The Pacific Northwest is an outdoors lover’s haven, and Portland’s Columbia River Gorge is no different. (Photos: Joe Greer)
In New York City, some people quip that the Pacific Northwest is like a West Coast version of Brooklyn with more granola and trees. And while the breakfast dish might not be more popular in the region than in the Big Apple, it certainly seems easier to surround yourself with soaring conifers and lush grass around here. Welcome to Portland, the crunchy city with nature at its doorstep.
And at just a 30 minute drive from the city, the Columbia River Gorge is probably the most iconic of these outdoor attractions – not least, one imagines, because part of it was featured in the Twilight movie franchise. The gorge area encompasses over 290,000 acres in south Washington and north Oregon, and runs from the mouth of the Deschutes River to the mouth of the Sandy River. It’s a truly spectacular place.
Within its boundaries, there’s the cascading Multnomah Falls and the even more majestic Latourell Falls, which feels like something out of a fantasy novel with its massive stream and beautiful basalt rock base. Meanwhile, nearby scenic hiking trails are peppered with Tolkienesque cobbled walkways and carved stone bridges.
And it doesn’t end there: a little farther along the Columbia River Highway is the Vista House, a strikingly beautiful observatory incorporating elements of Art Nouveau. Think decorated marble floors and elegant bronze-lined features and you’re getting close. It’s the perfect place to gaze down at parts of the gorge, too: from up here you can get one of the clearest views of the snaking, serene Columbia River.
It’s places like this that give Portland the edge over many other American cities: with just a short drive, all the stresses and strains of urban life can be washed away. A word of warning, however – granola isn’t easy to come by in the gorge.
• Off Historic Columbia River Highway, OR, +1 541 308 1700
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