This morning comes the real adventure in our trip. See our Day 2 for notes and our "optimized" itinerary for how we would rearrange our schedule. We woke up at sunrise and headed back to the Oneonta Gorge. We were ready for the chest deep wading this time - we brought a foot pump and raft! :) Best $20 I've ever spent! We crossed the log jam and then started inflating the raft. Turns out our raft did not have the correct adapter so it was a chore to get inflated, but we finally got it! This was an easy way to cross the deep water in the gorge without wading in the frigid water. We also got a early morning shot of the waterfall and gorge without the crowd. Hiking back out, we made some young boys really happy by giving our raft away just as they were getting ready to wade.
Back at the lodge, breakfast was pork chops, eggs and sweet potatoes, spinach, fresh blackberries and gluten free toast. After breakfast we checked out and drove to Mt. Hood. We stopped at Trillium Lake first to take a photo. We found it to be very crowded with people picnicking and swimming for the day. Getting to the lake was just a short trail down from the parking area. We found the visitors at Trillium Lake to be quite rude. It was very hard to take a good photo of Mt. Hood here because people kept intentionally swimming and splashing in the 100 square feet (with all the rest of this lake open) in front of the camera on the tripod. Lady on the yellow tube, we were not there to photograph you. I'm so sorry all your efforts to get into our photo failed. :) We preferred the hiking trails to our lake visits.
Next, we drove down the highway and parked off the highway for the Mirror Lake Trail. Somewhere along this trail was where Little Britches and Kelly finally gave out and threatened mutiny. :) I think we marked the exact point on GPS. I personally thought we would never get to the lake. I believe the trail length is severely underestimated or maybe it was just my feet talking. Mirror Lake was not as crowded because most of the shoreline is not cleared. The people here were more friendly.
After Mirror Lake, we drove into Portland for dinner. You guessed it! Cultured Caveman! After dinner we did some grocery and snack shopping to prepare for the airport the next day. We stayed at a hotel in Portland since we had an early flight the next morning. The next day, we drove to the airport, returned the rental car and headed for home. What a great trip!
Interested in other posts in this series? You might enjoy...
Columbia River Gorge - Itinerary
Columbia River Gorge - How We Planned
Columbia River Gorge - What to Wear
Columbia River Gorge - What to Pack
Columbia River Gorge - Day 1
Columbia River Gorge - Day 2
Columbia River Gorge - Day 3
Columbia River Gorge - Day 4
This morning started at sunrise like all the rest. Our early morning hike today was to Fairy Falls. Please note in our revised itinerary, we recommend you hike to Fairy Falls on Day 2 after Wahkeena. It will save your feet some miles. :)
On our hike up to Fairy Falls, we saw another Pika going into its burrow. We heard its call first. We had been hearing them all morning. It sounds a bit like a bird coming from the trees at first. The pika throws its call to sound like it is farther away. Fairy Falls is different than the other waterfalls we had seen as you can tell from the photo where it cascades down the rocks without a long free fall. The hike is a bit more strenuous with many switchbacks.
After Fairy Falls, you guessed it! We returned to the Bridal Veil Lodge for breakfast consisting of a breakfast herb omelette with fresh plums and gluten free toast. After breakfast, we packed lunch and snacks and drove to the Ponytail Falls trailhead. This is the loop trail behind Horseshoe Falls.
We continued on this trail passing under Ponytail Falls and walked as far as Middle Oneonta Falls. This is a waterfall at the top of the gorge. Look downstream and you can see where the water drops off into the Oneonta Gorge. We photographed this waterfall from an "overlook" near the bridge.
We drove to the Eagle Creek Trail to eat lunch then hike the two miles to Punchbowl and Lower Punchbowl Falls. We spotted another snake on this trail. There was a nice rocky beach here to play in the water or swim to Punchbowl Falls. The rocks were slick in and near the water. We saw a few people slip and fall. You really can't get a nice view of Punchbowl Falls unless you get into the water. For the very brave adventurers, people were cliff diving at Lower Punchbowl Falls. We did not partake in this activity. :)
On the return hike, we took the short side trail and walked to the Metlako Falls overlook. We were too tired to hike on to Tunnel Falls. Next time, we would plan this hike first thing after breakfast to spend the entire day on this trail and hike on through to Tunnel Falls.
We were really tired after this day of hiking so we decided to treat ourselves to the Cultured Caveman again! We tried the chicken tenders, slaw, pork carnitas tacos and bacon wrapped dates. We also tried the chocolate popsicle and Portland Paleo peppermint ice cream sandwich. We stopped at a Fred Meyers to buy a raft and foot pump for our next day's adventure. (See Day 2 for reason why we needed a raft.)
