Columbia River Gorge, one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, according to Travel Oregon:

Why it’s a wonder: When the ice age floods came roaring through the gorge, you could have heard it all the way to Longview. The legacy of the repeated cataclysms is polished rock walls with big hanging waterfalls, especially on the “7 wonders” side (Oregon). And thanks, gorge, because of you, Portland is one of the best large cities in which to live in the world. Besides, you keep our winters interesting.

Best view: I supposed you could get cute and list the long hike to Nesmith Point or Indian Point, but really, does the view get any better than the one you can drive to at Crown Point. It’s not a National Natural Landmark by accident.

Best who knew: You’ve seen it a million times, but have you ever ridden the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler? It’s amazing how many locals haven’t. The river cruise out of Cascade Locks is one of Oregon’s best visitor attractions.

Best day to visit: May 1 is the peak of the spring wildflower bloom on the sunny easy side, around Mosier and Rowena. But cheat and go every day, from April 15 to May 15, if you can swing it.

Best buy this: Pick up a bottle of Cathedral Ridge barbera reserve and drink it in the winery’s landscaped picnic area, with views across the gorge to Mount Adams (21 and over, please).

Best selfie spot: Kite surfing at Rowena, of course, though you may need special rigging for your Go Pro and a self timer.

Best hike: The Eagle Creek canyon not far from Bonneville Dam is best. Since  everyone knows this, expect crowds.

Best nearby: Duh, go to the Washington side of the gorge. It may even be more beautiful than the Oregon side, since the vegetation is open and its gets more sun because it faces south (though it doesn’t have quite as much public land).  If you’re looking to get out of the gorge but stay nearby in Oregon, head to the John Day River and the new Cottonwood Canyon State Park, but watch out for summer’s heat.

Know this: The gorge is a unique critter, being the country’s only national scenic area designated by Congress. I remember hearing an eastern Oregon politician sniff and say, “what for.” Well, because we were too late to make it a national park, since the railroad and freeway were already there. In my opinion, it would have been a top 10 tier national park (at least in the lower 48). Portlanders are so lucky to have it close by. Recreation is mostly managed by Oregon state parks and the U.S., Forest Service national scenic area, but don’t overlook the Hood River County parks for camping.

Info: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, 902 Wasco St., Suite 200, Hood River; 541-308-1700, fs.usda.gov/crgnsa.

This is No. 2 of seven in a daily series on the best of Travel Oregon’s 7 Wonders of Oregon advertising campaign.

The 7 Wonders of Oregon (and the day they are featured this week) are Oregon coast (Sunday), Columbia River Gorge (Monday), Mount Hood (Tuesday), Painted Hills (Wednesday), Smith Rock (Thursday), Wallowa Mountains (Friday) and Crater Lake (Saturday).

Next: Mount Hood.

Links to last year’s best hikes at the 7 wonders:

Crater Lake National Park, seven great hikes at one of 7 Wonders of Oregon

Wallowa Mountains, seven great hikes into one of 7 Wonders of Oregon (photos)

Oregon coast, seven great hikes along one of 7 Wonders of Oregon (photos)

Painted Hills, seven great hikes around one of 7 Wonders of Oregon (photos)

Mount Hood, seven great hikes around one of 7 Wonders of Oregon (photos)

Columbia River Gorge, seven great hikes in one of 7 Wonders of Oregon (photos)

Smith Rock State Park, seven great hikes in one of 7 Wonders of Oregon (with neighbors); photos

Links to my reporting on the Columbia gorge:

Columbia River Gorge’s top 10 spring wildflower hikes (recent photos from Memaloose Hills)

Columbia River Gorge’s top 10 trails for spring, summer hiking

Indian Point has dynamite view of Columbia River Gorge: great hikes

Larch Mountain high above Multnomah Falls is gorge classic: Terry’s top 10 trails

Columbia River Gorge scenic highlights, one of 7 Wonders of Oregon, mile by mile on I-84 (photos)

Skamania County adds weekend buses for recreation in Washington’s Columbia gorge

Columbia River Gorge’s five best spring hikes on Washington’s sunny side (photos)

When camping Columbia gorge, it pays to be a little deaf

Columbia River Gorge campgrounds with a good chance of sunshine

— Terry Richard
[email protected]
503-221-8222; @trichardpdx

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