Get off the beaten path this summer with unique family-fun adventures in the Columbia River Gorge, including whitewater rafting and kayaking, fun hikes, waterfalls, swimming holes and more! With glorious weather during the warmer months, loads of places to explore, and full of family friendly activities, the Gorge makes for the perfect summer get-away that both kids and adults will love! Located in White Salmon, WA, in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, few people know the area better than the crew at Wet Planet. We’ve put together some of our staff’s favorite family activities to help make this vacation your best summer story yet.
Both a great family activity as well as the perfect introduction to whitewater kayaking, sit-on-top kayaking is a unique way to experience the natural wonders of the Gorge. With no prior whitewater experience necessary, participants ages 10+ will enjoy a leisurely intro the basics of kayaking from our expert guides while enjoying the class II Wild & Scenic stretch of the Lower Klickitat River with its friendly waves. Delight in a riverside lunch prepared by your kayak guides – before paddling your way through the class III rapid Ishy Pishy for the grand finale of the day.
Learn about Salmon
Take an interactive journey through history that your kids will love! Salmon are a huge part of life in the Columbia River Gorge. A visit to the Bradford Island Visitor Center at the Bonneville Dam introduces you to the trip of a lifetime that salmon make each year. Cheer on the adult salmon as they climb the fish ladder, learn about the power of water as the free tour takes you inside the power house, watch boats travel through the locks, and make your way over to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery to meet Herman the Sturgeon. The Klickitat River gives you the opportunity to witness tribal dipnet fishing on Lyle Falls; an awe inspiring skill that is passed down through generations. Be a part of the historical Indian salmon harvest, and take some home with you to enjoy!
Favorite Waterfall Hikes for Families in the Columbia River Gorge
This gorgeous, moderate 6.5 mile loop leads you through the towering trees and beautiful wild flowers of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Relax at the magnificent two tiered waterfall that this hike is named for, or explore the intersecting trails to discover some of the less known treasures tucked back in the forest.
Friendly to all hikers, this is an easy 2 mile hike beginning on a paved access road near the more popular Eagle Creek trailhead. Meander along a gurgling creek and through a grotto before discovering Wahclella Falls dropping from a hidden gorge. Don’t forget to look up into the slot canyon for a breathtaking view of Upper Wahclella Falls.
An Afternoon in Trout Lake
Trout Lake is an often overlooked gem at the base of Mt. Adams. Spend a day sampling different kinds of adventures with a short hike to Lancaster Falls, panoramic views of the Cascade range after a 30 min. hike to the top of Steamboat Mountain, cooling down in the Trout Lake Ice Caves, play with Alpacas, and sip on the best huckleberry shakes around!
Experience the fascinating geology of the volcanoes that formed the unique landscape in the PNW while navigating the exhilarating class III-IV rapids of the White Salmon River. The crystal clear water tumbles through the base of a collapsed lava tube, surrounding you with twisted basalt canyons lined with forests you typically find in the Pacific Northwest. Water levels permitting, both half and full day trip include our signature class IV ‘Upper stretch’ with optional cliff jump, as well as the optional plunge over legendary Husum Falls. If you sign up for the full day trip, you will be traveling through the former reservoir created by Condit Dam, and experience how nature has reclaimed this newly formed stunningly beautiful canyon.
This trip includes it all. From exhilarating class III-IV whitewater, to awe-inspiring canyon scenery, and an all-around good time that the whole family will love. If you are lucky, you’ll even get to see jumping Salmon or a diving Bald Eagle! On our full day trips, a delicious lunch is served midway right on the banks of the river. Children must be 10 years old to participate on this fun and exciting adventure.
The Gorge is well known for the delicious fruit, vivid flowers, and charming orchards that grow here. Spend a day picking your own mouth-watering fruit and berries before enjoying an afternoon picnic at the farm. This also makes for a great stop on the 35 mile scenic drive through the valley’s fruit orchards on the Hood River Fruit Loop Drive.
Play on the Columbia River
Families with children love the Columbia River Waterfront Park and the enticing local restaurants nearby. These are great places to watch athletes from around the world windsurfing and kiteboarding on the Columbia River. Try these wildly fun sports yourself with Big Winds and WhatSUP Kayaking. You’ll find sit-on-top kayaks, kiteboarding, windsurfing, and stand-up paddle board lessons and rentals available at these great local businesses.
Bike racks adorn almost every local car in the Gorge, and for a good reason! Whether you want to ride around town, mountain bike through Post Canyon, or peddle along the Historic Columbia River Highway (closed to cars), a whole new side of the Columbia River Gorge opens up when you hop on a bike. Visit Discover Bicycles in downtown Hood River to ask about their favorite trails or to rent a bike!
Whitewater kayaking for Kids!
This 4 day camp for kids ages 9-12 encourages each child to play in the outdoors and develop paddling skills. Students’ creativity is challenged, both on and off the water, with cool and educational projects throughout the camp. This is the perfect opportunity for kids to make new friends, learn about rivers, and experience the outdoors in an exciting new way. This is a kid’s only camp, but parents are invited to join the whitewater rafting trip on day 4 free of charge!