About 16 miles east of Portland, the Columbia River Gorge stretches from Troutdale to Biggs on the Oregon side, and from Vancouver to Maryhill on the Washington side. An 80-mile canyon ranging from sea level to 4,000 feet, this National Scenic Area separates the two states in a wide, rocky and leafy ribbon which runs between the Columbia River and the Cascade Mountains.
In 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition used the Columbia and its craggy banks to reach the Pacific; these days, two smoothly-paved highways on the Oregon side would greatly simplify the explorers' epic journey. Interstate-84 parallels the achingly wide, cornflower-blue Columbia, wending past dense, dark forests and jagged, lavender-grey mountains. Beside the Columbia River Highway (which runs adjacent to I-84 from Troutdale to Dodson), the Gorge is webbed with hiking trails and more than 90 waterfalls, including the 620-foot-high Multnomah Falls.
Portland's most popular commercial area, "The Pearl", as it's locally known, is north of downtown between West Burnside Street, the Willamette River, NW Broadway and the Interstate 405 freeway. Once a lonely industrial district of decaying warehouses and rail yards, a boom in urban renewal in the late 1990s to the early 2000s prompted an allusion to the area's scruffy architecture as crusty oysters containing pearls. These "pearls" were initially artists' lofts and galleries, but the neighborhood now teems with upscale eateries, small performance venues and independent boutiques as well.
The Pearl's biggest attraction is also one of the most-visited spots in Portland: the flagship Powell's City of Books. Spanning an entire city block (between NW 10th and 11th Avenues, W. Burnside and NW Couch Streets), Powell's bills itself as the world's largest independent bookstore.
Located about 50 miles (81 kilometers) outside of Portland, Mt. Hood sits majestically at 11,249 feet (3,429 meters), making it the highest mountain in Oregon. As it is a dormant volcano you’ll constantly see steam rising from its fumaroles, adding to the serenity of the scene.
Mt. Hood offers a range of experiences, like hiking, fishing, camping and skiing. Of Mt. Hood’s five ski lodges, the most famous is the Timberline Lodge, a designated National Historic Landmark that’s home to the only year-round ski season in North America. Additionally, there are over 1,200 miles (1,931 kilometers) of hiking trails in the Mt. Hood National Forest, with options from beginner to expert and chances to see waterfalls, lakes, woodland and wildlife.
For true adventure-seekers, Mt. Hood is the second-most climbed mountain in the world with over 10,000 climbers each year, and mixes thrills with natural beauty.
Inner Northwest Portland – specifically around NW 21st and NW 23rd – is one of the most popular in the city center for shopping, entertainment, and dining. It also has a memorable nickname: the Alphabet District.
You might not notice the reason for the name immediately, especially if you're taking your time meandering from one shop-lined block to another, but the streets in the quadrant that run east-west are in alphabetical order – from Burnside, Couch, Davis, Everett, and Flanders on up through Wilson. There's an A street further east (Alder), but it doesn't continue up far enough to be part of this district. The Alphabet District is historically one of Portland's most desirable neighborhoods – there are beautiful Victorian-style houses in the residential blocks and sought-after condo buildings. One of the city's oldest independent movie theaters, Cinema 21, is on NW 21st Avenue.
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