By Michael Lanza
My son and daughter aren’t that into great views. I still remember my son saying to me, making no attempt to mask his disdain, “What is it about adults and views?” Kids don’t want an experience in nature that’s no better than a picture on the wall—they want to immerse themselves in it, get dirty and wet and throw stuff. That’s why dayhiking in the Columbia Gorge with them was a big hit.
In fact, it was a winner as a three-generation adventure, thanks to some of those loathsome views for us adults, like the vistas from the upper stretch of the popular Dog Mountain Trail. But also because the gorge is one of the best spots in the Pacific Northwest for seeing waterfalls and wildflowers. My kids will not soon forget walking behind Tunnel Falls and traversing the sheer cliff to either side of the waterfall, or hiking beneath the deep overhang behind Ponytail Falls (lead photo, above).
With more than 200 miles of trails and scores of waterfalls in the 292,500-acre Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, it’s a major center for hiking and backpacking less than an hour from Portland. It’s also a great destination for hiking with kids—because here, nature is more interactive than a touch screen. See what I mean in the photo gallery below, then read my story about this trip for more photos, a video, and trip-planning tips.
See also my photo gallery from a 20-mile dayhike in the Columbia Gorge.