The Dalles, Oregon

7 Charming Small Towns Along The Scenic Columbia River Gorge

Spanning an area of 180 miles long between the States of Washington and Oregon, the stunning Columbia River Gorge is one of the West Coast's most beautiful natural wonders. This canyon in which the mighty Columbia River passes is an incredible 4,000 feet deep and is filled with both scenic and cultural beauty. From the majestic Cascade Mountains to an abundance of stunning waterfalls to the charming ambiance of its small towns, a visit to the Columbia River Gorge is surely an experience worth repeating. This article looks at 7 Charming Small Towns Along The Scenic Columbia River Gorge.  

Cascade Locks, Oregon 

cascade locks, Oregon
Cascade Locks, Oregon.

Situated on the banks of the Columbia River, the 1,160-person town of Cascade Locks is a picturesque locale offering great views of the famed West Coast. Indeed in town and the surrounding area, visitors can expect plenty of wonderful photo opportunities and welcoming hospitality. Stop at the imposing Bridge of the Gods (1926) crossing the Columbia River or travel to Thunder Island, where wonderful views of the bridge and the river greet all who visit. 

History lovers will especially appreciate the Cascade Lock Historical Museum and a ride on the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler for a journey back in time. And finally, solo tourists and families alike will surely not want to miss the chance to explore the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in a beautiful historic neighborhood.

Troutdale, Oregon

Troutdale, Oregon
Troutdale, Oregon. Editorial credit: EchoVisuals /

Just about 12 miles east of Portland, the town of Troutdale is a charming place that serves as a perfect gateway to the Columbia River Gorge. But even before embarking forward to the canyon, Troutdale itself has plenty to offer visitors for a most memorable stopover.

The town, founded in 1907, continues to offer plenty of old-time allure, and one can browse through various quaint antique shops, art galleries, and local restaurants. Tourists can also enjoy the historic Multnomah County Poor Farm (1911), listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now a popular resort with movie theatres, pubs, and outdoor gardens. And, of course, the journey to the Gorge from Troutdale is one of the best.

Catch glimpses of the mighty Mount Hood along the Columbia River Highway before reaching the Crown Point lookout for fantastic panoramas. 

Maryhill, Washington

Stevenson, Washington
Maryhill, Washington.

With a permanent population of under 100 people, the community of Maryhill compensates for its smallness by offering all who visit beautiful vistas of the Columbia River and one of the best historical attractions in the area. In 1918, a replica of the iconic Stonehenge in England began construction in Maryhill as a memorial to First World War veterans, and today is Maryhill's star attraction. This full-sized replica of the original prehistoric landmark is a beautiful place for quiet reflection and stunning views, with gorgeous views of the Columbia River.

In the distance, the towering Mount Hood stands sentinel, making for great photo opportunities. Indeed Maryhill is a charming stopover within the Columbia River Gorge and a wonderful little community to discover.

Stevenson, Washington

Stevenson, Washington
Stevenson, Washington.

Just about 63 miles west of Maryhill is the town of Stevenson, the seat of Skamania County. An ideal example of a quaint mountain town, Stevenson is a great place to stay while one explores the scenic Columbia River Gorge.

Spend the night at the Skamania Lodge, covering an area of 175 acres, and enjoy the comfortable and rustic ambiance, typical of mountain resorts. At the nearby Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum, visitors can tour interactive exhibits and discover an extensive collection of artifacts that detail the region's history.

And, of course, the town is nestled right in the heart of the Gorge itself, meaning there are countless ways for tourists to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. 

The Dalles, Oregon

the Dalles, Oregon
The Dalles, Oregon.

A 90-minute drive from the city of Portland, The Dalles is a place of fun discovery for the whole family, all within the splendid beauty that is the Columbia River Gorge. At the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum, visitors can take a journey through nearly 10,000 years of history, covering all the major natural and cultural events that have defined this region of the country. And make sure not to miss the daily feeding of the predatory raptor birds! 

Meanwhile, at the Fort Dalles historic site, one can explore a former US Army outpost built in 1850 during the days of the Oregon Territory. Indeed, this marker on the National Register of Historic Places is a great way to learn firsthand some of America's late 19th-century stories. But even just a casual stroll through the charming Main Street is a relaxing way to see The Dalles.

Home to the annual Northwest Cherry Festival, this town of 16,000 inhabitants is undoubtedly a wonderful place for everyone passing through the Gorge.  

Hood River, Oregon

Hood River, Oregon
Hood River, Oregon.

The charming town of Hood River is truly a spectacular place for those looking to experience the wonders of being outdoors. About 60 miles from Portland and just a 30-minute drive from The Dalles, Hood River is full of stunning mountain views, beautiful waterfalls, and plenty of outdoor activities.

Whether it is a drive on the scenic Columbia River Highway, a stop at the pretty Multnomah Falls, or just going out for a hike, bike ride, and some boating on the water, Hood River is simply a treasure waiting to be discovered. One can even try some locally made wines at places like Cathedral Ridge Winery, where a good-tasting spirit is paired with spectacular views and welcoming small-town charm.

Astoria, Oregon

Astoria Oregon
Astoria, Oregon.

The oldest settlement in Oregon and the first west of the Rocky Mountains, the port town of Astoria was founded in 1811. Indeed this beautiful coastal community of 10,000 residents is a great way to see both the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River, and water enthusiasts have plenty of opportunities to enjoy sailing, swimming, and even water sports. 

Visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum, take the Astoria Riverfront Trolley, or just view the surrounding natural sights. Astoria is another fine example of a mid-size city in America in a unique environmental setting. The natural wonder of the Columbia River Gorge is a place that warrants a firsthand experience to truly appreciate. 

For visitors to America's West Coast, a trek through some of the beautiful small towns along this stunning geographic area are in for a veritable treat. From mountain views to fascinating history and, of course, a nice dose of small-town welcome, these towns are great examples of why visiting the Columbia River Gorge is a must. 

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 7 Charming Small Towns Along The Scenic Columbia River Gorge

More in Places