Experience the miles of steep sheer cliffs, long sections of evergreen forest, and a powerful, untamed river running along WA-14—this is the Columbia River Gorge. The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest, and for millions of years it has raged toward the sea, sculpting this breathtaking gorge. For a local getaway we suggest a few nights at the Skamania Lodge near Stevenson, Washington and savor all that this area has to offer.
Going back to the beginning, Congress passed an act to protect the resources of the gorge in 1986. This area was named the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, one of the only National Scenic Areas in the United States. Guidelines within the act stipulated the building of a lodge and convention center where people could come to stay and appreciate the beauty of the outdoors.
The lodge, hidden amongst 175 acres of gorgeous forest and overlooking the Columbia River, opened in 1993. The main building comprises 254 well-appointed guest rooms and a conference center. Guests can choose from a variety of accommodations that range from standard rooms with classic hotel amenities to larger suites with floor–to–ceiling windows that offer spectacular views of the river. Note that many rooms feature fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs so be sure to inquire when making your reservation; and a very exciting addition are the four new treehouses that provide visitors with additional housing options — our picks for a unique stay with Skamania Lodge.
The year 2019 began with a $6 million remodel. All lodge accommodations are receiving a facelift including new carpet, furnishings and artwork. Currently, an outdoor pavilion, perfect for weddings and group events, is also under construction. The construction will be completed in time for the spring and summer crowds.
The Tree Houses
Accommodations within the main building are rustic-luxe; but just a short walk across the back lawn, four luxurious tree houses lie in wait for those interested in more upscale housing. Relive childhood memories by peering out the numerous windows. Watch the squirrels scurry across shaky branches at death defying heights or gaze into the residence of a local bird filled with fledglings ready to take flight. Douglas firs surround the tree houses, and two units even feature a lavish king–size bed, indoor/outdoor fireplaces, spacious outdoor decks and a private shower.
Visitors traveling with family should consider one of the larger two-bed tree houses. Although similar in design to the single–bed houses, these larger units feature a king– size bed in the main room and a queen-size bed that can be closed off with a curtain creating a cozy “nook” for sleeping. All lodge amenities are available to tree house guests.
Dine in the open and spacious Cascade Dining Room for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The restaurant is renowned for its Sunday Champagne Brunch, and diners enjoy the stunning views of the landscape and the Columbia River in the distance. The atmosphere is casual, and Chef Matt Hale’s food isn’t overly fussy. He embraces the local ingredients and delivers plates that are both delicious and authentic to the area.
Chef Hale’s Braised Short Rib “Stroganoff” is a must–try. The fresh pappardelle pasta is prepared al dente, the short ribs are moist and tender, and the sauce of mixed mushrooms, herbs, and crème fraîche make it a decadent dish. Chef lightens the “Stroganoff” with pickled onions that add acidity and cut through the richness of the entrée. The Blackened Steelhead Tacos and Skamania’s Salmon Chowder are also fantastic selections. The River Rock, another restaurant and bar, opens in the afternoon where diners enjoy gastro pub fare, beer, wine and cocktails throughout the evening.
Activities abound both onsite and nearby. Pick up the “Art of Discovery” brochure in the lobby and peruse the artwork featured in the hallways and throughout the conference center. These sculptures, paintings and sketches are part of John Grey’s collection; who was not only instrumental in the building of the facility, but also was a prominent developer in the area.
Skamania Lodge boasts an extensive physical fitness facility including an indoor pool and hot tub, additional hot tubs in both the men’s and women’s locker rooms, dry saunas, a cycle and fitness room and an outdoor whirlpool with a water feature.
Book a treatment at Waterleaf Spa where the focus is on health and wellness. The well-trained technicians will ease your stress with a Swedish massage or give your skin a fresh glow with one of their facial treatments. Additional activities onsite include tennis, basketball, a fitness hiking trail and an 18-hole golf course. For those interested in a bit more adventure, visit Skamania Lodge Adventures and challenge yourself in the aerial park, the zip tour and the axe–throwing cages.
To fully experience the area, take a scenic drive, gaze upon the gorgeous waterfalls or hike the enticing local trails nearby. Interested in more relaxing activities? Pick up supplies at the gift shop and roast marshmallows in the outside firepit or order a glass of wine at River Rock and sit back and enjoy one of the fireplaces inside. The variety of accommodations, fine dining, and rejuvenating spa experiences at Skamania Lodge will take your travels through the gorge to a new level.