Waterfall Day Trip From Portland

A Brewery-and-Waterfall Day Trip From Portland

I recently enjoyed a 35-hour layover in Portland. On this day trip, I chose to write about a fun little itinerary to enjoy some great food and waterfalls. The map below shows the basic route of the day. It provides for a lot of extra time to do some hiking, or hang out at whatever site you like. The waterfalls were amazing, and the breweries, while I don’t drink on work trips, had great food and atmosphere. I’ll tell you a little more about them below.

Car Rentals and Cars in Oregon

I always get asked about how to rent cars on short day trips. I don’t know why this seems to be such a difficult task, but it inevitably shows up in comments.

Tip 1: Rent from a car rental place off-site of the airport. This way, you will avoid airport fees.

Tip 2: The best websites I find for rates are Hotwire.com and airportcarrentals.com.

Tip 3: If you have time, and don’t mind making a stop at the airport, ride a hotel shuttle to the airport and then get picked up by the car rental place. Some car rental places will deliver a car to your hotel as well.

With these three tips, I got a midsized car for $17 for the day. By the time I filled up the tank upon return and paid all the fee’s it was somewhere around $35 for the whole day.

One last note about the state of Oregon: When you pull into a gas station, you will be immediately met by an attendant who is trained to pump gas. Just give them your credit card and relax.

Latourell Falls Area

The first stop on the waterfall day trip from Portland is the Latourell Falls area on the southern banks of the Columbia River. It is a serene and magical place filled with dreamy waterfalls and winding, windy roads. This area is just a short drive from downtown Portland on the Historic Columbia River Highway.

The Latourell area is home to the Shepperd’s Dell State Natural Area, Guy W. Talbot State Park and the small town of Laturell. The historic highway by itself would be plenty of reason to seek out this corner of the river but towering waterfalls share this special place and compete for your attention.

The first site to visit here is the Latourell Falls itself and it’s winding hiking trails. The falls are approximately 250 feet tall and have an easily accessible viewing platform. For the more adventurous, follow the hiking trails to the upper Latourell Falls and skip the crowds and curbside adventurers.

Continuing up the highway is a place dubbed “The Jewel of the Columbia River.” It can be seen from the floor of the valley, perched on one of the most scenic points on the Columbia River Valley.

The Vista House is rich in history and architecture, originally serving as a resting place for tired travelers. It now serves as a historic site and tourist attraction boasting beautiful views of the river and the surrounding hills.

Multnomah Falls

From the Latourell area, you must backtrack a bit to get to the main freeway. Once there, continue East and you will drive toward the next great waterfall; Multnomah Falls. This is named after Multnomah Creek which tumbles and turns down the southern banks into the Columbia River as it falls from Mount Hood. 

 While visiting this falls, visit the Multnomah Falls Lodge. This historic building was first opened in 1925 and now has a gift shop, restaurant, and lodging available.

This site is a very famous place for visitors looking for picturesque waterfalls. The falls itself drops 620 feet and ranks as the highest waterfall in Oregon and one of the largest in the country. After visiting, it is understandable why this site is Oregon’s number one most visited natural attraction.

A hiking trail offers a short walk with a few switchbacks on the way to the Benson Bridge. This bridge has served local hikers by connecting several sections of hiking trails in the valley since 1914.

Continuing further past Benson Bridge the Multnomah Creek leads to three more waterfalls;  Dutchman Falls, Wiesendanger Falls, and Ecola Falls. Instead of walking up the hill, you are also able to cut back toward the west on a trail connection and walk to Wahkeena Creek and see a totally new set of waterfalls as well. Consider this site as a place to get out and so a couple hours of hiking during your day trip.

Cascade Locks and Thunder Island Brewing Company

Driving a little further from the falls, we come to our first little city with a brewery on our waterfall day trip from Portland. Cascade Locks is a small tourist town boasting the Bridge of the Gods. This cute little town abuts the Columbia River about halfway between Hood River and Portland. There is more than just the bridge here to visit. Make sure you check out Thunder Island Brewing Company, The Cascade Locks Marine Park, and the downtown area of Cascade Locks.

Bridge of the Gods

I had assumed the Bridge of the Gods was named after the spectacular views from the bridge itself, but there is more to the story. Today, the bridge is a steel cantilevered structure spanning a narrow and turbulent portion of the river. It is part of the Pacific Crest Trail stretching between Mexico and Canada paralleling the Pacific Coast. However, long before this bridge existed Native American legend tells a far more interesting story. Legend has it there was a natural land bridge at this site which they called the Bridge of the Gods. It is thought that a massive landslide blocked this section of the river forming an inland sea. Eventually, the landslide eroded from the middle leaving a rock bridge over the river before it finally collapsed into the rapids that exist today.

Thunder Island Brewing Company

Thunder Island Brewing Company is a diamond in the rough set on the shoreline of the locks. Views from its patio include beautiful scenery of Cascade Locks Marine Park. Across the river is the magnificent view of the mountains in Washington. Inside the brewery, visitors can imbibe in some of their small batch microbrews.


Downtown Cascade Locks

The main strip (and there really is only this strip in town) runs parallel to the Columbia River. 

There is more to the downtown area than just this brewpub. Before continuing on the waterfall day trip from Portland, visit a few sites in town. Restaurants are spotted along the strip including Bridgeside under the bridge, Cascade Locks Ale House, and Eastwind Drive-In on the opposite end of town. There is also a historical museum near the marina park where tourists can learn a little more about the history of this interesting little spot on the river.

Breweries in Hood River

The last stop on our day trip is a visit to the town of Hood River. Hood River is a tourist town set at the junction where Ceder Creek runs into the Columbia River. It is also the intersection of Highway 84 running East out of Portland and 35, which, in combination with 26, loops around Mt. Hood. Consider taking this loop and extending your day trip from Portland. Otherwise, it is an easy drive back the way you came. 

Several breweries have found their home in Hood River. Starting at the water is the pFriem Family Brewers, then across the freeway to the South is Full Sail Brewing, Double Mountain Brewery, and Big Horse Brew Pub and Restaurant. Besides these breweries, consider Cascade Cliffs Winery and Cello Restaurant and Bar or Everybody’s Brewing just across the river.

Full Sail Brewing

The first thing you notice when walking into Full Sail Brewing is the amazing smell. A delightful yeasty aroma fills the entire building and is a joy to your senses as you look out the windows at the mountains in Washington on the other side of the river. Full Sail is a fairly large brewery and has a great tasting room and restaurant.

The food at Full Sail was very reasonable, especially for the Portland area. The menu has a good mix of finger foods, sandwiches, desserts, and plenty of beer. I ordered a Reuben with a side salad and a cup of Beer Cheese Soup.

 As you can see, the selection of beers on tap is fantastic as well.

 Walking Around Hood River

Don’t just come for the breweries though. The city of Hood River is plenty small to walk through by foot and explorers and tourists alike can find plenty of retail, coffee shops, and other places to visit. 

Review Of The Waterfall Day Trip From Portland

I enjoyed loads of delicious food and enjoyed beautiful waterfalls while getting more than my share of fresh air. The drive was easy and this itinerary leaves a lot of time to wander and explore during your day. Make sure to hike a trail somewhere you think is beautiful, or get lunch at one of the many restaurants in these towns.

Hopefully, this short itinerary gives you a great start on a fantastic day trip from Portland. Next time I go to Portland, I will be making a day trip to Crater Lake, do a loop around Astoria and the Pacific Coast, Visit the wine country in Tualatin Valley, or head to Eugene. There are several really great day trips from Portland and I can’t wait to share more with you here.

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