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The Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge

The Skamania Lodge is the place to get away

The Fire Pit at the Skamania Lodge has great views of the Columbia River Gorge. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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With the holiday season rapidly approaching, this is a great time of year to make a quick weekend getaway to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. President Ronald Reagan signed the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act into law Nov. 17, 1986. As part of this act, $5 million was allocated for the Skamania Lodge, which was built in 1993 and is a true public-private partnership.

The Skamania Lodge was designed to evoke the grandeur of the historic, grand National Park lodges like the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park and The Majestic Yosemite Hotel in Yosemite National Park. The breathtaking lobby with its wall of windows overlooking the Columbia River Gorge and its soaring stone fireplace definitely give you the feel of a historic property but with all the modern amenities of a luxury resort. The lodge has a spa, zipline and lots of other activities to include a nightly fire pit (purchase S'more kits in the gift shop). You can experience all the area has to offer when you make the lodge your weekend home.

The U.S. Forest Service has an Information Center located inside the lobby of the Skamania Lodge. How convenient is that? It is staffed for limited hours during the winter season but someone is usually there Thursday to Saturday. A staff member can provide information on the Gorge and help you plan things to do. You can purchase Northwest-themed books, maps and Interagency and Northwest Forest passes. If you like to hike, there are free trail maps of the area available. The America the Beautiful Pass, which is free to military for the National Parks, is also good at U.S Forest Service fee areas.

Start your visit to the area with a trip down to the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum, which is a short walk from the Skamania Lodge. (Note: It is a nice hill down but strenuous coming back up). This museum highlights the natural history of the area, the Indian cultures of the earliest inhabitants and the farming and fishing industries that played a key role. The large viewing galleries are epic and there is extensive farming and railroad equipment on the grounds. There is also an exhibit on spirituality in the locale with one of the largest Rosary collections in the world displayed. A visit to the museum will give you a good base of knowledge for exploring the area.

The town of Stevenson is close to the lodge and offers other options for dining and shopping. Other things to do include: the epic 52 switchback hike to the top of Beacon Rock, the Bridge of the Gods, and the Bonneville Dam Visitor's Center. Kids will love a visit to the historic Bonneville Fish Hatchery, which was built in 1909. Cross the Bridge of the Gods to get there. This place is so cool. The highlight is the Sturgeon Viewing Center where you can see Herman, a 10-foot long 500-pound sturgeon. He looks like something out of Jurassic Park.        

For more information about the area surrounding the Skamania Lodge. visit, which has lots of great ideas for activities and fun things to do in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

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