By Emily Reed
Winter is one of the best times to visit one of the trails in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Not only are the skies more dramatic but there are fewer people and more parking spaces even at the most popular trailheads.
But winter also comes with a few extra conditions to consider (mud! rain!) and we are still facing the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic. So it’s more important than ever to plan ahead and prepare adequately when taking any trip outside your own neighborhood. If you do decide to visit the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, please help keep communities safe by following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health guidelines.
Ready, Set, GOrge! is an initiative aimed at improving the visitor experience in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It’s a collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Travel Oregon, Oregon Department of Transportation and the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance. Visitors can go to ReadySetGorge.com to find an interactive map that includes all the recreation sites in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The map shows which areas are open and which ones are closed. We work with local agencies to ensure the map is up-to-date and accurate.
Before leaving home, visit ReadySetGorge.com where you'll find an interactive and updated map of trails, things to consider when choosing a trail, a list of travel resources, and much more. As we enter the winter season, the following tips can help you prepare and take care while you are visiting the Gorge:
- Some parks and trails throughout the Columbia River Gorge region can close at a moment’s notice due to downed trees or rock slides. Others have limited parking capacity. Since others may have the great idea to hike in the winter, please always have a Plan B in case your destination is closed or too crowded.
- When recreating on trails, maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other hikers and bikers. Crowds lead to closures. The communities of the Gorge could decide to close local trails if people cannot maintain 6 feet of distance.
- Be self-sufficient with all your supplies in case the communities you are visiting have shortages. State health authorities recommend bringing soap, water, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and a mask or facial covering to shield your noses/mouth.
- If you are headed out on trails, bring outdoor essentials and plan your route accordingly to minimize the need for a rescue, as this can burden first responders and increase the chance of exposure to the virus for yourself and others. Boots with tread are key for some muddy sections of trail and it’s always good to wear several layers for cold weather. Some trails have rain at the bottom and snow at the top.
- Be extremely cautious of trails that may be affected by slides or downed trees.
- Check with the local chamber of commerce about travel restrictions (go here for links). Respect any closures that remain in place.
- Respect the requests of local businesses. Always wear a mask or face covering, and maintain 6 feet of distance when indoors.
- And please be mindful of litter on the trails. Pack out any trash so that others can enjoy the beauty as well.
- World Health Organization: Coronavirus Disease Travel Advice
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Coronavirus Disease
- Travel Oregon: COVID-19 Travel Information
- Washington State: Coronavirus Response
Emily Reed is the Network Director of Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance which helps keep ReadySetGorge.com updated. She’s a native of the Gorge and has the goal of hiking a new trail each weekend with her family.