At the eastern end of the Columbia Gorge, each spring you'll find some of the best Oregon has to offer.
The Rowena Loops section between The Dalles and Mosier is the highlight of the 74-mile Historic Columbia River Highway. Savor views of cliffs coming alive with flowers as you make the ascent to the Rowena Crest Viewpoint for a bird's-eye perspective on the gorge below.
At the juncture where the evergreen ecosystems of the Cascades meet the dry prairies of eastern Oregon, Tom McCall Preserve is home to some of the most spectacular spring wildflower blooms in the state. The plateau, molded by volcanic eruptions and other geological forces, is best explored on volunteer-led hikes.
Sights and Events
The Columbia Gorge area has been inhabited for over 11,000 years. For a comprehensive introduction to that history, check out the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum. The glass-and-timber building, honored by the American Institute of Architects, houses a host of interactive displays. Artifacts from the area's original residents include woven baskets whose designs are unique to the mid-Columbia basin. Save time to walk the nature trail that winds through the 54-acre grounds, where you can spot bald eagles and shining Oregon grape, the state flower, in spring. AAA members save $1 on museum admission.
Open since 1870, Klindt's Booksellers and Stationers ranks as the state's longest operating bookstore and the second oldest west of the Mississippi. The shop stocks both best sellers and obscure tomes, with a section devoted to local history and horticulture. When you tread the creaky hardwood floor and run your fingers across the original shelves, you join a lineage of bookworms going back nearly a century and a half.
Drive southeast of town for 10 minutes, through cherry orchards and past farmhouses, to arrive at Sandoz Farm, family owned since 1880. Known for its pork and Angus beef, Sandoz also carries jams and juices made from its own cherries, pears, and grapes. Stop by in the afternoon to meet one of the farmers, who will gladly share details about how your food was grown.
With an 18-foot mahogany bar dating back to the early 20th century, the Baldwin Saloon has stuck to its roots as a frontier eatery, now upgraded with comfy booth seats and paintings by West Coast landscape artist Joseph Englehart. The rotating menu reflects the changing times too; pulled pork tacos pair perfectly with an IPA on tap from local Sedition Brewing Company.
Kainos Coffee is like a slice of Portlandia in the gorge. Marten Boyden and Austin Roberts, who met in elementary school in The Dalles, honed their coffee skills in Austin, Texas, and ran their first Kainos coffee shop in Portland before launching this hometown offshoot in 2018. Enjoy the bright space with a breakfast of smoked-trout toast, then grab a bag of coffee beans freshly roasted on-site.
Up Next: Perfect Weekend Trip to Portland
Pick up a Hood River/The Dalles map at your local AAA branch. For lodging and discounts, download the AAA mobile app at AAA.com/mobile.
This article was first published in Spring 2019. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.