Hike to wildflowers in the Columbia Gorge

grass widows at Rowena Plateau

It is officially the launch of wildflower season! As of the day after the Spring Equinox, Portland’s wildflowers began bursting into lushness. We saw trilliums on the Wildwood Trail March 21, and this weekend the grass widows began to spread in the eastern Gorge. On our writer’s hike March 27, we saw a profusion of new flowers. Book our hiking tours any time this spring and we’ll take you out to see the beauty — or request a special custom tour by calling us at 503-889-6410 and we can find even more beauty. Come now: this is the time!

Columbia desert parsley with a backdrop of Garry oak at Rowena Crest

First Day of the Year Hike

Book a First Day Hike!

Last year one of our favorite fellow tour guides invited us on a First Day Hike — a tradition that is not new, but hadn’t been in our parlance. It didn’t take long to convince us that we’d do it every year in the future (ice cream and coffee for pre-hike breakfast sealed the deal).

This year, we want to fill our Sprinter vans with you lovely people. We’re doing a steep discount from our typical hiking tour price, because we want to set the intention that 2019 will be about abundance, and we will value community over all else. Yes, there will be ice cream and coffee. Yes, you have to get up early.

The hike itself will be 4-6 miles; longer than the (awesome) state parks programs, and with some elevation gain, 1,200-1,800 feet. We will leave promptly at 8:30 a.m. from our shop at 811 SE Main Street.

Book here. $35, compared to our typical hiking tour cost of $125.

Renew yourself, rediscover the Gorge

We just need to connect, again, with our deeper truths. To touch the earth, to see wide vistas, to breathe in air more full of the scent of moss and licorice ferns than the smell of creosote, of automobile exhaust; to hear the water rushing over the hundreds of falls flowing through the Columbia River Gorge, to see (perhaps) an eagle, a migrating swan, herons and egrets and flickers.

In this day following the election — Wednesday, November 7 — whatever happens, we need renewal.

Book online now!

We are launching an experience that could be defined as a tour — or could be defined as a spiritual encounter, a health tonic, a half-day retreat. This special post-election day tour will include a walk on a labyrinth in one of the most stunning landscapes you can reach within a 30 minute drive from a city; anywhere in the world. It will include what we call breath-of-waterfall, a chance to inhale the spirit-lifting impacts of the charged particles of water unique to these geologic features. You will touch basalt walls that are over 15 million years old; you will taste, if you like, the stems of winter ferns.

We’ll do a classic Shinrin-yoku walk in the woods, we’ll ground ourselves properly, and we’ll do some breathing exercises to remind us how alive we are. It’s only $25, for November 7, because we all need it so, so much.

Book here or call at 503-889-6410. We’ll pick you up or meet us at Fly Awake Tea at 2 p.m.

Now, exhale.

A tour with our favorite things (all at once)

I have a new favorite tour: our Hiking and Biking Columbia Gorge Hidden Waterfalls tour. No really. It’s my favorite!

All we tour guides know the question well: “what is your favorite tour?” — we know it because we are constantly seeking the answer to that question. THIS might be my favorite tour (whichever it is I am on today), but some of us do have our favorites: Jeri’s favorite is the coast tour; Carrie’s favorite is the Mt. Hood loop tour (unless it’s the coast tour). But maybe our favorite this week is different from the rest of the year; this past week, early May, I’d rather do nothing so much as a wine tour, rich with these amazing fields of crimson clover, which peak only for several days each year in which hillsides are covered with startling shocks of giant red blossoms before they fade to pink-brown and the summer, then, is underway.

If you know me at all, you know I am crazy about the Columbia River Gorge. The vistas from the western viewpoints (Chanticleer Point and Crown Point most especially) are so much a part of my heart that I conduct conversations with the view in my #ladygorge series on Instagram. When I started this company, I wanted to do two things more than any other: wine tours in which we could talk more intimately about how to taste wine, and tours of the Gorge with longer, slower-paced hikes and better bike rides.

Edwin and I rode the Gorge all winter and early spring. I’d take him on my gorge driving tours and let him ride the parts we were just seeing from the window of a Sprinter van. Whenever we had a day off together we’d hike anywhere we could, or hike separately, me with a wonderful group of friends and their children and little dogs, him with his loyal friends. Together we made this thing that is absolutely, completely, once and for all, my favorite tour of the Columbia River Gorge.

