Before You Go

The Columbia River Gorge is a spectacular place.  Here are some things to think about on your next Gorge adventure to protect yourself, the land, and the non-human plants and animals who call the Gorge home.

7 Ways to Care for Yourself and Your Gorge:

Bridge of the gods trailhead

Thieves have an easy time at trailheads – it’s smash and dash.  Secure your valuables!

1.  Know before you go

  • Lock up:  It’s a fact; criminals exist, even in this Eden.  Secure your valuables in your trunk or carry them.
  • Camel up:  Many trailheads do not have water, bring plenty.  You’ll want it after your 2000′ vertical gain.
  • Dress up:  Gorge weather can be moody.  Dress in layers and pack your rain gear.
  • Map up:  There are a dizzying number of trails and trailheads in the Gorge.  Do your homework and bring some sort of guide – be it a book, a paper map, or (if you’re braving and trusting, an electronic version – check your batteries and reception.)
  • Pack up:  Bring your first aid kit, your wilderness survival supplies, your valuables, a map, water, and a snack.  It’s always when we leave these things behind that we need them.

The US Forest Service Columbia River Gorge NSA page has maps, alerts, directions, regulations, and more:

2.  Stick to trails

  • Stay on trails:  In addition to damaging plants and confusing those who follow you, leaving trails exposes you (and us, your rescuers) to dangerous conditions.  The Gorge is wildly steep and confusing.  Stay found and un-fallen.
  • Stay behind rails:  Resist the urge to find a better spot to take that photo.  Basalt and scree are slick; that great shot could be your last.
  • Leave a trail:  Just a paper or electronic one.  Let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.  Plans changed?  Let your person know!

The Gorge is a beautiful, but vast place. Stay found and stay on trail. You could be as hard to find as Bigfoot. Or the ranger in this photo.

3.  Trash your trash and pick up poop

  • Pack out what you pack in:  Fetching trash on the edge of a cliff is not fun.
  • Don’t let your dog’s business become someone else’s:  Clean up after your pet.  Fetching poop is also not fun.

4.  Leave it as you find it

  • Take pictures and memories, and leave only the print of your shoe . . . or toes if you’re the barefoot type.
  • Consider the “Big Picture”:  The Gorge sees millions of visitors a year.  If we all took a wildflower, fern, rock, artifact, chipmunk, and slug, there wouldn’t be anything left for anyone else to see.
  • Remove hitchhikers:  The seed kind.  Invasive plants threaten the Gorge’s ecology.  Many trailheads have boot cleaners.  Brush Fido while you’re at it.
  • Pay it forward:  Feeling ambitious?  Pack out someone else’s trash or doggy doo bag; volunteer for a restoration project; or join one of our numerous Friends groups.

Friends of Vista House:

Friends of the Columbia River Gorge:

Friends of the Historic Columbia River Highway:

5.  Be mindful with fire

  • Do we mind?  Many public lands prohibit fires.  Here at State Parks, we prohibit fires outside of fire rings.
  • Have you minded?  If a fire is permitted in the area you’re visiting, make sure to keep an eye on it and put it out, dead out, before walking away.  You don’t want to be remembered as the guy or gal who burned down the Gorge.
  • Keep in mindAny fire (or spark) can start a fire.  This could be anything from a smoldering match or cigarette to a spark from your engine on dry grass.

6.  Keep wildlife wild

Raccoon 1_Sept 2010

The hardened life of a criminal. Don’t be a player in his fate!

  • Leash your pets:  This keeps your pets, others’ pets, and wildlife safe.  Go here for off-leash fun:  Rooster Rock State Park, Lewis and Clark State Park, Sandy River Delta Park.
  • Resist feeding our adorable rodents:  Squirrels, raccoons, even deer can be aggressive and will attack.  We know, they beg.  And steal.  Do not assist them in this life of crime.  It isn’t healthy.

7.  Share our trails (and our roads and beaches)

  • Millions of people visit the Gorge annually.  We have hikers, bikers, runners, backpackers, climbers, dog walkers, horseback riders, drivers, anglers, sunbathers, swimmers, hunters, disc golfers, and more.  On trails, folks on horses have the right of way, then hikers, then bikers.  Best practice is to make your presence politely known to other users you might spook.

    Curious Gorge Book

    There are a number of great guidebooks out there. This one is good for finding out-of-the-way spots on a busy day.

  • The Gorge gets crowded.  Sunny days and holidays bring visitors out by the thousands.  Tired of sharing?  Drive a few more miles down the road and try out a lesser known area.  Want a tip?  Check out a book called The Curious Gorge–it has an obscure-o-meter.

Preview the book here:

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