Residents in both Washington and Oregon are being asked to stay close to home this winter, but for Gorge locals, that means staying put in one of the most beautiful corners of the globe. So 13 Gorge Chambers of Commerce and tourism organizations worked together to find a creative solution to support local businesses and encourage exploration of our diverse region.

Released this week is a set of COVID-safe itineraries for 19 towns in the Gorge of where to eat, where to enjoy a winter picnic, scenic drives, and more.

Explaining the goal of this initiative, Angie Waiss, Executive Director of Skamania Chamber of Commerce said, “We’re hoping this inspires locals to explore other towns and parts of the Gorge that they don’t usually visit.”

“It really raises the question, ‘How well do you know the Gorge?’ Most people know their own town pretty well, but there are so many back roads and hidden gems that I think will be surprising,” said Tammara Tippel, Executive Director of Mt. Adams Chamber.

The guide covers 19 communities from Goldendale to Troutdale and from Camas to Dufur. Each itinerary features local recommendations for best takeout spots and where you might then bring your takeout for scenic views or a hike.

For example, you can take out from Apple Valley BBQ in Parkdale and take it to Toll Bridge Park. Or grab a Happy Hiker burger from Walking Man in Stevenson and take it to North Bonneville to search for Bigfoot.

The guide also encourages people to “bundle up to support local.” A key feature of the itineraries is where to find heated, outdoor seating in each community.

“There is no bad weather if you have the right clothing. This is a chance to support our restaurants who have been hit hard by the pandemic,” said Lisa Farquharson, President/CEO of Visit The Dalles and Dalles Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to restaurants, the itineraries include scenic drives and local hiking spots to check out in each community.

Getting outdoors to enjoy winter feels essential this year as we have had to stay inside to keep safe. Making sure to recreate responsibly while supporting local communities is the perfect thing to do as we come into the new year. If you are looking for ways to get outside, check out ReadySetGorge.com to view updates and current openings when you visit a new place.

Visitors are encouraged to remember to bring masks and social distance whenever they are in public.

“This is a great opportunity to explore the diverse options the Gorge offers during the winter season. There are options to get out of the house for a date or bring the family on an outing to see someplace new,” said Rene Carroll of Visit Washougal.

The initiative came out of discussions by a group of chamber and tourism organizations

who began coordinating in September to find ways to support local businesses during

the pandemic. The itineraries are a result of that collaboration as well as a familiarization tour

in late October—a COVID safe bus tour that allowed each leader to elaborate on their

respective area.

The group comprises chambers including Camas, Goldendale, Mt. Adams, Skamania County, West Columbia Gorge, Hood River County, and The Dalles area with supporting tourism groups from Washougal, Cascade Locks, the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Regional Destination Management Organization (RDMO), and the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance.

“One of our goals as an organization is to help pull visitors beyond Multnomah Falls into different parts of the Gorge to help reduce congestion and spread the economic love. The more locals know about all of the interesting features we have, the more they’ll be able to share that with any visitors they meet in the future,” said Emily Reed, Network Director of the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance. “This group was able to find a way to support businesses now while preparing for the future when visitors will be able to return.”

The digital guide can be found on any of the Chamber’s websites.