Carson to Hood River Loop: 25-mile Columbia River Gorge Scenic Drive

This Pacific Northwest getaway offers an array of things to see and do in a 25-mile scenic drive through mountainside terrain in the Columbia River Gorge. Take a day trip to drive the loop between Carson, WA, and Hood River, OR, or use this as your guide to learn the hotspots we love.

Take the beautiful Bridge of the Gods over the gorge for the Loop and use I-84 East to Hood River. Once in Hood River, you will cross the Hood River White Salmon Interstate Bridge to cross the Columbia River and follow WA-14 E back to Carson. 

Now for the fun stuff—where to stop and what to see in the 25-mile span on each side of the river.  

Leave Backwoods Cabins in Carson (stop at the Backwoods Country Market for gear and snacks) and drive to the Bridge of the Gods through Stevenson. Here, you will cross the gorge and head East towards Hood River.

Image of Road surrounded by forest in Washington

Relax in the Backwoods

Backwoods Cabins: Your Basecamp for Gorge Adventures

What to see along I-84 East: 

Image of Kite Surfer in Columbia River Gorge
Kite Surfing in Columbia River Gorge
  1. Cascade Locks Historical Museum has tons of history related to the Locks passage and river. There is a small fee to get in.
  2. Lorang Studios features metal relief art done by a husband and wife team.
  3. Kite Launch Beach is a great place to watch windsurfing and kite surfing all summer long. It is also famous for its blackberries.
  4. Hike Herman Creek Trailhead to Pacific Crest Falls or Herman Creek Falls. Both Hikes are steady uphills. Herman Creek Falls offers two falls along the way, around 80 feet.
  5. Indian Point Trail leads to a stunning view; it’s another steady uphill climb on the Gorton Creek Falls Trail, leading to a spectacular view of the gorge.
  6. At Wyeth/Gorton Creek, there is a hike to a couple of beautiful waterfalls in all photos. Shorter, easy hike, and well-marked and signed Emerald Falls and Gorton Falls.
  7. Camp Benson Falls is a nice, quiet, and easy waterfall hike.
  8. Historic Columbia River Multi-Use Path. Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge from the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. The trail comprises three disconnected paved paths along stretches of historic Highway 30, predating I-84 as the only road connecting Portland and The Dalles. Together, the segments provide a combined 12-plus miles of thrilling scenery and spectacular geologic formations. 
  9. Roadside Waterfalls—Lancaster Falls, Hole In the Wall, Starvation Creek Falls, and Warren Creek Falls are all visible from the road. They are stunning waterfalls; all three are just a short walk from the road. 
  10. Wygant State Natural Area is a beautiful area in which to take in the views of the Columbia River.
  11. Mitchell Point Trailhead offers a quick stop. There is very minimal parking. There is a river overlook point right off the parking lot for non-trail goers. The hiking trail to its peak is awesome, short, and offers incredible views, but FYI, it is not for the casual hiker. The trail gets quite steep about 1/3 of the way up, and it can be easy to slip.
Image of Multnomah Falls in Columbia River Gorge

Welcome to Hood River! Here are some noteworthy stops along the way.

  1. Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum. Housed in two Hangers, this museum houses various cars and planes from the 1920s and 30s. It’s a fairly large and diverse collection that is well-kept and preserved. Well worth the visit.
  2. Mount Hood Railroad offers scenic rides with Mount Hood as a backdrop.
  3. Gorge Sail Adventures. Sail around this end of the gorge with a knowledgeable captain from the Point Marina Park.
  4. Kickstand Coffee and Kitchen offers craft coffee, cocktails, and new American flare food. It is a nice stop with an outdoor fire pit.
  5. pFriem Family Brewers, lots of housemade brews and light bites if you are looking for a stop in Hood River. 
  6. Cathedral Ridge Winery  
  7. Yazmin Studios – Discover fine art 
  8. Melanie Thompson Artware – Fine, usable pottery
  9. Marchesi Vineyards and Winery 

A variety of Blueberry patches are located here, including Wilinda Blueberry Patch and James Organics

Image of wildflowers on trail in Columbia River Gorge

Now for the adventure back to Carson through our wine country.

Cross the River on the Hood River Bridge for White Salmon, and turn left on US 14W towards Carson.

  1. Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery raises 12.5 million Chinook Salmon and returns them to the river to make an impact on keeping “wild” salmon populations thriving.
  2. Loop de Loop Wines is a woman-owned and operated winery located at 451 Kramer Rd, Underwood, WA.
  3. AniChe Cellars is also woman-owned and operated. located at 71 Little Buck Creek Rd.
  4. Columbia River Viewpoint—Located at Cook-Underwood Rd, just off the highway, this viewpoint offers a spectacular view down the Gorge. It is a good photo op.
  5. South Hill Winery – Opens April 5th at 801 Scoggins Rd Box 235.
  6. Hawkins Cellars is located at 10401 Cook-Underwood Rd.
  7. Swell City Park, just off of the Lewis and Clark Hwy (US 14), offers a great place to windsurf, watch, or participate. 
  8. This route also offers some beautiful scenic tunnels that you pass through.
  9. Spirit Falls – Super, super steep, and slippery going down.   If you choose to do this, we recommend good shoes and hiking poles to help stop sliding and help pull you up. Not an ideal place to bring children because the viewing area is quite small and slippery with rushing water below. Lots of social trails to get you down to the falls, but pay attention to private land signs. Small informal parking area at the top, with no bathrooms. Absolutely beautiful waterfalls.
  10. Dog Creek Falls is located just off the highway. It’s a very short walk to a beautiful waterfall, and it is also a salmon run.
  11. Dog Mountain Trail to Dog Mountain Lookout. It is a strenuous and steep hike to the Lookout, but the views are fabulous. You get views of the river, the gorge, and the mountains with huge wildflower meadows.
  12. Wind Mountain Trail—This is a cool hike! It overlooks Gorge to the west and Mt. Adams to the north. It’s short and sweet.
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