Day 3 started again at sunrise. We ate a quick snack of fruit and jerky on the drive to our first waterfall. View our itinerary here.
First we hiked the trail to Elowah Falls and Upper McCord Falls. When we got to the split in the trail, we took the Elowah Falls trail first. We hiked to the base of the waterfall and explored around the pool. The rock around the gorge at the base of the waterfall are volcanic lava rock called basalt.
After Elowah, we hiked back to the split and headed up the switchbacks to Upper McCord Falls. This hike is at a much higher altitude and offers some nice views. If you don't like heights, this may not be the hike for you. The very steep drop-offs along the trail were protected with only simple railing so be cautious at the top. We spotted some interesting "creatures" on this trail. We saw some gigantic snails and slugs. We later found out we had seen banana slugs. I'm not sure how easily you can get to the bottom of McCord Falls or if you can. We only hiked to the overlook, which is not well marked so look for a nice place where you can see the falls from the top of the trail.
Next hike was Wahclella Falls.
After our early morning hike, we returned to Bridal Veil Lodge for breakfast of smoked salmon scramble. After putting so many miles on our feet, we decided to take the day off to chill out and then drive into Portland to explore a bit, shop, and eat. We stopped at Back to Eden gluten free and vegan bakery for a snack. We tried a few items, but our favorite was the chocolate glazed donut. We stopped by the Green Bean Books bookstore and found some books, and then we headed to the Cultured Caveman restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner. We loved this place! This restaurant is 100% gluten free AND 100% paleo. It was such a rare treat for us to find a paleo restaurant! We tried the pork carnitas, purple cabbage and jicama slaw, sweet and sour chicken, all meat chili, bacon wrapped dates, and bone broth. Everything was very filling and FANTASTIC. They also has a selection of packaged snacks and treats in their market. We stocked up and tried a few of these snacks for our hiking days. Before heading back to the lodge, we stopped by a Fred Meyer store to pick up some snacks, ice and any other miscellaneous items we needed.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (balsamic vinegar, lemon juice or a half and half mix with balsamic and red wine vinegars works well, too)
1-1/2 TBS honey
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp oregano
Mix all ingredients together in glass salad dressing bottle. Shake well before using. Refrigerate between uses.
Notes: I reuse a glass salad dressing bottle I've washed out. You can make marks with permanent marker on your bottle to act as fill lines during your first fill as you add ingredients. The next time you won't have to measure out your oil and vinegar. Other herbs or seasonings can be added to taste (garlic powder and black pepper work well).
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Day 2 started at sunrise. Waking at sunrise on vacation, you ask? Yes! It was an ideal plan for this trip as we got short waterfall hikes in before breakfast. It was very relaxing to be out in nature during the crisp, cool mornings in the Columbia River Gorge. View our itinerary here.
We started out Day 2 with a short drive from Bridal Veil Lodge to Latourell Falls and Shepperd's Dell. These waterfalls had easy trails with easy access. We ate a quick snack bar and/or fruit to give us a jolt of energy for the early morning hikes.
There are two trails at Latourell Falls. The trail to the right is the scenic route, and the trail to the left at the parking area goes to the base of the falls. We took the trail to the left. You can take steps down from the road to see Shepperd's Dell.
After our early morning hikes, we went back to Bridal Veil Lodge for breakfast, which consisted of steak, eggs, roasted onions and potatoes, fresh figs and gluten free toast with local honey. After breakfast each day, we loaded the cooler in the car for our day hikes with the packed lunches we ordered from the lodge, snacks and water bottles. We traveled down the gorge and stopped first at Multnomah Falls. This waterfall is the most popular in the gorge, and the ample parking was nearly full. It's best not to waste time and get to Multnomah just as early as you can. We parked alongside the road near the restaurant. We walked up to the overlook and to the Multnomah Falls bridge.
Traveling along the trail at the road takes you to Wahkeena Falls. We decided to keep our parking space and traveled between these two waterfalls by trail. On the hike up to Wahkeena Falls, we spotted a Pika (confirmed by a park ranger when we showed the photo). Pikas are apparently very hard and rare to spot because they make a call similar to a squirrel that they throw so it sounds like they are in a different place. It was an easy hike up to Wahkeena Falls where there is a bridge at the base of the falls.
We should have hiked on past Wahkeena up to Fairy Falls, but we didn't. We came back another day, but we've adjusted our itinerary to be most efficient so you don't waste time backtracking.
