Constructed at Crown Point, a promontory situated 693 feet (211 meters) above the Columbia River, Vista House was designed with both function and aesthetics in mind. The octagonal, dome-topped building was conceived by architect Edgar M. Lazarus to honor the beauty of the region and commemorate the settlers who traveled along the Columbia River stretch of the Oregon Trail. You can head inside to check out its marble interiors and stained-glass windows or simply take in views from the parking lot.
As the de facto gateway to Oregon's ridiculously scenic Columbia River Gorge, Vista House is often the first place visitors stop in the region, particularly if they're coming from Portland. Group tours from Portland generally include a brief stop at the house, giving visitors enough time to stretch their legs, take some photos, and use the facilities. If you'd rather have a bit more time to explore the building's interiors, a private tour is best.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Vista House is a must-visit for stargazers, and attracts large groups during the annual Perseid meteor shower.
- On-site facilities include a cafe, a gift shop, and public restrooms.
- Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
- Parking at Vista House is limited, so it’s wise to arrive early in the morning or visit on tours, particularly if you’re visiting on warm weekends or during the summer.
- Vista House is entirely wheelchair-accessible, with a step-free entry and an interior lift.
How to Get There
Vista House is a 35-minute drive from downtown Portland and is not accessible by public transportation. On-site parking is free, but the lot can fill up quickly, particularly on weekends when the weather is pleasant. You can avoid the hassle of driving and waiting for a parking spot by joining a Columbia Gorge tour or driving to the town of Corbett and hopping aboard a hop-on hop-off trolley bus.
When to Get There
Vista House itself is open Friday through Monday, but plenty of people come outside of opening hours to check out the views. Most visitors combine a trip to the Vista House with a visit to the Waterfall Corridor nearby. Timed permits are required to enter the corridor from May through September and tend to get claimed quickly. If you can’t get your hands on one, you can still enjoy a visit by joining a guided tour.
The Waterfall Corridor
Many of the Columbia River Gorge's prettiest waterfalls are situated along a section of Highway 30 stretching from just beyond Bridal Veil Falls to Ainsworth State Park. This scenic route—dubbed the Waterfall Corridor—passes by many of the area’s most popular waterfalls, including massive Multnomah Falls. Many of the falls are visible right from the highway, but a few—such as Fairy Falls—require a bit of hiking to reach.
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