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Portland Day Trip: Columbia River Gorge and Cannon Beach

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There is so much to see, do, and eat around Portland, Oregon but if you want to get out of the city, there are many amazing day trips you can take. I had one day left of my trip, so I decided to rent a car and drive the Columbia River Gorge scenic byway. At the last minute, I also headed to the Oregon Coast to see the beautiful Cannon Beach.

I would recommend that you get started early! Multnomah Falls, which was my first stop of the day, gets very busy during peak tourist season. And while I visited in March, there were still lots of people, even at 9:30 in the morning. By noon, it was packed and there was no place to park. Note: you do have to have a pass to visit during the months of May – September. Find out more about the reservation system here.

The falls are about a 45 minute drive from Portland and easily accessible! You can see them right off the highway or take the short path up to the base of the falls. A longer hiking trail goes up to the bridge and continues on to the top. This is the most visited recreational site in the Pacific Northwest.

From Multnomah Falls, I continued on to the Bridge of the Gods. It’s a very short drive up the gorge and this toll bridge connects Oregon and Washington State. It costs $5 for a car to drive over (different fees apply based on type of vehicle) each time or you can continue on in Washington to make a loop around Mt. Hood or see some other recreational sites in the area.

There are many hiking trails that connect here, including the Pacific Crest Trail, so be mindful of people as you are driving through the area. It’s a gorgeous view of the gorge and I highly recommend driving over the Bridge of the Gods!

From there, I hopped back on the scenic byway, stopping at Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls. There are many others along this stretch of road and some require longer hikes, but you could definitely spend an entire day just chasing waterfalls.

As I made my way down toward Troutdale, it was getting past lunch time, so I decided to stop at the Sugarpine Drive-In. You can order ahead, at the walk-up window or go through the drive thru. This former gas station in the 1920s and is now a popular spot for lunch and ice cream. I had the Larch Mountain, which is vanilla and chocolate swirl topped with brown butter blondies, blueberry lavender sauce and pine nut honeycomb crunch.

From there, I decided to head to the Oregon Coast. It’s about a two hour drive to Cannon Beach from Troutdale, OR and I arrived around 4 p.m. The road takes you up in the forest, over a small mountain range and then pops you out at the Pacific Ocean before you know it.

This little seaside town will remind you of the Maine Coast, but the beaches look incredibly different. Haystack Rock juts from the crashing Pacific Waves and when the birds aren’t nesting, you can find lots of marine life in the tide pools. When I was here before during the summer, we saw lots of starfish!

Ecola State Park is just adjacent to Cannon Beach, but they were closed when I was there so I didn’t get to explore that area like I had wanted to. There are sea caves, hiking trails and waterfalls nearby, so this would make a great vacation spot all on it’s own.

If you want to see more of my day trip along the Columbia River Gorge and Cannon Beach, check out my vlog on YouTube!

8 thoughts on “Portland Day Trip: Columbia River Gorge and Cannon Beach

  1. Lasma

    April 18, 2022 at 10:14 am

    Oh that waterfall looks amazing! And ice cream made my mouth water haha. I loved how informative this article was, exactly what I was searching for.

    1. Kelly

      April 18, 2022 at 10:19 am

      Thank you so much!

  2. Ildiko

    April 18, 2022 at 11:45 am

    The Portland area is so much fun. I would love to drive along the Columbia River Gorge scenic drive. It sounds lovely. Cannon Beach is also gorgeous. Ecola State Park is a real treat. Too bad it was closed when you visited.

  3. simplyjolayne

    April 18, 2022 at 12:22 pm

    I love Oregon, Multnomah Falls, and the coast. We were just there last fall and found some fantastic color.

  4. anthomas717

    April 18, 2022 at 12:28 pm

    I thought the waterfall would be the most beautiful thing on this trip, but the ice cream gives it a run for its money!

  5. Leah

    April 18, 2022 at 12:50 pm

    Looks like a beautiful day trip! Thank you for such an informative post.

  6. Chantelle

    April 19, 2022 at 3:52 am

    This is one of my favorite areas in the country! Its too bad Ecola was closed when you were there, its very pretty. That ice cream looks incredible, Ill definitely have to stop by Sugarpine on my next trip through there!

  7. Jenna

    April 24, 2022 at 11:45 am

    Gorgeous 😍 I want to visit the PNW

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