls, Wahclella Falls. Metlako Falls, Punchbowl Falls… there are simply too many to list! In the afternoon we head to Hood River – world famous for its wind and water sports, and fueled by enough outdoor enthusiasm for Outside magazine to call it “One of America’s Best Towns.” Spend the night on the shores of the mighty Columbia River – with private beach access – at the Hood River Inn.
Walking Distance: Dog Mountain: 7 miles, 2900 ft gain
Falls Hikes: variable distance and gain
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Day 4: Rafting and Mt. Hood
White Salmon River. Historic Timberline Lodge. Dining Celebration.
Take a whitewater rafting trip (included in the trip fee – no experience necessary) down the glacier-fed White Salmon River. Running clear and cold, the river cuts through a narrow rocky gorge with 100-foot cliffs, emptying out into forested meadows. Have lunch along the river before we head back into Oregon, bound for the literal high point of the tour at Timberline Lodge—a National Historic Landmark perched upon the flanks of Mt Hood. Go for a walk through the mountain meadows and snowfields surrounding the lodge. Marvel at the sweeping views. Savor a celebratory dinner in the fabulous Cascade Dining Room and relax afterward in front of the legendary three-story fireplace!
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Day 5: Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake. Volcano Views.
On our final day we explore the best early season Mt Hood National Forest has to offer. See how Mirror Lake earned its name, offering a perfect reflection of the mountain on a calm day. Continue above a glacial-cirque headwall through wildflower meadows to Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (yup, that’s the name). This rocky summit amidst the lush forests of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness offers the perfect perch from which to contemplate the icy volcanic towers of Mt Hood and Mt Jefferson, as well as a host of other peaks in the northern Oregon Cascades. On a clear day, more than 5 volcanoes are visible from here. We toast our journey and have a celebratory lunch before returning to Portland.
Mirror Lake, TD&H Mtn: 7 miles, 1600 ft gain
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Columbia Gorge & Mt. Hood Details
- Tour Highlights
- Is This Tour for Me?
- Tour Inclusions
- Accommodations & Food
- Customizations for Your Family or Group
- Additional Information
- Tour Preparation
Premiere hotels on this tour include: Skamania Lodge, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area’s destination resort accommodation on the Washington State side of the River
Historic Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood – a mountain paradise!
Naturalist guides connect you to the story behind the scenery.
Experience Multnomah Falls and other spectacular Oregon Waterfalls in Waterfall Alley.
Splash through Class II-IV Rapids while whitewater rafting the White Salmon River.
Toast a world-class dinner with a fabulous view and a great tour at our farewell dinner 6,000’ high in Timberline Lodge’s Cascade Dining Room.
If you want to do more than just hike and see the sights, our naturalist guides will help you connect with the story behind the natural wonders of this diverse region.
This tour is suitable for all hiking abilities.
Naturalist tour leader
Overnight accommodations – all included
Full breakfasts – all included.
All lunches included. We will pack our trail lunches from fresh, local, organic (where possible) ingredients.
Full dinners – including appetizers. Alcohol at restaurants is not provided. One dinner on your own.
Snacks, water, sparkling water, local wine, local beer, etc.
Premiere accommodations on this tour include:
- Luxury and European-style ambience at the Paramount Hotel in Portland’s epicenter.
- Skamania Lodge is the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area’s destination resort in the Washington State.
- Historic Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood is – simply put – a mountain paradise!
- We have selected these accommodations to give you the opportunity to explore the area on your own, as well as with the group.
- Fine dining every night:
- Premiere dining opportunities present themselves for the first three nights in both at Skamania Lodge and in Hood River.
- Our celebratory “farewell dinner” at Cascade Dining Room at Timberline Lodge is a 5-star dining experience accompanied by views that are even more amazing than the food!
- One dinner at Skamania Lodge (Day 2) is on your own.
Although we see our 5-day itinerary as giving the best the area has to offer in terms of dining and accommodations, the high concentration of amazing trails in the area as well as nearby lodging and food choices make this itinerary eminently flexible and customizable for your group. We are happy to discuss other possibilities with you!
- More basic (less-expensive) accommodations can be had on all nights of the tour.
- Another option for controlling costs is having breakfasts and dinners on your own.
- The hikes can be easily selected and tailored (shortened or extended) to meet the desires or abilities of your group.
- The tour can be shortened in duration. See our Columbia Gorge 3-day tour for a shorter itinerary.
- The tour can also be lengthened by combining this 5-day tour with more days in the area or with another tour (or tours) in the region to create a longer and more diverse Northwest wilderness experience! Options include:
- Olympic National Park 3-day, or 6-day tour.
- Mt. Rainier National Park 3-day, or 5-day tour.
Seasons/What to Expect
The Columbia Gorge can be visited any time of the year. Winter conditions do limit accessibility on Mt. Hood – it becomes a ski area! Also, winter cold snaps can also make for icy and dangerous conditions on some of the trails in the Gorge, although the frozen waterfalls themselves are still quite spectacular.
We schedule most of our tours for early summer when the waterfalls are most spectacular, brimming with water from the winter snowmelt.
While the wildflowers begin blooming at lower and drier elevations along the Gorge in March, May is usually the peak month for wildflowers on Dog Mountain. Wildflowers on Mt. Hood do not usually appear until sometime in late June or early July.
Some folks prefer early season, before schools are out for summer, as there are (somewhat) smaller numbers on these popular trails.
Late summer is a fine time to visit too, but the falls are often less dramatic due to the reduced flow of water.
- Skamania Lodge – laundry service offered with ½-day turnaround, no self service
- Hood River Inn – coin-operated facility onsite
- Timberline Lodge – self-service laundry available onsite
Geology Geologic History of the Columbia River Gorge by Ira A. Williams The Magnificent Gateway: A Layman's Guide to the Geology of the Columbia River Gorge by John Eliot Allen
History Anything about Lewis and Clark – particularly the last part of their journey down the Columbia River. - A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia River by Blaine Harden
Local Fiction Marten Marten by Brian Doyle The River Why by David James Duncan.
Below is a suggested list of items that you may want to bring on your upcoming hiking tour. When packing, remember that the weather can offer surprises, especially in the mountains. Plan to dress in layers and carry extra clothing every day for lunch and rest stops.
- Hiking pants or convertible pants
- Casual clothes—jeans, shorts, sport shirts
- Dinner clothes—nice casual attire is fine
- Hiking boots suitable for rocky trails
- Casual shoes
- Hiking socks (no cotton) and casual socks
- Sweater or light jacket
- Waterproof jacket
- Bathing suit for hot tubs and spas
- Camera, extra batteries, charger, and memory cards; dry bag (optional)
- Daypack with hydration system
- Driver’s license
- National Parks or Federal Recreation Lands Pass (optional; bring it if you have one)
- Reading material
- Ball cap for sun protection
- Sunglasses – dark enough for snow and bright sun
- Insect repellant of choice
- Toiletries and blister kit
- Vitamins and / or prescription drugs
- Extra set of glasses or contacts
- Small headlamp or flashlight
- Trekking poles (collapsible)
- A spirit of adventure
Additional Items for Cooler Seasons and High Elevations
- Baselayer shirts and tights
- Long sleeve fleece or mid-weight jacket suitable for active hiking
- Warm jacket for mornings and evenings
- Fleece or wool hat
- Winter gloves
- Thermal socks
- Wool sweater
- Waterproof rain gear
- Pack cover (optional)