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5 Places to Visit in the PNW: Avoiding the Closed Trails along the Columbia River Gorge

Photos from my trip to Oregon/Washington, avoiding the burned Columbia River Gorge

By: Matt Van Swol + Save to a List

For the first time in a very long time, I started crying. Not because I was sad, not because I was necessarily happy, but because my cynicism was being washed away by the beauty I was viewing. I had booked this flight to Portland on a whim and really hadn't thought through everything I was going to do, but by the time I was boarding the plane to leave, the Columbia River Gorge was completely burnt to the ground and all the roads were closed to get anywhere near it. I decided to spend a couple days on the Oregon coast near Cannon Beach and then spend the rest of the trip on the Washington side of the Columbia River and explore there. The entire flight to Portland, I was regretting the trip. Whenever I book trips to new places, I'm always skeptical that the place I am going to visit will be any better than the places I've been. I'm honestly scared I'll be disappointed, that the trip will just be a waste of my vacation days and the photos I get will be complete crap. Well, I was dead wrong, and here are the photos to prove it.

1. Falls Creek Falls, WA

An easy hike from the dirt road parking lot, Falls Creek Falls trail was barely hiked and I spent a number of minutes viewing the falls alone by myself. The dirt road leading to the parking lot might be intimidating, but go slowly, avoid the potholes...it's worth it. 

2. Crescent Beach, OR

A 2-mile roundtrip hike from the roadside parking lot, Crescent Beach was by far the prettiest sunset view I saw the whole trip. Bring a flashlight so you can hike back out after sunset, but staying and watching it with the surfers was one of my favorite experiences in the PNW.

3. Beacon Rock, WA

An absolutely beautiful hike with plenty of views along the hike up and plenty of switchbacks, Beacon Rock is a must-do if you are in Cascadia. If you get up early enough, you can view the sunrise along the Columbia River with the enveloping morning fog.

4. Cape Disappointment, WA

Anything but disappointing, Cape Disappointment is truly a hidden gem along the Washington Coast. With insanely beautiful views of the coves and lighthouse, along with a yeti you can fish on, Cape Disappointment is certainly a must-visit if you are anywhere near Astoria.

5. Ecola State Park, OR

Although the park is heavily trafficked, the trails are usually very quiet. Get up early in the morning and watch the sunrise hit the sea stacks along the coast. The hike to Indian Beach is simply stunning (and where this photo was taken) - I highly recommend it! 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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