We hiked back to our parking spot near Multnomah Falls lounge and headed down the historic highway. Next stop, Oneonta Gorge! The hike through the Oneonta Gorge to see Lower Oneonta Falls was the most adventurous of the trip. I would list it moderate to difficult as wading through chest deep COLD water and climbing over a log jam was required. You'll love our fun narrated video of our Oneonta Gorge adventure.
This hike was VERY crowded. We ended up buying a cheap, inflatable raft and coming back to this waterfall during early morning for a better photo opportunity so we've adjusted our itinerary for this update as well so you don't make this hike twice. Don't worry about a backpack for the Lower Oneonta hike, and wearing a swimsuit is recommended. You just need a camera. Nice hiking shoes like my Keen hiking sandals are a must on this hike due to the wading and slippery rocks.
We walked through the tunnel to our parking spot along the highway to Horsetail Falls.
Horsetail Falls is right off the highway with a nice place to play in the water at the base of the falls.
On the way back to Bridal Veil Lodge, we drove up to Vista House (this is the white building you see overlooking the main highway). Vista House provides a nice view looking down into the Columbia River Gorge
Dinner back at the lodge was lamb chop with jasmine rice. After a long day, we prepared for the next day and hit the hay early.
Day 1 for us was primarily spent traveling; however, we did have time to prepare for the week and sneak in a nice waterfall hike after we arrived. View our itinerary here.
On day 1, we headed to the airport and ate our breakfast bowls on the way. The airport experience was uneventful except one slight problem with the airline meal. I had called American Airlines two days prior to our flight (within their limit) and spoke to an agent about special meals for the flight. The choices were gluten free and vegetarian. No other details about the meal could be provided (red flag for special diets!!). I confirmed the gluten free meals for each of us, but I knew I couldn't count on the meal being safe to eat without knowing other ingredients. Boy, am I glad I packed lunch! When the meals were served, the flight attendant didn't have a gluten free meal for us at all. Thankfully, we ate our brown bag lunch and had enough snacks to carry us over until we reached Portland. Moral of this story: Always plan ahead and be prepared.
After we arrived in Portland and picked up the rental car, we drove into town to do our shopping. We stopped at Whole Foods for fruit, snacks and water bottles. We stopped at Fred Meyers for a disposable cooler, ice and large trash bags (next time, I will pack a few extra large trash bags). We found it easier to buy a disposable cooler at our destination than try to check one at the airport. We lined the cooler with a trash bag to prevent leaks in the rental car, dumped in the water bottles and filled with ice. On our way to the lodge, we stopped at a Plaid Pantry convenience store to buy the Northwest Forest Pass.
We stayed at the Bridal Veil Lodge in the Columbia River Gorge. The location was perfect! The room was small but offered all the space and amenities we needed. Best of all, all of our food restrictions were more than accommodated. I emailed Beatriz about all of our food restrictions after we made our reservation. I was expecting to get an "I'm sorry we cannot accommodate you reply"; however, she responded with an "ok". Simple as that. It was awesome! We rate the Bridal Veil Lodge 5 stars and would definitely stay there again.
After we got settled, we hiked to Bridal Veil Falls before dinner. The trailhead had plenty of parking access from the highway and was across the street from the lodge! It was an easy hike to both the overlook and bottom of falls.
After our hike, we had dinner at the lodge. We ordered our dinners and packed lunches at the lodge ahead of time when we placed our reservation. All of our meals were delicious, local, organic, contained farm-to-table items AND met all of our food restrictions! We had basil lemon water, fresh roasted chicken, acorn mash and green salad with fennel and zucchini. After dinner and before bed, we laid out our clothes and supplies for the next day.
Interested in other posts in this series? You might enjoy...
Columbia River Gorge - Itinerary
Columbia River Gorge - How We Planned
Columbia River Gorge - What to Wear
Columbia River Gorge - What to Pack
Ready to go to the Columbia River Gorge? We gave you tips on how to plan, we provided an itinerary and you learned what to wear. Now, it's time to pack! When I pack, I start gathering items early to lay out near the suitcases. Unfortunately, most clothing and toiletries are packed during the midnight hour before our first travel day. :)
Miscellaneous items to start gathering early:
Closer to your travel day pack miscellaneous items above either in suitcase or personal bag where it makes sense. Add clothing, shoes, accessories, outerwear (this post described what to wear) and toiletries, and you are ready to go!
