Along the Columbia River – Mosier, OR

Mosier, OR

After staying in Bend two extra days to let some rain pass through, we headed north on US-97 Monday morning.  The trip of about 145 miles began pleasantly, but soon became a bit of a struggle.  The first problem was of our own making.  We stopped for fuel in the town of Madras then drove right under a large sign over the road telling us to turn right at the next light.  But since we failed to see the sign, we drove straight through the intersection.  We didn’t see any route number signs along the way so we drove about 20 miles before we noticed we were on Rte 26, not Rte 97!  What a dumb move! We found a spot to turn around and headed back to Madras.  Oh well, we were not in a hurry anyway.  We returned to Madras, got onto Rte 97, and continued our journey to the north.  As we crossed the open high desert the wind began to increase from the west.  A strong crosswind in a high profile vehicle is never a good thing.   We came to a “Y” in the road and took the left on to Rte 197, the most direct route to The Dalles, where we would get on to I-84.  The scenery along Rte 197 is beautiful, but John didn’t get to enjoy it much.  He was hanging on with both hands as the road wound its way up and down some steep hills with the wind continuing to push us around.

After finally reaching The Dalles we hopped on I-84 heading west through the Colombia River Gorge.  Fortunately we didn’t have that far to drive, as we were now heading directly into the wind, which increased in intensity through the gorge.

Whitecaps on the Columbia River!

After what seemed an eternity we reached our destination, Memaloose State Park, where we had a reservation for two nights.  Memaloose is an interesting little park, tucked between the interstate and the river.  It is only accessible through a rest area on the west-bound side of the highway.  If you are coming east, you have to pass the park, drive about 3.5 miles to the next exit, and get on the westbound side.

The next day we intended to do some hiking up on the hills above the river but the strong winds that continued from the previous day forced us to change our plans.  We did drive up the side of the gorge on a section of the old Historic Columbia River Highway.  At the top of the first high hill we stopped at the Memaloose Overlook.  A plaque there explained the origin of the name “Memaloose.”

Memaloose Island was visible from the overlook.

From the overlook we continued west for about four miles to the Rowena Crest Viewpoint.  There are two trails there we intended to hike, however, the wind was just too strong with gusts over 40 mph.   But the view to the east was spectacular!

Below the overlook the road goes steeply down through a series of switchbacks.

Since it was too windy to hike along the river, we drove south on Rte 35 from nearby Hood River to see if we could catch a view of Mt. Hood.  We lucked out as about 25 miles from Hood River the cloud cover cleared and we were treated to a nice view of the mountain.

We turned around and drove a few miles back toward Hood River when we came upon the trailhead for Tamanawas Falls.  The wind down in the woods was minimal so we decided to take the two mile hike to the falls.

We had never heard of this trail but it turns out that this is a very beautiful hike.  The trail starts right out with a cool bridge that crosses the East Fork of the Hood River.

The trail followed the Hood River for about a half mile then turned and followed Cold Spring Creek up to the falls.

Two trees growing side by side fell in opposite directions

Many small falls dotted the creek as we hiked

A sign at the trailhead told us that a large rock slide blocked the trail near the falls.  We interpreted the wording to mean it was just “past” the falls.  Turns out it is just a quarter mile “before” the falls.  We came to a fork in the trail where the old trail went up to the right.  But a temporary trail to the left led us through the slide area.

Fork in the trail – the trail should go to the right, the temporary trail goes to the left

About a quarter mile past the rock slide we came to Tamanawas Falls.  This time of year the flow of water is at its max, making for an impressive sight.

Returning to the town of Hood River we rewarded ourselves with beer and pizza at the Double Mountain Brewery.  Hans and Lisa (Metamorphosis Road) wrote about this place and we agree with their recommendation.  The beer was good and the pizza delicious.

Our next stop will be just northwest of Olympia, WA for a visit to the state capitol.  More on that later . . .

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36 Responses to Along the Columbia River – Mosier, OR

  1. SO green and pretty! I hiked to that waterfall when I was in OR back in 2010. I also loved the little town of Hood River. I remember eating at a restaurant right by the water and watched all the windsurfers.

    Alicia @ http://www.GirlonaHike.com

  2. Laurel says:

    The winds through the Columbia Gorge can be really crazy, as you experienced. We love camping at Memaloose. And the trails at Rowena Crest are fabulous, especially now, with the wildflowers in bloom. But wow, 40 mph winds would have blown you off the trail! Tamanawas Falls looks like a beautiful trail, just a bit rocky. :-))

    • placestheygo says:

      There were a lot of wildflowers around. And I was really looking forward to the trails at Rowena Crest lined with them. But the wind and cold were just too much.

  3. Sue says:

    Don’t you love the scenery and waterfalls in that area? Missing a turn and driving in those strong winds can make for a tense drive, glad you finally got to Memaloose and could settle down. Do I see the nimble hiker taking the rock slide trail instead of the temporary one? We enjoyed sitting outside that brewery and enjoying a pizza also. Dog friendliness made it even nicer for us.

    • placestheygo says:

      The new trail through the boulders was only nicely cleared in the beginning. Then, we had no choice but to climb up to get to the trail which runs higher in the trees. Double Mountain Brewery was a great stop. It was rather chilly to sit outside we thought, but others felt differently.

