Get a feel of the Columbia River Gorge from the Vista House at Crown Point, where you can get an incredible view of the Columbia River. Handicapped accessible parking is located by the ramp, and once inside, ask the front desk to access the elevator to the lower floor. The elevator is hidden and appears out the marble floor behind the front desk. Find more history to explore on the lower level, along with the gift shop and accessible flush toilets. Another scenic viewpoint, right off the side of the road, is the Portland Women’s Forum Scenic Viewpoint with handicapped parking and a barrier-free path to the plaque and original stone landmark.
Most of all, the Columbia River Gorge is known for its plethora of waterfalls. On the Oregon side alone, there are over seventy-five. The majority of these waterfalls cannot be accessed by wheelchair but a few are definitely accessible. The general area that you are aiming for is Ainsworth State Park off Highway 30. Highway 30 used to be the main highway but today is a scenic side route. Driving Highway 30 alone is recommended. The National Forest Service requires drivers to pay an advanced fee to access the area, but this fee is waived for those with a United States National Parks Pass, for instance, Access, Seniors, or, Military.
The two most popular and wheelchair accessible waterfalls are the Multnomah Falls and Horsetail Falls; each with handicapped parking available. At Horsetail Falls, a short, paved trail takes you from the parking lot up a short ramp and across the street to the vista area where you can soak in the gentle beauty and stream of this waterfall. There is no restroom at this waterfall.
Multnomah Falls, on the other hand, does have an accessible restroom along with a lodge and gift shop. Multnomah Falls is an extremely popular stop for tourists, so expect crowds and no parking spots. Coming in the early morning may give you a better chance of getting one of the handicapped parking spots. A barrier-free, paved pathway takes visitors to the lower-level viewing area. A more gradual and wheelchair-friendly ramp is to the right of the walkway. An elevator in the historic lodge takes visitors to the upper viewing area. The 1.25-miles trail is paved all the way to Benson Bridge, but it might be a little steep for someone without power assistance.
Other waterfalls easily accessible are Latourell Falls and Wahkeena Falls. These two waterfalls also have paved pathways to viewing areas within a short distance from the road. Latourell Falls lies within Guy W. Talbot State Park with access to picnic tables and a vaulted wheelchair accessible toilet right off the road.
The Historic Columbia River Highway Trail is a long, paved route between Portland and The Dalles, and a favorite for cyclists. If hiking in a wheelchair, head east from the Bridge of the Gods for the largest, barrier-free sections of the trail. Heading westbound towards Cascade Fish Hatchery and Eagle Creek is a scenic stretch of the trail, but then the staircase blocks continued access. Also, the Historic Columbia River Trail is basically flat around Boardman, Oregon, and it may be an ideal place to explore.
Starvation Creek State Park to Viento State Park is another scenic section going east on the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail. This woodsy and sometimes mossy path gradually climbs in elevation and eventually opens up for views of the Columbia River. Facilities at Starvation Creek Falls are accessible and a short, paved pathway takes visitors in wheelchairs to a viewing area of the waterfall. Two campsites at Viento State Park are classified as accessible.
Continuing east on the trail, the Mosier Twin Tunnels is another scenic spot. The Mosier Twin Tunnels are found between the Mark Hatfield East and West Trailhead. From the west-side trailhead, hiking to the Mosier Twin Tunnels and back is about 7 miles, but starting at the East Trailhead near the visitor center, the hike is a roundtrip of 1.4-miles.
Bridal Veil Falls State Park begins with a wide paved pathway from the parking lot. Accessible flush toilets are available just past the trailhead from the handicapped parking spot. At one point, the trail splits in one direction toward the falls but soon ends at a staircase. The narrow but paved Overlook Loop Trail is barrier-free for wheelchair hikers. The 0.5-mile trail loops through the forest to the edge of a cliff for views of the Columbia River. A few paved pullout points are along the trail. At least one of the Columbia River overlooks is paved, but most have just incorporated a fence and kept their naturally firm surface with rocks, roots, and other forest debris.
Catherine Creek Recreation Area is near Highway 8 on the Washington side, near Mosier and Rowland Lake. Paved trail with gradual elevation changes and great views of the river. Not a lot of shade. The best time to visit is in spring with the wildflowers.
Hood River Fruit Loop (35 miles)
The Hood River Fruit Loop along the Columbia Gorge is home to a plethora of wineries, micro-breweries, and an array of veggie, fruit, and food stands. Get quality market products that are locally sourced and homemade. For foodies, an experience in the Fruit Loop is a must. One could easily spend four to five hours exploring this area.
