I spent 10 years living in Portland, Oregon. I love it’s beauty, it’s culture, it’s food and it’s access to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Gorge, as it’s known to locals, is about an hour drive from downtown Portland along I-84. It’s perfect for a day trip or get away. This past Summer we packed up the family car and headed to the Gorge for a few days. There’s so much to do there, I had my kids narrow down a list of 5 kid friendly things to do in the Columbia River Gorge.
First on the kid’s list Multnomah Falls
Ready for an unforgettable experience? Multnomah Falls is breathtaking. Once you find a parking space, and it could take awhile in the summer months, you take a short walk along the paved path from the parking lot to the historic lodge and restaurant. There are two accessible viewing areas, the first is just behind the lodge. Expect it to be busy. The second viewing area, on the bridge, is a short up hill hike along a paved path. Note the hill is steep and there are a few switch backs. I wouldn’t advise it if your kids are still in “carry me” mode. At the time, my kids were 7 and 12. They absolutely loved it. For more adventurous families, you can continue along the trail for another 1.1 miles to the top of Multnomah Falls.
Beacon Rock State Park
This year we thought the kids were ready for Beacon Rock. They loved it!
It’s a mile long hike through the trees, followed by a dizzying 52 switchbacks to the top. I saw kids of all ages making the trek. However, you may want to keep little ones close to you. There’s a pretty steep drop-off on some parts of the trail.
Once you make it to the top, you will definitely be rewarded!
Quick note: There is no fee to hike the trail, but you will need to pay to park. There is a kiosk in the parking lot where you can purchase a Washington State Discover Pass.
Bonneville Dam Fish Ladder and Bonneville Fish Hatchery
You can access the Bonneville Dam from either side of the River, but we prefer the fish ladder on the Washington side. It’s rarely crowded.
You can take an elevator or stairs down to a viewing area below the water to watch the fish swim up the ladder. It’s pretty mesmerizing.
Once you’re done at the fish ladder, head over to the hatchery. The hatchery, which opened in 1909 raises hundred of thousands of salmon and steelhead before releasing them into a nearby creek that feeds into the Columbia River.
The Bonneville Fish Hatchery is also home to the Sturgeon Center and Oregon’s most famous fish. At almost 80 years old, Herman the Sturgeon is still attracting visitors from near and far. Herman is about 10 feet long and weighs almost 500 pounds. A little Herman trivia: he’s been in music videos, has his own line of memorabilia, was the star attraction at the Oregon State Fair for over 50 years, and was even kidnapped once in the middle of the night.
Thunder Island Brewing Company
All this traveling in the Columbia River Gorge is going to make you hungry. Some friends recommend we head to the Thunder Island Brewing Company in Cascade Locks for lunch.
Their recommendation was spot on! Good food (kid friendly), fantastic craft beers (adult friendly) and beautiful scenery along the Columbia river. I’m not one to take pictures of my food, but I don’t mind a beauty shot with little flight of beer.
Kid Friendly Things to do in the Columbia River Gorge
There are so many places to visit and hike in the Gorge, Here’s a quick recap of 5 kid friendly things to do.
- Multnomah Falls
- Beacon Rock
- Bonneville Dam Fish Ladder
- Bonneville Fish Hatchery and Sturgeon Center
- Thunder Island Brewing Company
What are some of your favorite kids friendly things to do in the Columbia River Gorge?