From Pendleton, I took a route via the scenic drive along Columbia River for another overnight in Portland. This is considered the tail-end of my trip and after more than 2 weeks on the road, I was really looking to reach back home. Apparently the Columbia River Gorge is one of the tourist attractions in Oregon and the scenic drive forms part of the Interstate (I-84) as well. During the summer, the inns and hotels along the route becomes prime spot for touring the beauty of this region. For skiers, Mt Hood is one of the spot to consider stopping at. However considering the state of winter this year, I just wasn’t interested in another experience on a powder-less season.
A drive along the whole Columbia River scenic area from Portland ending at Hermiston probably takes about 2.5 hours, as it is not exactly a long route. Since I started at the eastern end of this route, I would chronicle the journey from there, though most people usually begin this journey from Portland.
The sky was relatively clear when I started and past Hermiston, there is a nice parking lot with a viewpoint that provides an unobstructed view of the Columbia River. At this point, the banks on both sides of the river are still quite vast and the valley seems to be more open. Across the river is actually the state of Washington as this river also forms the state boundary between Oregon and Washington and the reason for touring this area via the Oregon side is the lack of sales taxes in Oregon, making it more worthwhile.
While this section of the drive does not feel like a gorge, the canyons on both sides of the river seems to converge as we drive westward. On some sections of the highway it can get pretty crowded especially with local trailer traffic as this is also a major interstate. One of the major landmarks I stopped at along the way was at The Dalles, which is prominent for its hydroelectric dam. There is also a visitor centre where I wanted to visit but it was apparently closed on that day. The parking lot at the visitors centre provides a nice view of the scenery around the river and even provides a nice view of Mt Hood and The Dalles bridge and dam.
From The Dalles onwards, there was substantially more traffic on both side of the highway but it was a short drive before the Hood River, a significant sized town that can serve as a transit point when stopping for meals. I chose the most convenient and scenic spot which is by the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn which has a restaurant overlooking the Columbia River. Parking was complimentary in the hotel and this was actually one of the places I was considering to stay at.
The hotel itself was better than expected for a Best Western and I had a pretty good meal of Fish & Chips in the restaurant before proceeding to Portland. Because of the cloudy weather, I did not really stop at any further points of interest along the way. However I should point out that between Hood River and Portland, there are several waterfalls along the way and one of them that I would like to visit the next time I am in the area would be Multnomah Falls.
Besides that, there is a viewpoint along a gorge that requires some slight detour from the main highway. The viewpoint named as the Crown Point Vista House is also a significant landmark that is iconic of this region. Sadly I missed these 2 points of interest due to the lack of good weather for the photo and the traffic heading into Portland was also getting heavier. Perhaps I was also a bit weary after the lunch and just wanted to drive back to the hotel for a rest.
For what it is worth though, a drive along the Columbia River Gorge is a nice diversion if one gets bored from visiting Portland. Though I would not consider it a significant point of interest as the views were not that awe-inspiring and neither was there any special memorable scenic spots that replaces all the various sceneries I encountered along this roadtrip.