The Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge is probably the more commonly-traveled side, thanks to Interstate 84 and the excellent scenic alternatives on old US 30. However, for a different perspective, you can hop over to the other side of the Columbia River and drive through the gorge on the Washington side.
No matter which path you choose through the Columbia River Gorge, the drive is remarkable. On this trip to Glacier National Park in 2014, I decided to retrace the route I followed on a similar trip in 2006 — and that meant kicking off the drive east from Portland on Washington Route 14.
The drive begins in the congested suburbs of Vancouver, Washington, across the river from Portland. It takes a little while to break free of the traffic and shopping malls, but eventually…
… I reached a nice spot for my first stop, at Cape Horn. Washington 14 has to squeeze past the cape, which juts out into the gorge.
A small turnout near the cape provides a stunning view of the gorge. By the afternoon, the view looking east is remarkable.
Washington 14 doesn’t access many cities or towns, but the town of Stevenson provides a good excuse to stop. In addition to a nice downtown district, I also stretched my legs here at the Port of Skamania County — a fancy name for the town’s boat dock.
Further down the road, a stretch of Washington 14 runs along a causeway (that’s the road on the right, and Drano Lake in the foreground)…
…and then immediately plunges into several tunnels, including this one, just a short distance east from the lake.
The view looking back towards the west is quite nice, too — and it would be even better in the morning hours.
Farther east, you’ll have an opportunity to cross the river and access Interstate 84, at White Salmon. It costs $1 to cross this bridge, which was built in 1924.
As you head east, the gorge begins to widen, and the surrounding hills are not as tall. Eventually…
… the landscape looks like this, when you get to the Maryhill area, near the intersection with US 97.
At Maryhill, you can visit an excellent museum and a state park, but you’ll probably also want to stop at this recreation of Stonehenge. It was built by Samuel Hill, a local developer and proponent of quality highways, back in 1929, as a memorial to veterans in the first World War. I’ve written much more about Maryhill’s Stonehenge on a separate page.
The hills surrounding the Stonehenge replica are quite beautiful in the early evening. Here, you’re getting a taste of the Palouse region of rolling hills. We’ll see much more of this scenery as the trip continues down Washington 124 and US 12, the next day.
As the sun was setting, I started looking frantically for a good place to take the final pictures of the day. Shortly before reaching Interstate 82 (which heads north towards the tri-cities of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland)…
… I turned off Route 14 into some farmland, and found this pretty scene. The irrigation equipment was in use at the time, spraying out a shower of water onto the crops, and creating a nice mist.
The Bottom Line
The drive through the Columbia River Gorge is beautiful, whether you drive it fast (on Interstate 84), leisurely (on Washington 14), or slow (on narrow, historic US 30). There are enough attractions along the way to make the journey last an entire day.
The Columbia River Gorge stretches eastward from Portland. Easy access is provided by Interstate 84 on the Oregon side. On the Washington side of the river, you can take Washington Route 14.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Vancouver to Stevenson…
… Stevenson to Maryhill…
…and Maryhill to I-82: