The Best Road Trip From Portland Nobody Knows About
In Portland, it’s easy to stay “in the bubble,” exploring all that our backyard has to offer, but just a six hour drive east is Lewiston, Idaho—the gateway to Idaho’s world-renowned rivers, including the high desert Gorges of the Lower Salmon. And the best part? You can take the scenic route.
Abandon I-84 for the lesser traveled and more scenic Highway 14 to wind your way through the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington side. With a relatively short road trip ahead of you, enjoy the ride. Here are a few things you should check out along the way.
Stop 1: Beacon Rock
Less than an hour from Portland, stop to stretch your legs and get your blood pumping with a hike up Beacon Rock. This nearly 900-foot, basalt column once formed the core of an ancient volcano, so why not climb to the top? Short and steep, as you weave your way in and out of forest and rocky outcrops, you’ll enjoy views up- and down-river of the mighty Columbia. Foggy? No worries! It’s still an impressive climb and the mist adds to the magic of this short hike.
As you explore this special spot in Skamania County, remember that the Board of County Commissioners added a “Bigfoot ordinance” to the books that makes it against the law to harm this fabled furry creature. Is Bigfoot real? Keep your eyes peeled and decide for yourself.
Stop 2: White Salmon
Stop for lunch in the picturesque town of White Salmon. Don’t miss the delicious locally-sourced fare at Everybody’s Brewing, and the incredible view from their patio that looks out over the Columbia River. Don’t worry, they have plenty of bubbly non-alcoholic brews to quench your thirst, including a rotating tap of kombucha.
After lunch pop across the street to the North Shore Cafe to grab a cup of coffee or fresh-squeezed juice for the road. Once back in the car, you’ll keep heading east on Highway 14 to the junction of Highway 12 toward Walla Walla and Lewiston.
Stop 3: Walla Walla
In the final stretch to Lewiston, don’t miss the chance to imbibe in Washington’s wine capital of Walla Walla. With more than 100 wineries to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the options, so we’ve included a few recommendations.
Waterboork Winery is one of Walla Walla’s pioneering wineries. Venture to their scenic grounds and impressive tasting room to sip on wines that exemplify the fruit-forward characteristics of this region. Amavi Cellars boasts an incredible view of their vineyards and guests can sit back on their patio to take in acres of vines and the rolling, pastural hills of the Palouse. L’Ecole No. 41, a second-generation, family-owned institution is one of the most distinguished Walla Walla wineries. Located in a historic schoolhouse, this winery has been recognized on Wine and Spirit’s list of Top 100 Wineries for 14 consecutive years. Pick one, enjoy a taste of world-class wines and revel in the fact that your “adventure” hasn’t even started yet.
Final stop: Gorges of the Lower Salmon River Rafting
Hop back in your car for the short drive to Lewiston and a good night’s sleep before embarking on a Lower Salmon River rafting trip the following morning. This underrated Idaho adventure will take you through four separate canyons, each showing off the distinct beauty of this wild river corridor. Added to the experience are some of Idaho’s best whitewater rapids, mellow pools for swimming and stand-up paddleboarding, plus camping on incredible sandy beaches.
For the next few days, surrender to river time. It’s a place where time slows down and all that matters is the splash of whitewater, big skies dotted with stars and connecting with good friends around a fire.
When it’s all said and done, you’ll wonder why more people aren’t talking about this awesome road trip from Portland.
Video: Logan Bockrath | Photos: Everybody’s Brewing; Bob’s Beer Blog, Lower Salmon River Rafting; James Kaiser