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Columbia River Gorge

Best time to cruise the Columbia River

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Summer is the best time to visit the Columbia River to enjoy the sunny, blue skies when they are more attractive than the rainy gray skies that the other seasons are known for in the Pacific Northwest. Late Spring or early Fall before the hard rains begin can also be a great time to cruise the Columbia River as the colors of the spring and autumn vegetation will be unique and beautiful. 

The Columbia River, which flows from British Columbia, Canada, across the United States Pacific Northwest, framed by mountain ranges, and dug deep into the earth is a stunning spectacle that is not to be missed. This 1,200-mile river winds through some of North America's most magnificent landscapes, providing year-round recreation for people of all ages and interests. Cruises on the Columbia River run for about eight months of the year, excluding the winter and early spring. A typical Columbia River cruise runs from April through November.

Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge

Popular destinations on a Columbia and Snake river cruise include Columbia River Gorge, Portland, Volcano Alley, Walla Walla, Hells Canyon, Multnomah Falls, Bonneville Lock and Dam, Cascade Locks, and Mt. Hood Vineyard and Orchard Tours.

The best-known canyon, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Oregon and Washington state offers outdoor activities including whitewater rafting and kayaking on Class III rapids, guided river cruises, hiking, and winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. A large number of waterfalls are also popular. The best time to visit Columbia River Gorge is late April through June, and then again in September and October. April is peak bloom time for the Gorge's wildflowers and orchards, while September and October offer stunning fall foliage, mild weather, and fewer crowds.  


Summer is definitely the most popular season to visit the Pacific Northwest and cruise the Columbia River so that you can enjoy long sunny days, warm temperatures, and blue skies. Although, the summer travel season can come with its cons as there are larger crowds as the peak season for tourism. The heat can also be uncomfortable and heatwaves can cause issues for active itineraries that feature higher-energy activities during the hottest days of summer.

Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge


As the Pacific Northwest transitions from its mild winters, spring isn’t a bad time to cruise the Columbia River, especially if you want to see the foliage in bloom. In general, spring is a rainier season and late spring can still be quite rainy. But during the last month of the season, May, temperatures do begin to rise, rain becomes more scarce, and the colors of the blossoming flowers from spring will still be around. For those hoping to avoid the crowds and occasionally uncomfortable high temperatures of summer, late spring might be the best time for a Columbia River cruise so that you can enjoy the exercise implicit in our active itineraries.


The early Fall is one of the most underrated times to cruise the Columbia River and its tributaries since the transitioning colors of Autumn are beautiful, and the temperatures are not getting too chilly yet. During the month of September, you can feel it every week as the temperatures begin to slowly drop from the summer heat. Early October is the ideal time for wine enthusiasts to visit, as this is when the harvest and crushing take place. The late autumn rains don’t start to get heavy until October and November. Fall is also a good time for a Columbia River cruise because the peak summer crowds have begun to taper and there is less tourist traffic.

Ready to start planning your Columbia River Gorge tour? Contact Adventure-Life trip planners for expert help on the best time to cruise the Columbia River. 

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