Located just 40 minutes outside of Portland, Oregon, the Columbia River Gorge is worth a day trip. On a recent jaunt to this uber sustainable destination I escaped from the city to immerse myself in nature through a hiking trip with First Nature ([email protected]). Free farmer’s market sampling, foraging, waterfalls, waterfront picnicking and beer tasting were all part of the fun. To help you have a similar experience, here is a suggested itinerary as well as videos and photos to bring the day to life. View of the Columbia River from The Vista House on a cloudy day. I actually think the slightly inclement weather makes the scene look beautifully ominous.
Just a small taste of the enormous Portland Farmer’s Market
8am: Head to the Portland State University Farmer’s Market, with over 100 stalls of produce, goat milk cheeses, grass-fed meats, artisan hot sauces, organic jams, local wines, lavender infused honeys, farm-to-fork prepared foods and, my personal favorite, the “Sin Dawg” from Killer Dave’s Bread, a whole grain loaf filled with an unexpected gooey cinnamon roll center. The best part about this market aside for its impressive size and selection is the free samples. Almost every stall was offering complimentary tastings of their goods. No joke, it is extremely possible to make a full meal out of your tastings (I did). Another bonus: they have clean public bathrooms! Gather up some goodies at the market and pack them for a picnic. I recommend getting to the market when it opens so you can see all the Portland chefs gathering their goods for the day.
9:30 am: If you haven’t booked a guide you’ll need to rent a car; however, if you booked First Nature they’ll provide transportation. Start driving to the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, making your way along the Columbia Gorge Historic Highway and the Columbia Valley Scenic Byway, the first of its kind in the country, built solely for scenic purposes in the early 1900s. Take your time and make stops along the way at the lookout points.
Before you reach the gorge you’ll also pass a number of waterfalls, like Latourell Falls, Wahkeena Falls and Multnomah Falls, the largest falls in Oregon and the country’s second-largest year-round waterfall. Have your camera battery charged for taking photos. At some of the stops Kieron also helped us forage for wood sorrel, hazlenuts and salmonberries.
11am: Once you reach the trailhead — located 2.5 miles east of Multnomah Falls on the Historic Highway — you’ll have a few options in terms of trails. I recommend heading to Triple Falls, a mesmerizing triple waterfall gushing crystal waters. During my day trip I connected two different trails — Horsetail Falls Trail (.8 miles) and Triple Falls (1.8 miles) — to make this happen. After crossing over the wooden bridge — video above — you can decide if you want to continue on Horsetail or switch over to see the three side-by-side falls.
Forest Goraging in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area
12:30pm: Once your hike is complete, it’s time for lunch (although it’s a good idea to also have hiking snacks on the trail to keep energy levels up). Head to the Wahkeena Falls Picnic Area with your farmer’s market collection and munch on fresh local goodies while you watch the boats float by. Tip: Bring a hair tie and some heavy stones to hold any loose objects down. It gets windy over there! Not surprisingly, this area is known for its windsurfing.
View from Thunder Island Brewery of Thunder Island and the Columbia River.
3pm: Head over to Thunder Island Brewery — started by Portland homebrewers Dan Hynes and Dave Lipps — which not only serves great beers but offers outdoor picnic table seating and games like Apples to Apples and Corn Hole on the Columbia River. They also allow you to bring your own food — although they do serve snacks like pretzels, trail mix, white cheddar popcorn and potato chips — if you’d like to eat there.
Looks beautiful, but watch out for those prickly spikes underneath.
Note: My trip to Portland was sponsored by Visit Portland. I was not required to write this post nor was I compensated by the tourism board. All opinions are my own. Featured image courtesy of John Murphy.
Photo Note: All photos and videos were taken with a Nokia Lumia Icon.