Here’s what I love so much about it: it’s both placid and easy, and a great deal of exercise; it’s absolutely chockfull of stunning vistas and fast rides but it’s slow-paced too. We do the bulk of our bike riding on the most amazing, sweet downhill ride in the universe: cool and shaded, absolutely rich with wildflowers and moss, but open to the sun (when it’s shining) so it can dapple through the trees. For the first nearly four miles (7k) of bike ride you get mostly downhill, a downhill ride you can take easy. “This is the best bike ride I’ve ever done!” exclaimed one member of my first tour group as we rode through the first mile and a half. I’ve been on substantially more bike rides than the average tour guest: and I thought so, too.

Once you complete that first long downhill ride, it’s uphill for you — but on foot, and at your own pace, a 2.5-mile (4k) loop meandering up and back down Latourell Creek, to get a truly intimate connection to its two beautiful waterfalls (we call this our church; to some local tribes, this waterfall was a goddess, daughter of the Beaver family wedded to Coyote and turned into a waterfall when she tried to run away). It’s not just water and rock you’ll see, but wildflowers of all colors and fragrances and berries in the late summer; huge redcedars and hemlocks and big leaf maples covered in mosses and lichens; birds everywhere.

Return from that hike and I’ll be waiting for you (I get to ride up the hill — my very favorite thing). You’ll bike a few more miles, this time with some gentle uphills, but that’s all I’ll make you do; you just climbed up over 800 feet in elevation.

This is all there is: sweet comfortable mostly downhill bike rides, lovely but not overly intense 2.5-mile hikes. If you have time and energy, we’ll throw in a bonus waterfall at the end. If you don’t, we’ll swing by another big waterfall near the road for a gander. It’s everything altogether right, in all the right ways.

We’ve done this hundreds upon hundreds of times, and finally, we can say: this is my favorite!

Book Now!

Get into the Gorge for spring break!

Happy Ostara! Today is the spring equinox, and we are so excited to celebrate spring. No matter our age, we still love spring break. And being in the tourism industry, it’s like a never-ending delight from the beginning of March, when schools in Arizona start their spring breaks, until mid-April.

We couldn’t help ourselves — we had to get out into the Gorge more often. It’s so hard right now! Trail closures still outnumber trails that are opened. The wildfires that so badly affected the Oregon side of the Gorge over Labor Day weekend have trails closed throughout the Gorge with (our Forest Service contacts report) may not open until mid-summer.

As of March 24, we’re launching a much-needed first for the Gorge: a trailhead connection that functions somewhere halfway in between a shuttle and a tour. Our driver/guides are avid hikers themselves, and will provide background on the area as well as updates on trail conditions. We’ll take you out to trailheads so you can avoid the terrible parking conditions we’ve been experiencing on weekends already this year, and give you an opportunity to reach the trailhead if you don’t have access to a car.

Our initial service will include shuttles to Latourell Falls and trailheads at Beacon Rock and Hamilton Mountain. There is no more fitting way to celebrate the presence of spring than to hike the waterfall-laden trails, delighting in the new excitement of trilliums, bleeding hearts, the shoots of salmonberry, thimbleberry, huckleberry and devil’s club. The moss is heavy on the branches of Douglas-fir and Western redcedar and the ancient basalt flows are calling you to celebrate the rites of spring with these volcanic rocks as altar. Answer, with Cordilleran Tours.

Active travel with Cordilleran Tours

Core-duh-LAIR-uhn. That’s how you say it. And this is why we use the name.

We are about active travel in and through our region: Portland Oregon, the Columbia Gorge, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, the Willamette Valley, the Oregon Coast, and farther afield too. “Active” can mean on bikes or hiking up steep trails; or it can mean simply engaging more deeply in the gardens, parks, pathways, coffee shops, restaurants, breweries, wineries, and all the other good things our region has to offer.

“Active” also means that we strive to provide the best options for individual car-free travel for visitors to our region; you shouldn’t have to rent a car to see almost anything here. With tours, hiking shuttles and our first-of-its-kind Bicycle Airport Express, we’re all about getting you from your arrival point in the city to all of the beautiful things this area has to offer without ever getting behind the wheel of a car.

Cordilleran Tours

Cordilleran Tours provides immersive, responsive, and instructive hiking, bicycling and vehicle tours meant to delight, educate and change its guests. Historical, sight-seeing, hiking, food, wine, spiritual, magical and sensual tours are meant to meet the needs of the visitors to Portland who have told our company founders, all experienced tour guides: “I want a tour like that!”; each designed as transformative experiences. Tours are designed to act like story plot, TED talk, and spiritual quest, connecting guests more deeply to the subject matter and the stories behind the usual stories of a place.

Cordilleran Tours delves more deeply — beyond the stories of the victors and despoilers — to find all the stories that make up a city, region, natural wonder or cultural feature, highlighting stories of the indigenous people and species, immigrants, laborers, makers, artists, dreamers and the land itself.

Reach us at 503-889-6410 or info@cordillerantours.com.