"Gateway to the Columbia River Gorge" Washougal by glabah

Washougal Travel Guide: 34 reviews and 279 photos

I selected this photo, taken from Washougal's Columbia River Dike Trail, as the lead photo for this page as it adequately expresses the position of Washougal at the start of the Columbia River Gorge for most visitors.

The tug boat and its barges are headed upriver into the Columbia Gorge, and in the background is the Vista House, on the Oregon side of the river.

The transition here is quite abrupt. Taking this photo in Washougal, I am standing on flat lands along the river, while almost within touching distance, are the mountains that create the wonderful Columbia River Gorge.

Washougal is the last city going eastward that is on the Washington side of the river before you get to the gorge. Unfortunately, the draw of the gorge as an attraction means that few people stop in Washougal to see what is there. Yet, the Steigerwald Wildlife Refuge is of significant interest in the area, and the Columbia River Dike Trail is a nice walk that is mostly away from the noisy traffic of highway 14. Steamboat Landing Park is also known as a popular place to fish.

In February of 2010, a new walkway was completed under highway 14 to allow direct pedestrian access to Steamboat Landing Park and the Columbia Dike Trail from downtown Washougal. This allows visitors to downtown Washougal and the Pendleton woolen mill store there to take a several mile walk, should they so deisre, all the way to the Steigerwald Wildlife Refuge through Captain William Clark Park.

The old downtown core of Washougal, unfortunately, leaves a lot to be desired. There are several stores, two restaurants, several civic buildings, and that is pretty much it. Old historic storefronts do exist here, but they are severely overshadowed by new, modern structures like the one on the left - in fact, since downtown Washougal is only about 3 blocks long, this structure overshadows most of the downtown core itself! The good news is that the new development has included a new plaza that should be a pleasant gathering place.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Small town with some great views, close to recreation in the Columbia River Gorge, and some nice places all of its own. Efforts to eliminate train horns at crossings mean the railroad generates less noise than many towns in the USA that have lines.
  • Cons:Not much for night life here, especially such things as theatres, large sporting events and music entertainment, but at least it is close to Portland and Vancouver.
  • In a nutshell:Nice small town which may deserve a look if you are going through this direction.
  • Last visit to Washougal: Apr 2011
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (20)

Comments (1)

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo
    Jun 4, 2015 at 7:37 AM

    Nice tips! Love the trail along the river. Wonderful trail open at Cape Horn - very busy on weekends, but closed during Peregrine nesting season. Best pics late in day! And Amnesia Brewing is downtown Washougal now!

    • glabah's Profile Photo
      Jun 4, 2015 at 7:50 PM

      Yes, eventually I plan to add more to the Cape Horn tip. My preference would be to take the bus all the way out there as it is one of the few Columbia Gorge hikes you can do by transit. I haven't had the chance yet.


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