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The Journey’s Half the Fun – Sites to See from Portland to Walla Walla

July 12, 2018

Planning to drive to Walla Walla from Portland? Don’t wait till you arrive to start your vacation. Begin enjoying the journey as soon as you leave home with these fun stops along the way. The drive from West to East will take you along the famed scenic Columbia River Gorge. Watch the dramatic shift in landscape from the Cascadian forest to the Eastside’s arid rolling hills and canyons, with a few surprises along the way.

Multnomah Falls & Historic Columbia Gorge Highway – Most Portlanders have seen these epic 611-foot falls, but if you haven’t now’s your chance, just 30 minutes outside of the city on I-84. Then consider meandering off 84 for a spell and take the old Historic Columbia Gorge Highway (check current conditions, as some of it remains closed for recovery work after 2017’s Eagle Creek Fire), offering gorgeous views of the Columbia River from above. Don’t miss a stop at Vista House on Crown Point for an espresso, built in 1918, it’s easily the most beautiful rest stop you’ll ever visit.

Cascade Locks Beer or Ice Cream – Your call. Cascade Locks’ downtown is a charming little strip just off the highway where you can stock up on smoked salmon and berries at a roadside stand. Enjoy a riverside brew and soak in the relaxed vibes at Thunder Island Brewing Company or drive a bit further and get a giant ice cream cone at the retro Eastwind Drive-In before getting back on the highway.

Pizza and a Brew in Hood River – The outdoors-loving town of Hood River is worth a leisurely stroll for some shopping and good eats or visit the waterfront for a tasting and gourmet bites at pfriems Family Brewers or a pie at Solstice Wood Fire Pizza next door.

Maryhill Winery & Museum – Cross the river to Washington for a tasting at the stunning Maryhill Winery. Sipping over scenic riverview vineyards is a perfect rest stop, topped off with a tour of the eclectic Maryhill Museum of Art. Be sure not to miss the Stonehenge Memorial. Just down the road from the museum, a full-scale replica of the original poised against the gorge, it is the country’s first World War I memorial, built by the museum’s founder Sam Hill in 1918.

C&D Drive-In, Boardman – If you’ve got a hankering for a good burger, this classic diner is the place for a quick burger, fries and, of course, milk shake. An hour and a half from Walla Walla, it’s just off the highway.

Wallula Gap – Before I-84 turns into Route 12, the gorge opens up at Wallula Gap. Picture the Ice Age Missoula Floods carving this channel into the basalt as you view this fascinating landscape. Pull off the road at the historic landmark sign for a quick hike up a small canyon for great views of the Twin Sisters, twin basalt towers Native Americans believed to be the petrified wives of the trickster god Coyote.

Almost There – While admiring the rolling hills, wheat and sweet onion fields of Walla Wallan “suburbs” Touchet and Lowden, you might want to stop into a few Westside Wineries, including Woodward Canyon, one of the Valley’s first and L’Ecole No. 41, housed in the historic Lowden schoolhouse. Visits to Whitman Mission National Historic Site and Frenchtown Monument, also along the way will acquaint you with the area’s rich heritage and history. Then you’re just a ten-minute’s drive from checking in at the Marcus Whitman, the first downtown building that comes into view.