Nestled along the banks of the Columbia River, The Dalles is Oregon’s best-kept secret. The city has a rich history, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and is located close to many parks and natural landscapes. In The Dalles, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. From exciting recreational opportunities to exploring the local art community, the list of things to do here in The Dalles, Oregon is endless.
See what The Dalles has in store for you below.
Overview of The Dalles, Oregon
The largest city in Wasco County, The Dalles is home to around 16,000 residents and covers around 20 square miles. The city’s rich history dates all the way back to 1805, when explorers Lewis and Clarke chanced upon the area. Because of its location along the Columbia River, it became a convenient place for Native American tribes to gather, trade, and socialize. The Dalles was incorporated in 1857.
Named after the large basalt rocks along the river, the city’s name originates from the French word “dalle,” meaning “flagstones” or “slabs.” The Dalles is also known as the gateway to the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, a stunning river canyon that covers around 80 miles.
The Dalles is accessible via the Historic Columbia River Highway (U.S. Route 30), Interstate 84, and U.S. Route 197. The closest airport to The Dalles is the Columbia Gorge Regional Airport, which is less than 20 minutes away from the city.
The Dalles in Oregon is excellent for outdoor activities
With its sunny climate and prime location along the Columbia River Gorge, The Dalles is one of the best places for outdoor recreation. The Columbia River Gorge itself is a National Scenic Area, featuring waterfalls, bike paths, and beautiful natural landscapes.
These are the top outdoor activities in The Dalles:
The Dalles has a variety of incredible hiking spots for hikers of all levels. Sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge and the surrounding mountains are just some of the incredible sights you’ll witness during your outdoor adventure.
- The Dalles Riverfront Trail is the city’s most popular hiking spot. It’s an easy, 6.5-mile hike with an elevation of only 200 feet. Throughout the hike, you’ll see vibrant wildflowers, ponds, and rocky cliffs, along with impressive views of the Columbia River. Look out for hidden coves and historic landmarks as well.
- Sorosis Park is the city’s largest park, covering around 15 acres.Named after the women’s club that founded the outdoor space, the park features tennis courts, playgrounds, and a disc golf course. Sorosis Park also offers a short and easy hike with amazing views overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. The 1.5-mile hike starts at the Sorosis Park Trailhead and ends at the Sunset Hill Viewpoint.
- TheTom McCall Preserve at Rowena is for you If you’re after a more challenging hike,even if the trail is considered moderate in terms of difficulty. The 4-mile trail starts out flat and starts to ascend after a half a mile. At the summit, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, and Mount Adams. The Tom McCall Preserve at Rowena is located along the Historic Columbia Highway.
There’s no better way to explore The Dalles than on two wheels. There are trails for bikers of all skill levels, from beginners to more experienced riders. And the scenic views are unmatched. No matter which route you take, you’ll discover why cycling is one of the best things to do in The Dalles.
- The Dalles Riverfront Trail mentioned earlier is just as ideal for bikers because of its paved and relatively flat path. Located at the southern side of the Columbia River, the Riverfront Trail starts at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and continues for around 10 miles until Klindt’s Cove. The family-friendly Riverfront Trail is also ADA-accessible. Apart from the natural scenery, you’ll also pass by historical sites and industrial areas.
- The Long Hollow Loop, which begins at the Lewis and Clark Festival Park, is good for advanced bikers. The bike course is exactly as the name suggests. It’s a 66.1-mile route with 4,444 feet of elevation gain and a combination of paved and gravel roads.
Looking for the best places to pitch a tent in The Dalles? You’ll find excellent camping spots near the area.
- The Deschutes River State Recreation Area offers a grassy and serene camping experience where the Deschutes River and the Columbia River meet. Just 20 minutes away from The Dalles, the state park has year-round camping which can be booked up to six months in advance. There are four campsites in the Deschutes River State Recreation Area: A Loop, B Loop, G Loop, and T Loop.
- Columbia Hills State Park provides excellent camping spots. Simply cross the U.S. Route 197 to Washington. The main campground is located at the western portion of Horsethief Lake and it is equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, and shower facilities. From the campsite, you can go hiking, fishing, or take a look at the famous petroglyphs at the Temani Pesh-Wa exhibit. Columbia Hills State Park is a 15-minute drive from The Dalles.
The Dalles in Oregon is full of historical and cultural attractions
There are plenty of things to do when it comes to exploring the rich history, culture, and heritage of The Dalles, Oregon. Check out these museums, art centers, and festivals:
MUSEUMS AND LANDMARKS
As one of the earliest cities in Oregon to be incorporated, The Dalles honors its rich history and heritage in museums and landmarks. These museums in The Dalles are a must-visit:
- Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum highlights the history of Wasco County and the Columbia River Gorge in this 48,200-square foot facility in The Dalles. The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum features fascinating exhibits and programs about the Ice Age, the Lewis & Clark expedition, and of course, the Columbia Gorge. Don’t miss the live raptor presentations and traditional weaving and spinning demonstrations as well.