  4. pmbweaver says:

    We had the best time in the Colombia River Gorge area with our friends Terry and Jeri.
    What a gorgeous hike. You know how much I love any falls. We did not to that hike. It looks amazing.
    You lucky dogs. What a fantastic photo of Mt. Hood. We saw a tiny bit of it one day when some clouds moved on. Just a little bit to whet our whistle.

    • placestheygo says:

      Luckily, we have visited the Gorge before and will be returning to Portland in August so we might have some nicer weather for some hiking. We did luck out by having Mt Hood pop out for a short visit and finding a neat hike.

  5. Gay says:

    Sooooo pretty! Love all the green and especially the falls. Such interesting history about the Island of the Dead.

  6. Ingrid says:

    Seeing you in long sleeves looks refreshing. It’s pretty warm in Prescott right now and we head to Phoenix Sunday for the afternoon to celebrate Father’s Day – a balmy 115 😲

    • placestheygo says:

      I do believe we are in the only really cool area of the country. It does seem strange to hear others talk about the heat. Hope you don’t melt in Phoenix for Father’s Day!

  7. That’s some serious wind! How cool you came upon a nice hike after all!

    I’m so glad the beer and pizza is a delicious as it was a few years ago!

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, it turned out to be a very nice hike. I was beginning to think we would be autohiking! So glad you shared the brewery. It was the perfect end to our day.

  8. Sherry says:

    Now that I’m finally back on line again, I can comment. We have definitely “been there done that” with the sign and having to turn around. Seems like there’s always some time when neither of us notices. I absolutely hate driving in wind, maybe even more than rain and headwinds are the worst . You sure got some wonderful pictures of your drive. They almost look like paintings. The Melaoose story is very interesting. I suspect the Native Americans are not so happy about the islands being drowned. Beautiful pictures of the overlook and Mt. Hood. How wonderful to stumble on a nice hike to a waterfall. Those trees falling opposite from each other so you could hike right through was a nice touch. How did you do that?? You are sure right about the falls being impressive with all the water. Nice ending to a windy day.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Sherry! We were quite fascinated by the two trees falling in opposite directions. So interesting! Impromptu adventures often turn out to be the most fun like this falls hike.

  9. Gorgeous photos! At least your driver turned around Pam–my driver hates to “go back” and will have me scrambling to find a route which will take us in the same direction–ugh!

  10. Jeff Pierce says:

    Such a beautiful area you have to explore and bring to life for the rest of us. Impressive view of the falls and a bit of rock scramble to get there. Good thing you are the ‘nimble hiker’.

  11. Jodee Gravel says:

    Oh those nasty winds are the worst! Really fascinating history of that little island. The waterfalls are beautiful, but that rock slide is intimidating – look at the size of those boulders!! Love the two fallen trees, wonder if they fell at the same time?

    • placestheygo says:

      I thought the same thing, Jodee, when we came to the slide. The boulders were massive. There was only a nice trail through a short section, then we had to climb and scramble. I tried not to think about the fact that one moved boulder could mean another slide!!

  12. Debbie L says:

    Oh we can identify with missing a sign! That’s Bill’s nightmare! And the winds! Wow that is so fatiguing. But then to get those views and stumble on that fabulous hike and falls! It makes it worth it. We can’t wait to see some beautiful falls….and we’re sure enjoying cooler weather. Never thought we’d say that…

  13. Upriverdavid says:

    You may have been just in front of me or behind…If you ever take 197 again the best place to stay w/o trains..wind etc..Is at the Waco County Park..Hunt’s Park..FHU..At a resonable price.
    On my way down south 2 weeks ago there I was with only 2 other campers out of 198 campsites with a nice quiet place to stay the night…
    No kidding about the wind I stopped at Maryhill SP but the pull-thrus were taken. The lady said the wind hit 70 mph on Monday..
    The park is in the town of Tygh Valley…If headed north take the canyon river road and stay at Big Pines BLM..A sweet ride rather than the freeway…Between Yakima and Elly-burg..
    Safe travels,
    Upriverdavid
    I

  14. Jim and Barb says:

    Awesome waterfall shots and great view from that overlook! Winds can drive you absolutely crazy on travel days. When we have the jeep pulling the 4 wheeler sometimes I feel like we are going to blow backwards and have to tuck in tight behind the rig to block the wind.

  15. We got on the interstate after getting gas yesterday and drove the wrong way for about 20 miles. Must have been that type of day.

    Our Oregon trip is planned for the end of July. Watching your trip and Raven and Chickadee’s.

    • placestheygo says:

      Hope we have given you some ideas. We spent quite a bit of time in Salem, OR as our central location a couple years back. You’ll have to check our posts for more ideas in that part of the state.

  16. geogypsy2u says:

    When I lived along the Columbia the wind never stopped blowing, half the year it blew one way and the other it blew the other. The board-heads loved it.

  17. That’s too bad you had to cut short your stay. Perhaps you will return there some other time when wind wont be an issue for there are lots of hiking trails there on both sides WA and OR.
    As long as there are no trees closing on you as you get lost I think you will be fine. We made a wrong turn once heading towards a narrow road and turning around was stressful as we stopped the traffic.

  18. These landscapes are stunning and outstanding! Columbia seems inviting!

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