Day trips from Portland spotlight waterfalls, wineries, and stunning Pacific panoramas

Oregon Odysseys: day trips from Portland spotlight waterfalls, wineries, and stunning Pacific panoramas

Dave G. Houser

PERENNIALLY DESIGNATED ONE of America’s most livable cities, Portland, Oregon, lays waste to the old adage “nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.” The corollary to that, of course, is that Portland is a downright wonderful city to visit.

Situated at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers (the latter flows through the city center) and ringed by forests and ancient volcanoes, Portland is noted for its scenic vistas, relaxed pace of life, family-friendly attractions, and its connection with the great outdoors.

Within a day trip’s distance of the city you can explore the Columbia River Gorge, cruise some of the nation’s most dramatic coastline, and roam rolling hills covered with vineyards. But Portlanders don’t love their city just for its access to the coast, mountains, rivers, and wine valleys. They are proud of its vibrant downtown, unique architecture, verdant parks and gardens, and numerous cultural attractions. So make sure your plans allow for several darn to absorb the many urban pleasures of the “City of Roses”.

When the tune comes to explore surrounding points of interest, you’ll find an almost overwhelming choice of options. Topping the list are these three day trip possibilities.

COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE. Experience the most spellbinding segment of the Columbia, the grand river of the American West, by touring a 50-mile stretch between Portland and The Dalles, where basaltic cliffs rise more than 1,500 feet above the water. The most awe-inspiring way to experience the gorge is to take Exit 17 from I-84 east of the city and drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway. This route was recently named an All-American Road by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Florentine viaducts cut by Italian stone masons are cantilevered high into the cliffs, and numerous turnouts afford views of more than 75 waterfalls tumbling down from the snowfields of Mount Hood, including 620-foot Multnomah Falls. Oregon’s tallest cataract and favorite visitor site. In the nearby town of Hood River, windsuffers from all over the world congregate on an idyllic stretch of the river behind Bonneville Dam to fill their sails with strong, steady west winds that often exceed 30 m.p.h. If water sports aren’t your thing, sample the luncheon menu at the elegant old Columbia Gorge Hotel, where such Hollywood legends as Rudolph Valentino and Jane Powell once stayed.

Situated on a rocky bench above the river, The Dalles earned a place in the history of the Northwest as an important transort hub on the Oregon Trail. Much of that history is portrayed through a stunning series of murals on buildings throughout the town center. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the impressive new Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, just west of town, where you’ll come to understand more about the ancient volcanic eruptions, landslides, and floods that formed the gorge.

PACIFIC COAST. Begin your: exploration of one of America’s most spectacular coastlines by heading west on Highway 26 to Cannon Beach. Here, miles of sandy beaches studded by rocky outcroppings and swirling ride pools set the stage for a memorable day trip.

Artsy and sophisticated–some would say a bit snooty–Cannon Beach is home to the most upscale lodging, shops, and restaurants along the northern Oregon coast. A less pretentious choice for lunch might be one of the seafood eateries around the harbor at Garibaldi, a gritty little fishing village about 20 miles down Highway 101.

Save room to sample the zesty cheddars at the nearby dairy center of Tillamook. The Tillamook Cheese Factory churns out 40 million pounds of the yellow stuff each year and offers free self-guided tours.

Hop off Highway 101 here to join the Three Capes Scenic Route, a 30-mile drive that passes through three state parks and hugs some of the coast’s most stunning headlands. Take a break from the twisting turns at the majestically situated Cape Meares Lighthouse. Cape Lookout juts 800 feet above the pounding surf, offering some sensational views, and at Cape Kiwanda, the third of this route’s trilogy of capes, you can hike up the spine of a massive sandstone bluff to view a lovely expanse of ocean and dunes.

Rejoin Highway 101 at Pacific City, continue south a few miles to Highway 18, and head back to Portland through the vineyard-laced Willamette Valley.

WILLAMETTE VALLEY WINE COUNTRY. Wine enthusiasts will want to savor Oregon’s wine country at a leisurely pace, and a day trip of little more than 100 miles will accomplish that. Fertile valleys between rolling oak-forested hills in Yamhill County, just southwest of Portland on Highways 97W and 18, reveal more than 30 wineries. some of them nationally recognized.

Popular Rex Hill Vineyards in Newberg is a great place to start. Nestled among the vines, its appealing tasting room, like at most valley wineries, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sokol Blosser in nearby Dundee is another visitor-friendly winery with a convivial tasting room and a demonstration vineyard where you can stroll through rows of vines bearing the region’s leading varietals–pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, and riesling chief among them.

For an overview of the Willamette Valley wine scene, continue on to the Oregon Wine Tasting Room, nine miles south of McMinnville on Highway 18 at Bellevue, where the wines of nearly all local wineries are available for tasting and purchase. On the way, drop by Piontek’s Bakery and Cafe in McMinnville and load up a picnic lunch (pasta salads, sandwich fixings, and fresh-made breads are their specialty) to enjoy on the grounds of the tasting room or at your favorite winery.

Contact: Oregon Tourism Commission. (800) 547-7842;

COPYRIGHT 2003 World Publishing, Co. (Illinois)

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group