Exploring the Gorge
Heading east from Vancouver, Wash. 14 passes through the industrial towns of Camas and Washougal before finally breaking free of the Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area. For much of the way, the highway stays close to the river, but at Cape Horn, an area where basalt cliffs rise straight out of the water, the highway climbs high above the river, providing one of the best views along this stretch of the highway. Several pull-offs let you stop and enjoy the views.
Roughly 35 miles east of Vancouver, you come to Beacon Rock, an 800-foot-tall monolith that has been preserved as a state park and has a 1-mile trail to its summit. The trail, which for much of the way consists of metal stairways and catwalks, was built between 1915 and 1918 by Henry Biddle, who saved Beacon Rock from being blasted into rubble for a jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River. Continuing east, you'll come to Stevenson, home to the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center.
In the town of North Bonneville, a few miles west of Stevenson, you can swim in the mineral-water pool and soak in the hot tubs at Bonneville Hot Springs Resort, 1252 E. Cascade Dr. (tel. 866/459-1678 or 509/427-7767; www.bonnevilleresort.com). It costs $15 per day to use the pool and soaking tubs and is open to nonguests Sunday to Thursday from 8am to 9pm. Massages and other spa services are also available. East of Stevenson, in the town of Carson, you can soak in the therapeutic waters of the Carson Hot Springs Resort (tel. 800/607-3678 or 509/427-8292; www.carsonhotspringresort.com). This rustic "resort" has been in business since 1897 and has one building that looks every bit its age. However, it's just this old-fashioned appeal that keeps people coming back. Spring through fall, it's open Monday to Thursday from 8am to 7pm and Friday through Sunday from 8am to 8pm; other months it's open Monday to Thursday from 9am to 6pm and Friday to Sunday from 8am to 7pm. A soak and post-soak wrap costs $20, and an hour's massage is $60.
If you're up for a strenuous but rewarding hike, the 3-mile trail to the summit of 2,948-foot Dog Mountain provides views up and down the gorge. In spring, the wildflower displays in the meadows on Dog Mountain's slopes are some of the finest in the gorge. You'll find the trailhead on Wash. 14, 12 miles east of the Bridge of the Gods, a bridge that now spans the river at a site where a huge landslide once blocked the Columbia, creating a natural "bridge" across the river.
For a less strenuous, though no less scenic hike, drive 5 miles east of Bingen and turn left onto Rowland Lake Road. In just over a mile, you'll come to the roadside parking lot for the Catherine Creek area. On the south side of the road is a 1.25-mile paved path that leads to several viewpoints. On the north side, an unpaved trail leads along Catherine Creek and connects to trails that climb up into the hills. Warning: Keep an eye out for poison oak. Also in this area is the Klickitat Trail, a former railroad bed that stretches for 31 miles up the Klickitat River and a side canyon of the river. Currently, this trail is gravel, but there are plans to pave the lower portion, which parallels the designated "Wild and Scenic" section of the river. There's a trailhead at the west end of Lyle adjacent to the bridge across the Klickitat River. Across the river and a short way up Old Highway 8, you'll find the Balfour Klickitat Day Use Site, where there is a 3/4-mile paved trail and several picnic tables overlooking the river.
The Mount Adams Area
While Mount Adams's summit is popular with mountain climbers, at lower elevations there are also excellent trails for hikers and backpackers. The favorite summer spot for a hike is Bird Creek Meadows on the Yakama Indian Reservation north of the town of Trout Lake. These meadows are ablaze with wildflowers in July. Eight miles west of Trout Lake, you can explore several ice caves. The caves were formed by lava flows centuries ago, and year-round cool temperatures allow ice to build up within the caves. For more information on hiking on Mount Adams, contact the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mt. Adams Ranger District, 2455 Wash. 141, Trout Lake, WA 98650 (tel. 509/395-3400; www.fs.fed.us/r6/gpnf).
The East End of the Gorge
Between Bingen and Goldendale (north of Wash. 14 on U.S. 97), a few unusual attractions and quite a few wineries are well worth a visit if you're exploring down at this eastern end of the gorge. A couple of miles west of Lyle, Syncline, 111 Balch Rd. (tel. 509/365-4361; www.synclinewine.com), is a small winery that produces some outstanding wines. Between Memorial Day and late September, it's open Thursday to Sunday from 11am to 6pm. Marshal's Winery, 150 Oak Creek Rd., Dallesport (tel. 509/767-4633; www.marshalsvineyard.com), just 2 miles up a gravel road, is a tiny, family-run winery that has produced some very drinkable cabernet sauvignons and merlots, as well as some unusual sweet wines. The tasting room is open daily from 9am to 6pm. Cascade Cliffs Vineyard & Winery, milepost 88.6, Wash. 14, Wishram (tel. 509/767-1100; www.cascadecliffs.com), is set at the foot of 400-foot-tall basalt cliffs and produces, among other wines, one of the state's only barberas. The tasting room is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Maryhill Winery, 9774 Wash. 14, Maryhill (tel. 877/627-9445; www.maryhillwinery.com), has the best view of any winery in the Northwest and also produces some very good wines. The tasting room is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Waving Tree, 2 Maryhill Hwy., Goldendale (tel. 509/773-6552; www.wavingtreewinery.com), is just outside the gates of Maryhill State Park near the Washington end of the Biggs Bridge over the Columbia River. The tasting room is open March to Memorial Day weekend on Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 5pm and Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day daily from 9am to 5pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.