- Old St. Peter’s Landmark was a former Roman Catholic church known for its distinctive Gothic Revival-style architecture, glass-stained windows, and 176-foot belfry. Built in 1897, the historic structure in The Dalles came close to getting demolished in 1971 (to be replaced by a larger church) but the locals rallied together to purchase the landmark. Now, Old St. Peter’s Landmark is open for public tours and is used as a venue for weddings and concerts.
- The National Neon Sign Museum, located in the heart of The Dalles Commercial Historic District, is a hidden gem in Wasco County. The museum has a curated collection of neon lights, vintage signages, interactive displays, and other forms of electric advertising, all of which are housed in the historic Elks Building. As you explore the 20,000-square-foot museum, you’ll learn how electric signs evolved throughout the years and the role it played in the advertising industry.
- Wonderworks Children’s Museum of the Gorge proves that there’s a museum for everyone in The Dalles, especially for young ones. The Wonderworks Children’s Museum opened in 1977 and provides stimulating and educational activities for children of all ages. Families can also participate in the museum’s art, cooking, and music classes.
ART AND CULTURAL CENTERS
The Dalles has a vibrant arts and culture scene, from galleries to performing arts venues. Here are places to check out:
- The Dalles Art Center showcases the works of local artists. Featuring a rotating exhibit of paintings, ceramics, sculpture, prints, and photographs, The Dalles Art Center requires more than one visit. The gallery also hosts a variety of events like Writer’s Talk, which showcases local writers, poets, and authors, live performances by storytellers, musicians, and large ensembles, and a Summer Art Camp for kids.
- Discover The Dalles Murals in The Dalles’ downtown area. There are more than 16 murals spread throughout the city. All celebrate the city’s rich heritage and culture, with images depicting the Native Americans Medicine Man, Lewis and Clark at the Rock Fort campsite, and a map of Old Wasco County, among others.
- Granada Theatre, built in 1912, is a historic building in downtown The Dalles. Its Moorish Revival-style architecture features domed towers, ornate plasterwork, and a neon marquee. After its restoration project, the theater reopened and became a popular venue for local concerts, plays, and film screenings.
EVENTS AND FESTIVALS
When it comes to community events, The Dalles doesn’t hold back. These are the exciting events that you would want to check out:
- Northwest Cherry Festival, which happens in April of every year, celebrates cherry season. This much-awaited event in The Dalles attracts locals and out-of-towners to the scenic Columbia River Gorge to sample delicious, freshly-picked cherries. In the Northwest Cherry Festival, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. There are cherry-themed food items, carnival rides, live music, and a kid’s area.
- The Fort Dalles Fourth of July fireworks display is set against the backdrop of the picturesque Columbia River. Not only will this dazzling fireworks show leave you in awe, the Fort Dalles Fourth festivities also include a fun run, a parade, and musical acts.
- Cruise the Gorge Classic Car Show has been around for the past 28 years but it never fails to draw in thousands of attendees every time. Organized by members of the Mid-Columbia Car Club, Cruise the Gorge features beautifully restored classic cars, vintage automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles. During this weekend-long celebration, you can expect car shows, live performances, raffle prizes, and great food.
The Dalles in Oregon is a dining mecca
The dining scene in The Dalles provides a variety of cuisines and experiences to choose from. The city’s local cuisine includes American fare, German dishes, and French-inspired brunch options.
- For the past 50 years, Big Jim’s Drive In Restaurant has been the go-to place for the best burgers, fries, and milkshakes in The Dalles. This local joint stays true to its slogan “Hamburgers made with Love,” serving juicy beef patties made with quality ingredients.
- Rivertap Restaurant is famous for a variety of hearty dishes. Their American Wagyu burger, Thai chicken wrap, and artisan chicken quesadilla are favorites, as are their cocktails, beers, and local wines.
- Sunshine Mill Artisan Plaza and Winery offers a wine tasting experience that’s another exciting thing to do in The Dalles, Oregon. The place is housed in a historic building, which was once a flour mill. Sunshine Mill offers pinot noir, zinfandel, and viognier, which you can sample by booking a wine-tasting session.
- Freebridge Brewing invites you to try their handcrafted brews. The family-owned and operated brewery specializes in Northwest Ales and German Lagers. Freebridge Brewing is located at The Dalles Mint, a historical building built in 1869.
The Dalles in Oregon is the perfect place to call home
These exciting things to do in The Dalles, Oregon are among the many reasons why this city is a fantastic place to live in. Learn more about life in The Dalles with the expert agents from the Jen Dillard Real Estate Team. We provide unparalleled real estate services to make your home buying journey as smooth and easy as possible.