In our backpacks:
On the plane, our backpacks contain a few snacks, book, travel pillow, electronics, wallets, and tickets. After we arrived, our backpacks served several different purposes. Little britches had a light weight backpack only for carrying his jacket when he needed to remove a layer and his crocs if we crossed water. My backpack always has a first aid kit, three disposable rain ponchos, small nylon rope, multi-tool (must be in checked luggage), small pack of Kleenex, wet wipes and extra socks. Always be prepared is my motto. In addition, I carry two water bottles and most of the daily snacks (we buy these at our destination - post coming soon). Eric's backpack carried camera gear and his water bottle.
I always pack a snack bag for our travel day. Typically, I use a disposable brown paper grocery bag (doubled up to increase strength or handles). This bag goes with me through airport security and on the plane. Remember, no liquids. Our snack bag contains our breakfast or lunch for travel and snacks for the plane. Once we've eaten and snacked, the bag can be tossed into a recycling bin. It might contain:
We traveled to the Columbia River Gorge in late July, but we knew we would be hiking in the shady gorge and starting out at sunrise so we packed layers. We each had a variety of hoodies, long sleeve shirts and a light jacket. Quick-dry hiking pants were a must and turned out to be very comfortable and practical during our hikes (we wore Gander Mountain, Columbia and Northface brand pants like these). There was only one day (our last day at Mt. Hood and Trillium Lake) when I would have preferred a short sleeve shirt. The day was warmer, and the hike was more sunny; otherwise, we were always comfortable. We started out each morning with full layers and were able to remove them as the day got warmer.
Hiking shoes are a must! We wore our Keen hiking sandals (Little Britches wore tennis shoes and Crocs). My sandals were broken in and had hiked many miles in the Great Smoky Mountains, but Eric took new sandals. This turned out to be a bad idea, and he dealt with blisters on his heels during much of the trip. I always pack a small first aid kit so that came in very handy. Before I owned a pair of Keen hiking sandals, I assumed it was just a lot of hype because my feet are terribly finicky and very hard to fit. I've found my sandals to be the most comfortable pair of shoes I own, hiking or not. I highly recommend them, and I doubt I will ever wear another shoe for hiking. My Keen's are open sandals (not open toe), so I did wear socks (I know not very fashionable but I do not like cold feet) in early morning and removed my socks when the day got warmer or if we had to wade in water.
As far as accessories, our light jacket doubled as our rain jacket if needed. We also took sunglasses, which we didn't need very often due to the shady hikes. We packed hats but found they weren't necessary. We each had our own backpack for hiking (it also doubled as our personal carry-on for the airport). We all took bug bracelets (the hiking bracelets that smell like citronella) as a precaution, but we didn't have any issues with insects during our trip.
Eric says I showed him a waterfall photo on Pinterest one evening and that prompted our whirlwind adventure in the Columbia River Gorge last year. If that's true, I'll show him a picture of Paris later this evening. 😉 After we quickly decided to go to the Columbia River Gorge, that's when the planning began!
The first thing we do when planning a trip is to get the appropriate travel books (Frommer's, Rick Steve's and Falcon Guides books are typically great resources). Then we start researching places to stay, places to see, places to eat, what to buy, what to wear, etc. We knew this would be an outdoor adventure so we focused just on the Columbia River Gorge. Our side trips to Portland and Mt. Hood were extras.
Below is a summary of how we planned. You'll see minimal detail in some categories because we plan to write a separate post in this series about those topics. We know you're busy so we decided to keep each post short and sweet. You're welcome!
Books we used for our planning: Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon by Adam Sawyer (we had a few other books, but this is the only book you need)
Admission tickets or permits purchased in advance: None
Where we stayed: Bridal Veil Lodge (more on this in a later post)
When we traveled: late July. Our travel timing turned out to be perfect! The weather was comfortable and mild. We were told by locals the Columbia River Gorge weather can be quite unpredictable so timing of your trip is very important. Based on our experience, we think mid to late summer is a perfect time to go!
Airfare and rental car: We flew to Portland, rented a car and drove to our B&B in the Columbia River Gorge. We would not recommend this trip without a car available for daily driving.
What to pack: Clothes, hiking necessities, snacks, camera gear (this very important part of planning will be discussed in more detail in a later post)
Last summer, we spent several days in the Columbia River Gorge, hiked around 40 miles and saw 16 beautiful waterfalls. Our Columbia River Gorge adventure ranks as one of our favorite trips so far. In this post, we share our itinerary (click link below) with updates based on our experience. Watch for more posts to expand on the trip details and daily activities. We'll share how we planned, how we ate, where we stayed, and how we took fantastic photographs. We hope you enjoy this series!
Trip ranking: 5 STARS
Download our Columbia River Gorge itinerary.