The list below has some of the favorite stops to consider on your journey. For example, in addition to all sorts of jams, spreads, pastries, bread, and pies, Packer Orchards has some unique arts and crafts for sale. Lavender picking is also an option at a few spots, and I was able to participate in the activity at the Stave and Stone Winery where there was also live music on the lawn and a food truck with views of the mountains and vineyards.
- Packer Orchards: Great place to get gifts, especially food and food-related items, like marionberry pastries.
- Apple Valley Country Store: In addition to things like jams, jellies, and BBQ sauce, this store features huckleberry milkshakes.
- Draper Girls Country Farm: Select fresh and organic produce from the farmstand or pick the fruit yourself right off the tree.
- Stave and Stone Winery: Outdoor wine tasting, food trucks, live music, shops, and lavender picking with views of Mount Hood. The bathroom at the main building has flush toilets, otherwise, there is a porta-potty (portable toilet) by the lawn with wine tasting.
- Wy East Winery: Funky Statues outside and a designated handicapped parking spot with a barrier-free entrance into the tasting room. No lowered bar area in the tasting room, but the staff is very friendly. Plus, there are seating areas in the tasting room as well as an outdoor patio area with tables and chairs. A large, wheelchair accessible bathroom is inside.
- The Gorge White House: Outdoor patio with wine bar, handicapped parking, and wheelchair accessible, vaulted toilets.
- Solera Brewery: Has a great view of Mount Hood with crafted beer flavors like apricot and cider-infused ale as well as tasty food menu options.
- Breweries of the Gorge: For beer lovers, this is the ultimate guide to the best of the best in this area. There’s even a beer treasure hunt where you get a stamp for each place visited on the map and if you collect enough, you win a prize. Here’s the map.
Other Area Activities + Sites
- Participate in zip-lining with Skamania Lodge Zip Tour, and this crew is fully capable of accommodating wheelchair guests. Skamania Lodge also has accessible flush toilets, a restaurant, and café. Some hiking trails at Skamania Lodge may be accessible to those with a power wheelchair or power assistance.
- Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler Cruise at the Cascade Locks from May to October. This short river cruise can accommodate people in wheelchairs on the ground floor of the boat. Barrier-free access gets visitors down to the boat and assistance is offered going down the dock if needed. A ramp is provided to get on and off the boat and another ramp is setup on the boat for guests to move from the inside to the stern outside. Inside is a dining room because a dinner cruise is also an option. The lower level of this boat also has a wheelchair accessible flush toilet.
- Bridge of the Gods is a scenic area. Driving over both ways costs a fee but it’s free for pedestrians. The paved Historic Columbia River Highway Trail, mentioned already, starts under the Bridge of the Gods and travels a long way.
- Stevenson, Washington, is a small town near the Bridge of the Gods where many people go kiteboarding, which is fun to watch. You can also pick up some good fruits and vegetables without having to travel deep into the Hood River Fruit Loop, like berries and pears here.
- Oneonta Gorge is right off the road with handicapped parking on each side. A flat, paved pathway leads to a view of the gorge and through a historic tunnel.
- Detroit Dam and Lake: A paved walkway travels across the dam and lake. A wheelchair accessible vaulted toilet is at the beginning, before crossing the lake. The dam is pedestrian-only and is paved with asphalt, often visited by local fishermen.
- White Salmon Fish Hatchery: Visitors will find handicapped parking, a ramp, down to the water, and a wheelchair accessible fishing dock. A couple of viewing platforms are along the road.
- Timberline Lodge: A historic lodge on Mount Hood, made famous by the movie “The Shining.” Handicapped parking is located near the accessible entrance into the lodge (to the right of the main staircase). From the parking lot, use the push-button door to access the elevator that takes guests with wheelchairs to various floors. A restaurant, café, bar, gift shop, and accessible flush toilets are all available at the Timberline Lodge. Paved pathways around the perimeter allow visitors in wheelchairs to easily explore.
- Trillium Lake is located just below Mount Hood near Timberline Lodge. A short paved road runs along the lake at one point where visitors can also find handicapped parking and an accessible vaulted toilet. Enjoying the views and hanging out by lake is possible, but no wheelchair access has been made down to the actual lake. From this point, the road becomes a one-lane, all-terrain dirt surface, covered in potholes. It does a loop around the lake and connects to the main road, but due to the condition and lack of scenery, this portion of the road isn’t advisable, especially for ramped vehicles.