When you visit the Columbia River Gorge from Portland, Oregon one of the best places to start is the majestic Crown Point and Vista House. Take the Historic Columbia River Highway from Troutdale.
Be sure and stop at the Women’s Forum Overlook for the grandest view of Crown Point and the historic Vista House. Samuel Lancaster, Assistant Highway Engineer for Multnomah County in 1913, supervised the Columbia River Highway project. He was the one who proposed that Vista House be built at Crown Point. It was designed to be an observatory, a place where the grandeur of the Columbia River Gorge could be viewed in comfort. It sits 733 feet above the Columbia River and I-84 and, to this day, with its snack bar, coffee bar, and restrooms still provides comfort on a blustery day in the Gorge.
Vista House is a beautiful example of early 1900’s architecture in Art Nouveau style. With stained glass windows, brass railings, marble floors and a soaring dome, a visit to the Vista House takes you back to the time when tourism to the Columbia Gorge via car was just beginning.
Vista House has long been recognized for its historic significance and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Crown Point, itself, is quite spectacular. Crown Point is a basalt cliff shaped by the same volcanic lava flows, floods and winds that created the Columbia River Gorge. It was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1971. Entrance is free. Parking is free but difficult to find on busy weekends.
Volunteers contribute thousands of hours each year to staff the information desk and Friends of Vista House operates a Museum Gift Shop and espresso bar in the lower level to raise funds for the interpretive and restoration projects.
After a stop at Vista House, continue on the scenic highway down a winding road to see the waterfalls. Look for the sign pointing to Multnomah Falls.