Where to go outdoors in the Pacific Northwest?
May 6, 2009 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Where to hike, bike, or kayak between Yakima, WA and Portland, OR?

A friend of mine and I will be traveling between Yakima and Portland on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. We'll be on a trip to the Northwest, and want to do something outdoors-y, we're New Yorkers and have heard a lot about how beautiful the area is. We're both in good shape and young, but aren't especially experienced at outdoors activities.

Any advice on where to go/what to do? We'd be willing to do more than one thing during the day, if it'll help break up the drive.

If anyone has any more recommendations on routes to take/stops to make along the route, or anywhere from Seattle to Yakima (we also like wineries), feel free to chip in.
posted by j1950 to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There are many short and scenic hikes in the Columbia River Gorge – especially on the Oregon side between Hood River and Troutdale. Many have multiple waterfalls and scenic overlooks.

Road biking is also possible along the Columbia Gorge Highway. Try Mosier tunnels for a hike and bike only road trail that goes through 2 historic auto tunnels.

For mountain biking, Catherine Creek on the Washington side near White Salmon is good.

Don't miss the town of Hood River as a base for all kinds of outdoor activities – windsurfing, hiking, etc. etc. They also have a great Microbrewery – Full Sail.
posted by malchick at 8:14 AM on May 6, 2009

What's your itinerary? Are you flying into SEA, driving to YAK, and then on to PDX?

As you've probably seen, 97's the most direct S route from YAK to PDX -- and it's actually quite nice once you turn south of Toppenish, in a very barren high-plateau way. That takes you near Zillah, and there are a couple of good wineries in the area. Wineglass is one of my favorites, they are honest, good value wines. Some beautiful examples of what WA can do with Cab, not as aggressively green as what WA often turns out, and not over-ripe and jammy, either. Beautiful Rose, as well. Just nicely balanced wines in general. If you want to just do the wine thing you can continue on down to Benton City and hit up a number of fantastic wineries in the Red Mountain region -- I've not been all that impressed with the Zillah/sunnyside region outside of Wineglass. That would wind up with a very long day, however, since it's got to be 2-3 hours from YAK to the tri-cities, and it's probably 4 hours from the tri-cities to PDX.

If you're more interested in outdoors (as suggested by the post heading) then just head S on 97. There are bound to be some nice side roads off around Goldendale to bike on, if you're bringing along bikes, but I can't say which ones.

YAK to PDX isn't too long of a trip, maybe 4 hours? That means you can come over the breaks into the Gorge pretty early into your trip. I'd definitely recommend Dog Mountain at this time of year -- it's a little on the early side for insane blooms, but some will be out and it's got great vistas. Friends of the Gorge has a good website with hike information -- Starvation Cr Overlook, Metlako or Punchbowl Falls, and the Multnomah Falls to Wakeena Falls hike are all my favs.

Sorry if this got verbose -- enjoy your trip!
posted by melogranato at 8:51 AM on May 6, 2009

I'm a little confused. It's 3 hours between Yakima and Portland so I don't know how many activities you want to pack into your day. And since you're not outdoorsy, I'd recommend not wasting your time trying to rent a Mt. Bike or a Kayak.

You'll be going through the Columbia River Gorge so I recommend you look for hikes along the way. There are a range of hikes with a few just off the roadway to scenic small waterfalls. The hike to the top of Multnomah falls is somewhat strenuous (but well traveled) and is totally worth it. I think since you're looking for scenic Oregon go to the falls and do the hike. (It may be swamped that day, though.) If you're going from Portland --> Yakima then after the hike, drive on to Hood River and have lunch/dinner at Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River. Don't drink too much!

If you need a place to take a nap and the weather is nice, go down to the shoreline in Hood River and watch the people kite surf. It's really nice.

Then drive to Yakima.
posted by amanda at 8:59 AM on May 6, 2009

I have to disagree with Melogranato on Dog Moutain. Dog Mountain is hard! With not much payoff, I think. Eagle Creek with its punchbowl falls is easier, has lots of wildflowers and the payoff of the falls is much cooler. YMMV, of course. :)

Eagle Creek is where I take people when I'm trying to get them to move to Oregon.
posted by amanda at 9:03 AM on May 6, 2009

heehee... I guess I just have a soft spot for Dog Mountain -- it isn't beginner level, that's true -- but the wildflowers are to die for in June. Eagle creek to punchbowl is also very nice. And if the weather is nasty Dog Mountain can be incredibly muddy. there are lots of options, though. and if the weather doesn't inspire you to get out of your car you can always take the old gorge highway which gives you some nice scenic views.
posted by melogranato at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2009

This should be a no brainer...Mt. St. Helens is on your route and is not to be missed. From the west go to windy ridge, the less crowded viewpoint, and hike into the blast zone, you will not regret this decision. it took millions of years to carve the grand canyon, it took seconds to wipe out the side of a mountain and all of the forest for miles around. this is a truly mind blowing thing to see first hand.
the roads to windy ridge are windy (long I), so this will take you half a day or more. take your camera.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:53 PM on May 6, 2009

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